Worry Time

I'm a huge worrier. I fret. I hem and haw. I bite my nails. And for the past year or so, I seem to wake up at 3 am and find it impossible to go back to sleep again. Sometimes I'll lie awake for several hours imagining worst case scenarios, or just general nondescript horrific scenarios before finally nodding off again. By that time, I can sleep just long enough for my alarm to be really painful when it goes off a short while later. Ugh.

So in the book I just finished, Leap Year, by Helen Russell (the same author as The Year of Living Danishly, which I also loved) she suffers from the very same woes and decides to try a little thing called Worry Time. It's wonderfully simple, you just set aside 30 minutes at the same time each day, preferably before a transition in your day, and write down everything you're worried about. You don't have to go into the reasons or search for solutions, just get it all out on paper, by hand. Then do it again the next day. Russell chose to worry right before leaving to pick her son up from daycare, and for me, a good time to worry is right before lunch.

It's amazing, because I have enough worries - real and imagined - to fill hours and hours of nighttime. But in broad daylight, worrying for 30 minutes is actually an incredibly long time and feels like a chore! The first day, I only managed to worry for 20 minutes. The next day the same. The third day, I was feeling quite frantic and made it the whole 30 minutes, but the day after that, just 15. After that, I was less worried and stopped keeping track.

Somehow the act of writing worries down immediately lessens their severity. And it also felt to me as if having my worries written down, they were safely kept and therefore I didn't need to exert as much effort holding onto them and carrying them about the rest of the time. Side note: Montessori was very keen on the brain-hand connection. She called the hand the prehensile organ of the mind, and modern-day brain scans show that a greater surface area of our brains is devoted to our hands than any other body part. It seems that writing our worries down with our hands actually does move them out of our brains, right through our fingertips onto the paper. It's like magic!

I have to say, I'm quite pleased with the results. My nails are long enough to paint and I've been sleeping through the night. This is huge! How do you keep your worries at bay? Would you try worry time?

(Photo via A Little Bit of Bliss)


  1. This sounds amazing! I am OK lately, but if ever I start to feel like worrying is taking over, I will definitely try worry time. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I find that going for a walk outside is immensely effective (a slow one with kids or a brisk one on my own, either works) at cutting short any tendency to ruminate. I also tell myself that the only point to worrying is your brain encouraging you to take action, so either decide on an action to resolve the worry, or decide to let it go. (easier said than done of course) I was trying to explain to my 5 year old once who had ¨gone down a rabbit hole¨ of worrying about something and ¨catastrophizing¨ that we are walking along and we might notice a rabbit hole (worry pops into head) or even trip over one, but we don´t need to dive down it like Alice. Oddly, that spur of the moment story version of it really ended up helping me remember to acknowledge a worry, but then move on.

    I am reading a book called The Telomere Effect at the moment (it is science-based, but intended for a general audience). Here´s an interview with one of the authors: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jan/29/telomere-effect-elizabeth-blackburn-nobel-prize-medicine-chromosomes

    1. Oh I'll definitely check out that book. Telomeres are something she touched on briefly in Leap Year as well.

      And exercise is such a good way to keep the worries away. Now that spring is here, I think I'm going to have to do Couch to 5K again. I love that it's just 30 minutes, three times per week. Totally achievable, even for an exercise-phobe like me. ;)

  3. Thank you for sharing! As a fellow worrier I appreciate this. If I feel like worrying is taking over I will give worry time a try. Thank you, I love this))


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