How to Reduce Worrying – Part 3

In today’s post we look at strategies to help you reduce your worrying behaviour patterns


Limit Your Worrying with “A Worry Period”

Worrying can happen any time, any place and, as we’ve already discussed, it can occur without you even being aware of it – because of this, worrying can become associated with certain times and places.

When an action, such as worrying, is associated with a particular place, returning to that place may elicit the action because it reminds you of the worrying you experienced when you were there before and so you start to worry again.

A useful strategy when trying to get your worrying behaviour under control is to practice limiting your worrying to one place and one time of day. In order to achieve this you need to set aside a “30 minute worry period”

  • Choose a specific time and place for worrying. The time and place should be the same each day. Make the place unique, a place where you will only worry and where you will not do anything else. Choosing the kitchen table, or your bed, or your favourite chair in the lounge is not advisable because you use these areas often and you will start to associate them with worrying. A chair placed in a corner of a room only during your worrying period is a better alternative, it creates a unique environment that will only be associated with worry.
  • Choose a time that is convenient each day so that you are not busy with something else that may prevent you from using your worry period. Avoid choosing a time close to bed time as you will start to associate worrying with going to sleep .

Next we will discuss different strategies on how you can use your worry period.

Postpone Worries to the Worry Period

Up until now you’ve been observing your worries and have begun to practice catching them early. The next step is to postpone those worries to your worry period as soon as you become aware of them.

When you catch the beginning of worry, remind yourself that:

  • You will have time later to think about that worry. There is no need to worry about it right now. In fact, worrying later during the worry period will most likely lead to better solutions to the problem then doing it now, when you don’t have the time.
  • There are other things going on in your life that either require your attention or would be more pleasant to attend to than making yourself upset with worrying.

Postpone the worrying. Write down the topic in case you are worried that you might forget it before you get to your worry period.

Attend to the Immediate Environment

The next strategy should be used in combination with postponement – focus your attention on the immediate environment or task at hand. Remember, the events that you think about during worrying don’t exist right now. So focus your attention back to what does exist in the here and now.

As you practice this new strategy, become aware of the difference between attending to what doesn’t actually exist except in your thoughts and images, and what actually exists in the here and now. Practice spending more time attending to what does exist.

Postponing a worry when it has been caught early and focusing your attention on the immediate environment can help to reduce the frequency and duration of worry episodes. Each time these are practised the worry habit lessens in strength and alternative habits are strengthened.

However, you need to understand that old habits are hard to break. After postponing and focusing, the worry will try to intrude, often almost immediately. Repeatedly follow the same procedure each time you catch it intruding. Immerse yourself in your immediate environment and don’t get discouraged if the worry continues to intrude.


In Part 4 of How to Reduce Worrying we will look at additional, practical exercises to help you get your worrying under control.


California State University. (n.d.). How to Reduce Worrying. Retrieved from: [Accessed on: 13 October 2014].