“Designated Worry”

Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don’t for a minute lose sight of them. They’ll keep your soul alive and well, they’ll keep you fit and attractive. You’ll travel safely, you’ll neither tire nor trip. You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry; you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep. No need to panic over alarms or surprises, or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner, Because God will be right there with you; he’ll keep you safe and sound.                                                                                         Proverbs 3:21-26 (The Message)

Today I would like to share another technique that I use in dealing with anxiety. It is known as “Designated Worry”. In this technique, we acknowledge that anxiety is a real thing, and it signals things to us about how we are interacting with the environment. As I have said earlier, “worry” is our anticipation of potentially harmful events (or in some cases, past events) over which we exert little control. The antidote for anxiety and worry (they are related) is behavior- over which we DO have control.

We all worry at one time or another. People who struggle with anxiety have difficulty containing the worry to controllable behaviors. For example, I have clients who struggle with anxiety, and they are aware that this is a more or less chronic thing running in the back of their mind at all times. Kind of like background music, but not nearly as pleasant.

When specific worries come up, like a presentation at work, they feel increased tension and their anxiety gets worse. One technique is to use “Designated Worry”. This “Designated Worry”- let’s just use DW for now- serves a purpose. Indeed, that presentation at work is important, and anyone may spend time anticipating it, worrying about it, because that is a common and reasonable thing to do.

 In order to give the proper justice to the worry, we should agree that the presentation is important, and that we should spend some time worrying about it. We can take control of that worry by setting aside a reasonable amount of time to worry about it. Further, we should designate the time- schedule it in and plan for it. When the DW time is set, the worry time should be behavioral, not just thinking about it. So, the DW time becomes a practice session for the presentation. It actually helps us to “overprepare” for the worrisome event. This way, the worry has become a tool for success. It is employed to help make the project successful.

Taking control of the time that the worry occurs, the WAY that the worry occurs, and to have control of it as a useful tool, actually honors the event. The event is not minimized (like someone saying “Don’t worry about that, you’ll do fine”).  I often tell clients to write down the things that deserve worry. Then promise yourself that you indeed WILL worry about that tomorrow at say, 8:30, or whenever they decide. They control the time and priority of the event.

This is especially helpful if the worry is keeping one up at night. I tell my clients to have a pad and pen next to their bed, and write down tomorrow’s DW list. Promise yourself that you will worry about it tomorrow (hopefully, have a behavior around it to actually gain some control), then follow through and do the worrying tomorrow.

People who struggle with anxiety are fighting a war every day, and that gets wearisome. Specific worry is only part of the battle. I want them to have the tools to beat that anxiety so that it does not beat them.

Prayer: Father, you promise to be with us in all of the things that trouble us. We trust your provision for us, Amen.

P.S.  I posted another section of Joseph Shepherd, chapters 2-3. Hope you like them.

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