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Set aside time to worry

According to Paul Young, co-owner of Spiffy, The Happiness Shop, we should build time into our busy schedules to worry.

Diane Hall


woman sitting with hands to her head trying to cope with stress

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This may sound a strange thing to do; however, unnecessary worrying affects many people, and it can have a detrimental effect on their lives.


Human beings, in their caveman days, worried only about where their next meal was coming from, and ensuring they were not on the menu of hungry sabre-toothed tigers on the prowl. The worry as to whether their basic needs would be met was still inherent in Homo Sapiens in 10,000BC, which isn’t that long ago when you consider that they first appeared approximately 288,000 years prior.


In 2022AD, food is plentiful. We also have heat, shelter, clean(ish) air, access to clean water, clothing and the safety to go to sleep at night, etc. Most human beings’ needs on our planet today are easily met.


We don’t often find ourselves in life-threatening situations in the modern world; however, our brains have not adapted to this shift. They may not need to be concerned about sabre-toothed tigers, but that doesn’t mean they switch off. Instead, they create worries and problems for their hosts to solve.


There’s a well-known piece of advice relating to stress: will what you’re fretting over matter in five years’ time? If it’s not significant enough to impact your life in the not-too-distant-future, it’s not worth worrying about in the here and now, experts claim.


I get the premise behind that well-meaning advice, but often, I don’t feel in control of my worry. I suffer from acute anxiety in a number of real-life situations; however, once I’m out of, or away from, these scenarios, my anxiety disappears. Aimless worrying, in comparison, tends to stick around.


Though I don’t sit and worry for hours on end, as a woman of a certain age, I’m not immune to the menopausal hormone drop that occurs between 2am and 4am. Should I wake during this time window, I may as well not bother trying to get back to sleep—and this is when my worrying mind is most active.


In the early hours, I worry about job-related work I’ve to complete the next day, even though I know it will all be in hand when I get going. I worry about the life admin I’ve to sort. I worry about little details that are important and which I’d forgotten, and I worry whether I’ll still remember them when I wake up. I worry about my kids, even though they’re both adults with their own lives. Like everyone, I worry about money and whether I’m spending too much. I worry about things I’ve said, the things I’ve done. I ultimately worry that my worries are preventing me from getting much-needed sleep.


It's exhausting.


Young suggests setting time aside to address your worries rather than letting them pop up whenever they please. When you are able to concentrate on them, he recommends writing down your concerns on a piece of paper, so that you can scrutinise them properly. He believes this will give you some perspective, and seeing them written down may also make it easier to apply logic, which will help you determine the most appropriate solution.


schedule with glasses, pen and marker on it

It’s important to remember that there’s only so much of your daily life that’s within your control. You’re not responsible for the emotions/actions of other people or outside influences such as the economy and the weather. Your first task, therefore, it to eliminate any worry about such things—it’s simply a waste of your energy if you can’t do anything about the outcome. What will happen will happen, regardless of any mental anguish you extol.


Young suggests that freelancing individuals can particularly benefit from this approach. As people who tend not to have a regular income, finances may be a particular worry amid the current cost-of-living crisis.


If worries are left to fester, they can affect an individual’s focus, which will have its own detrimental impact on their productivity, which surely makes Young’s suggestions worth a try.


Paula Gardner of the The Good Therapy Practice agrees that freelancers can be more susceptible to worry, which could be, she suggests, a result of remote working. When working from a shared office space or your employer’s business premises, it’s satisfying to physically shut the door on your working day. This sense of closure helps individuals exercise their boundaries, which may be a task more difficult for remote workers, whose home lives and working environments exist in the same space.


Because we don’t have to hunt for our food anymore or switch into survival mode umpteen times a day, we need to give our mind enough to do so that it doesn’t turn rogue and create mountains out of molehills. Read, take up a hobby, practice mindfulness, go for a walk, or just zone out in front of the TV if this is distracting enough for you. Get into a good routine before bedtime to ensure a decent night’s sleep—such as no phones or tablets in the bedroom, a relaxing bath, a milky drink…there are lots of suggestions online in this regard, just find what works for you.


Worrying for worry’s sake is unhealthy and a waste of your time. Put pen to paper and proactively tackle your concerns head on.

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