This week is exam results week for many students across the UK. The journey ahead may seem like uncharted waters, and it’s okay to feel the flutter of worry and the weight of uncertainty. Whilst feelings of anxiety at these times are very common, there are also various techniques available to help you cope with these feelings of worry and stress. We asked psychotherapist Anita Merry for advice on controlling worries and she recommended the worry spiral method.
The Deceptive Purpose of Worry
Before we delve into the solution, let’s explore why worry takes root in our minds. Our brains often trick us into believing that by worrying intensely, we’re actively altering outcomes or preparing ourselves for the worst. Worry is merely a cycle of repetitive thoughts that spins us into a vortex of anxiety, robbing us of the present moment and clouding our vision of reality.
The Worry Spiral Technique
Here’s how it works:
- Recognition and Acknowledgment: The first step is acknowledging when we’re caught in a worry spiral. Those nagging thoughts begin to surface, and that’s our cue. We thank our brains for flagging a concern and acknowledge its importance.
- Jot it Down: Armed with our smartphones or a trusty notebook, we write down the worrisome thought. We commit to revisiting it later, but not now. Set yourself a designated worry time, for example 6pm later that evening.
- Switch Focus: Now comes the pivot. Instead of allowing the worry to consume us, we channel our attention into a task that absorbs us completely. Whether it’s a task demanding our senses or brainpower, we immerse ourselves fully.
- Thank You, Brain: Every time worry attempts a sneak attack throughout the day, we respond with gratitude. We remind our brains that we will tackle it during our designated worry time.
- Refocus on Reality: As we engage in this dance with worry, the goal is to remain rooted in the present. No need to wrestle with or push away the thoughts. Instead, each time, we re center ourselves on the here and now.
- The Appointed Hour: Finally, at the designated time (let’s say 6 pm), we sit down with pen and paper. We confront our list of worries, posing a vital question: Is this a genuine issue with actionable solutions now, or is it a hypothetical?
- Navigating the Hypothetical: For instance, the thought “I’m sure I’ve failed everything” is hypothetical since we lack concrete results. While it’s natural to feel concerned, remember, there’s little to solve today. We might prepare an action plan for potential setbacks but acknowledge that concrete problem-solving can wait until we possess more information.
This technique offers more than just respite from spiralling thoughts. It empowers us to forge a new relationship with our own minds, granting us control over when and how we engage with our worries. Through consistent practice, we can retrain our minds to remain anchored in the present, embracing reality over the fiction spun by our fears.
For more advice from Cardinal Clinic Clinicians on anxiety click here
If you would like to enquire about mental health care at Cardinal Clinic, you can call us on 01753 869755. Alternatively, if you wish to refer yourself for mental health care, you can complete our self referral form.
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