Worrying is an active pastime of mine. One of my favorite hobbies is to go through all the possibilities of things that could go wrong, things that have gone wrong, and embarrassing things I’ve done. I know it’s creating stress – I can actually see new lines forming on my forehead. But I just can’t stop myself.
I’m actually addicted to worrying. But things have slowly been changing for me. Recently I came across an article on Psychology Compass about dedicating ‘worrying zones’ to your days.
It’s a way to find out what’s worth worrying about and giving time to and what’s some dumb thing you’ve created in your mind. The idea is simple. When a worry comes up, like ‘oh God, does my boss think I’m an idiot for sending that email?”, simply place it on your worry to-do list and tell yourself you’ll go over the worry later.
Make an actual worry to-do list and set an actual time. Say 7 pm, when you’re home from work. By the time you’re home from work, you can go over your worry list. Nine times out of ten there will be nothing on that list actually worth worrying about anymore.
So you saved yourself in the moment from worrying and by the time you got home you had the proper perspective to see the ‘worry’ for what it really was — not a big deal.
1. Set up a Postponed Worry Zone (PWZ)
First, identify a time of day when you will set aside to worry (i.e., at the end of the day; on the train ride home from work). Try to make sure that this is after your work day is over. Second, identify the length of time you will allow yourself to worry (i.e., one hour). Block it off in your calendar every day. This is your Postponed Worry Zone or PWZ for short.
2. Delegate worries to your PWZ
You will need to identify and delegate your worries to your PWZ as you encounter them throughout your day. When you start noticing worries arising, use this decision tree to help you delegate worry to your PWZ.
3. Log your PWZ delegated worry to your to-do list
Create a box, or column on your to do list or notebooks for your PWZ items. As you are logging these PWZ items, rank how intense your worry is related to these. You should use the same 1 to 5 rating.
4. Enter your PWZ
Now is the time to worry. Review your log. Notice how worried you feel now. Go ahead, worry all you want, because you have nothing else to do except that. Note if your level of worry has changed from Step 3.
Over time you will see that compartmentalizing your worry to a dedicated PWZ will
Reduce how often you worry AND
Reduce the intensity of the worry outside the designated PWZ time.
You will be creating a healthy worry habit.
How it works
Having a PWZ teaches you to learn not to react to worries throughout the day. When we don’t react, our cognitive bandwidth is freed up to focus on the problem and task at hand.