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CBT to Stop Worry

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

“Don’t worry, what will be will be.”

If only it were that easy to banish worries!

Worries are a normal part of life but busy schedules, work pressure, family responsibilities and the daily uncertainty of the modern world can cause worries to escalate, leading to high levels of stress, a constant state of feeling burdened and eventually burnout.

When we are overwhelmed with worries, we get the urge to avoid, procrastinate and we forget that we have the ability to problem solve.

There is an answer, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)  is a psychotherapy that offers effective and straightforward strategies to help you control your worries.  Practicing CBT techniques regularly generates a sense of calm and clarity.

The following skills will help you learn to respond to your worries in a healthy and grounded state of mind.

1. Let go of any positive beliefs about your worry. We can often believe that worrying prepares us for the worst but unfortunately this process causes worrying to become habitual.  Habitual worrying means that we spend a large proportion of time imagining an event that might never happen.  This has a physiological impact, our bodies respond by releasing the stress hormone cortisol, this can cause us to feel tired, unable to concentrate and tense.

2. Schedule a Worry Zone.  A Worry Zone is a time of day where you dedicate 15-30mins to list all your worries.  If your worries surface throughout the day (which they will) you plan to address them during your worry zone.  The Worry Zone CBT skill really teaches you tame uncontrollable worries into controllable and tangible problems to be solved.  It also helps to free you of the weighted feeling of worry as you learn to park your worries instead of engaging with them throughout the day.

3. Learn to tell the difference between real and hypothetical worries. Worriers can often spend time worrying about things that might never happen, these worries are often located in the future and begin with “What if…”.  Further still, they are compounded by positive beliefs about worry.  When you are using your Worry Zone, write down your worries and categorise them into current and hypothetical.  For example, a current worry might be, my work are making me redundant.  This is clearly a real worry that requires attention and problem solving.  A hypothetical worry might be “What if I get made redundant in the future?”  Although this worry is an unpleasant thought, it has not occurred and might never be realised.  Once you have learnt the difference between your real and hypothetical worries let your hypothetical worries go, remind yourself that if they become current worries you will address them via problem solving.

4.Practice Problem Solving.  For each current worry generate a list of options which could solve the worry, list any option you can think of, no matter how eccentric they seem.  For example if your worry was “my boss keeps giving me too much work.”  Your list might look something like this:

•Leave my job immediatly.

•Apply for a new job

•Email my boss explaining the situation.

•Delegate some of the work to my juniors.

•Learn to say No.

•Stay late at work every night.

•Finish the work at the weekends.

Once you have a list of all your options, weigh up the pros and cons of each, this will help you choose the most appropriate course of action.   This CBT skill helps you begin to learn that your current worries are solvable and the more you practice this strategy, the more you will develop confidence in your ability to face worries head-on.

5. Expose yourself to uncertainty.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy theorises that an intolerance of uncertainty really drives worry.  Further-still, individuals who learn to tolerate the uncertainties of life learn to manage their worries.  Quite often worriers will spend time trying to reduce any uncertainty in their life, they will check, double check, seek reassurance and avoid spontaneity to try and reduce their exposure to anything unexpected happening.

There are three problems associated with avoiding uncertainty.  Firstly, it silently compounds a belief that we can’t cope with unexpected events, secondly it prevents us from using and developing our problem solving skills and thirdly it doesn’t allow us to gain experience of dealing with an unexpected crisis or event and this strengthens the idea that we can’t cope.

Expose yourself to uncertainty by scheduling some spontaneous time into your week: let a partner or friend decide the itinerary, try a new restaurant and don’t do any research on it before you go, take the afternoon off work and only decide what you are going to do with your time at the last minute.  These ideas sound simple but they are the things we do to avoid uncertainty.

How to use CBT to help you overcome your worries:

•Buy yourself a notebook

•Schedule a daily Worry Zone and write down your worries

•Learn to differentiate between current and hypothetical worries, write down which worries are current and which are hypothetical.

• Write down your Problem Solving options.

• Expose yourself to uncertainty.

•Use your notebook to record your learning.

Image demonstrates that worry can be treated by CBT

If you find your worry overwhelming, contact Geraldine Claire Therapy for a free consultation. Geraldine is based in Wilmslow, Cheshire and is easily accessed from Macclesfield, Alderely Edge, Prestbury, Knutsford and Poynton.

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