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5 techniques to better manage your worries

Worries are part of our daily lives.

We worry about the future and the past; about health, work and family; about things that affect ourselves and others.

And all these worries, which invade our heads sometimes from the minute we wake up, greatly impair our rest and our mental health.

Ad Kerkhof is a clinical psychologist at Vrije University Amsterdam in the Netherlands who has been researching this phenomenon for more than 30 years.

“People usually worry about the future and believe that by doing so they will succeed in finding solutions,” Kerkhof told the BBC.

According to Kerkhof, worrying is a process that generates anxiety and leads to depression and, in the most extreme cases (which he himself analyzed), suicide.

“It is normal to worry, but if every day you have the same thoughts and you can no longer control them, then you are worrying too much,” said Kerkhof.

According to the specialist, there are some simple techniques that you yourself can put into practice to stop worrying or, at least, learn to better manage that anxiety.

We tell you what they consist of.

1. Establish a “worry time”.

According to Kerkhof, what most people do to stop worrying is to repeat to themselves, over and over again, that they have to stop.

But this method does not work and produces the same effect as when we repeat to ourselves “don’t think about a pink elephant”: our brain eliminates the word “no” from that message.

The method proposed by the psychologist is based on cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT), which explore links between thoughts and emotions to bring about psychological changes.

The first of these consists of establishing a set time throughout the day to manage those worries, in two 15-minute periods, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

“You should dedicate that time only to worrying. That way you set a mission and then you can switch off until the next worry time,” says the psychologist.

So, whenever a worry invades your head at length, you should repeat to yourself, “Not now. This is not the time to worry.

2. Do not do it in places of rest

Don’t worry in bed or in your favorite armchair.

You should handle your worries as a job and not as part of your leisure or rest.

Think about those worries and try to solve them one by one.

According to Kerkhof, it can be helpful to imagine those worries as if they were “clouds hovering over your head that you let hover over you only during the time of worry and then push them away”.

And always in places that you don’t associate with your relaxation time.

3. Use positive memories

Many worries come to mind at night and keep us awake at night.

If that is your case, Kerkhof advises to “take a short break from your no worry time for a few minutes.

After spending 5 minutes dealing with your nighttime worries, you should schedule another 10 minutes immediately afterward to think of a positive memory.

Think of a time when you felt happy, proud or relaxed, and handle this thought in the same way you handle your worries.

“Try repeating it 30 times in your head, so that you’re still worrying, but this time about something positive,” Kerkhof says.

Analyze all those details in your head and fill yourself with positive emotions, recalling sounds, colors and smells of that happy moment.

4. Look for distractions

When you worry outside of your “worry time,” you should look for distractions that allow you to entertain your mind and take your mind off that anxiety.

For example, you can read a good book, call a friend or simply listen to your favorite song.

But this technique does not consist of ignoring your problems, but to face them at the right time and moment.

Most of us think more about the negatives than the positives around us and we should give our worries the attention they deserve.

“When worrying becomes distressing, it can lead to anxiety disorders, affect cognitive efficiency and, as a consequence, work productivity and personal relationships,” says Graham Davey, professor of psychology at the University of Sussex, UK.

5. Take your time.

But even if you apply all these techniques, keep in mind that the effects are not immediate.

Kerkhof put the technique into practice with 200 people who worried too much and managed, on average, to reduce their worries by 50%.

“Worrying is like an addiction and if you want to end it you need time to teach yourself, little by little, how to stop,” warns Kerkhof.

Taken from BBC World April 26, 2016:


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