When You Can't Stop Worrying: Create a Worry Chest

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Most people worry about the future at some time. They worry about whether a decision was the right one, worry about their health, their jobs, their financial situation. But for some, worry overtakes their life, keeping them awake at night and causing nervousness and irritability during the day. Chronic worrying also takes a toll on physical health. Many worriers know that their worrying is unfounded and useless, but still they can't seem to stop.


    The good thing about worrying is that it can be done anyplace at any time. You don't need to worry about something right this minute, you can worry about it later. You don't need to be in a certain place, you can worry sitting in traffic, while watching television, while eating dinner. And if you are a chronic worrier, you know this because you probably worry in all of these places and all of these times, plus a lot more.

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    Step 1: Choose a Time and Place to Worry


    Instead of telling yourself you aren't going to worry anymore, limit your "worry time." Decide on a specific time and place you will allow yourself to worry, limiting yourself to 10 or 15 minutes per day. Find a box, a drawer or something you can put things in. This is your "worry chest."


    Step 2: Drop Your Worries into a Worry Chest


    Throughout the day, as you find yourself worrying about something, write it down and put it into the worry chest. Remind yourself that you will not think about it again until your worry time. Remind yourself you don't need to stop worrying, you just need to do it at a certain time and then move on to the next activity. For some people, this helps to "trick" the mind. You haven't given up worrying, you are just postponing it until later.


    Step 3: Worry, Worry, Worry


    At the preset worry time, sit quietly and open your worry chest. Go through each item you wrote down and worry about it, fret about it if you need to. But once your 15 minutes is up, it needs to go back into the worry chest until the next day.


    When first starting this technique, you may find worries constantly popping into your mind. Each time, write the thought down, put it in your worry chest, and move on with your day. Continue to remind yourself that you are allowed to worry, just not right now. Find ways to distract yourself, for example, exercise, meditation, participating in a hobby, interacting with your family, anything that will take your mind away from your worry , As you continue with this strategy, you may find yourself worrying less during the day (or as you lay down to sleep).


    Some people find it helpful to throw out papers as they become irrelevant. For example, one of your worries might be that you won't have enough money to pay your mortgage this month. Once you have paid the bill, the paper with that worry gets thrown away. Only current worries remain in the worry chest. Others prefer to keep track of their worries. They will write down the date on their worry sheet and keep track of whether or not the situation came to be. For example if you were worried about the mortgage, write down the date you worried about it and then the date you paid the bill. Looking back over the worries may remind you that most of what you worry about never comes about.


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    This process allows you to take control of your worrying rather than letting your worries control you. It takes practice and patience but as you keep up your hard work, you will begin to feel the benefits, both physically and emotionally.


    If you have tried a number of strategies to help reduce your worrying but don't seem to be getting anywhere, it may be time to seek professional help. Generalized anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic worrying. Medication and therapy can help reduce your worrying and help you live a more satisfying life.




    "How to Stop Worrying," Updated 2011, August, Melinda Smith, Robert Segal, Jeanne Segal, Helpguide.org


    "Life is Good. So Why can't You Stop Worrying?" 2007, Nov 28, Stephanie Dolgodd, NBCnews.com


    "What to Do When You Can't Stop Worrying," Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Northern Kentucky University


Published On: November 21, 2011