Do you worry? Does worrying ever keep you awake at night? Does your worry make you less effective at work and home? Does your worrying about this and that accomplish anything positive?
Most people worry. I worry about a lot of things! Worrying about lots of things is usually unproductive and downright unhealthy. Tonight, I saw a patient who was exhausted due to being sleep deprived. He wanted a sleeping pill or something to take the edge off. He stated that when he went to bed (11 p.m.), he couldn’t turn his mind off. He would toss and turn until he finally fell asleep at 2 a.m. Three hours of misery and wasted time.
Mr. W has a lot to worry about. The economy stinks. He has bills to pay. His health is failing. His friends are in trouble. He worries about what goes on in Washington and the Middle East. The list goes on and on. When I asked him what he has been able to accomplish by worrying, he realized that he always worries about the same things. Nothing ever changes.
Years ago, one of my mentors taught me an excellent technique for helping worriers. I told Mr. W that a sleeping pill or tranquilizer was like patching a leaky pipe with chewing gum. Instead, I asked Mr. W to schedule an hour of “Worry Time” every night.
“Worry Time” is the solution to sleepless nights. The first half hour of worry time is spent making a list of everything you are worried about. Once you have the list, divide it into those things you can control and those you can’t. The second half hour of “Worry Time” is spent designing solutions to the problems you are worrying about. The solutions to those problems that are totally out of your control are to take them off your list or give them to someone else to worry about. Once your list is complete, you can go to bed knowing that your concerns have been addressed.
“Worry Time” is only part of the solution. Mr. W’s second task was to schedule a half hour of “Resolution Time” during his morning breakfast. During “Resolution Time,” Mr. W is to start acting on the solutions he designed the night before.
Mr. W’s first impulse was to insist he did not have one-and-a-half hours to work on a worry list, solution list, and resolution action plan. I pointed out that he had been wasting three precious hours every night in unresolved worries. My plan would not only free up one-and-a-half hours but, for the first time, effectively relieve some of his worries. I think Mr. W is going to do great.
So, if you worry a lot, can’t sleep, and never resolve the issues that plague you, schedule yourself a little “Worry Time.” Let me know how it goes. On my list of worries today was writing tomorrow’s article. I can go to sleep now.