Make Time Every Day to...Worry?


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I feel it would be a safe assumption to say that this past Saturday at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the majority of you were decked out in blue and white gear participating in "WE ARE" chants while preparing for our beloved football team to take on Navy.  This past Saturday at 3 o'clock, I was lying in my bed back home in Northeastern Pennsylvania desperately trying to catch up on my schoolwork.  After a series of mild anxiety attacks last week, I threw up my white flag and told myself I needed a weekend off from the State College excitement.  Anxiety has been getting the best of me since the start of classes three weeks ago. 

I have never been away from home for more than a week before coming to Penn State, and I have definitely NEVER been so busy.  I realize that every college student has a schedule as hectic as mine, and back at home I realized I needed to accept my busy new lifestyle and find a way to deal with the anxiety.

 

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I took to the internet to look for suggestions on how to overcome my stress-prone habits.  Initially, a lot of well-known results popped up: working out, doing something you enjoy for an hour each day, etc.  However, one article caught my attention.  It suggests the method of simply setting aside an allotted time slot in your day that is designated for worrying.  At first I thought this sounded like the opposite of being helpful, but decided to continue reading about the method.

Although the initial idea for the study began in the Netherlands, it was more recently observed by American researchers starting in the early 1980s.  It began with a group of 62 patients who were under some type of high level stress.  The study focused on a technique called "stimulus control," which involves setting aside a specific amount of time each day for the patients to sort out all of their worries and hypothesize about possible solutions to each worry.  When the designated time for this ends, the patients were ordered not to think about their worries or possible solutions for the remainder of the day.

Penn State's very own Tom Borkovec (Department of Psychology) was quoted in the article explaining the potential success of this method.  Borkovec stated "When we're engaged in worry, it doesn't really help us for someone to tell us to stop worrying.  If you tell someone to postpone it for a while, we are able to actually do that."

The results of the study showed that this "stimulus control" method actually works.  The patients who practiced the technique of compartmentalizing time to worry (through a four-step process) before beginning anxiety therapy regimens showed a significant lesser amount of anxiety and depressive symptoms than those who did not practice the compartmentalization method.

The article also explains that simply attempting this method can result in reduced anxiety.  Borkovec explains that the patient's expectance of results may have a "placebo effect" and make the patient more relaxed without even realizing it.

Personally, I feel this method would be a smart strategy for me.  Instead of worrying all day long, I would be able to rid of all my worries in less than an hour.  This way, I could spend the rest of the day being productive and refusing to feel anxious or focus on my problems.

I'm sure this method will have its doubters, though.  Do you think it's a good way to rid of stress?  Or do you think setting aside time specifically to worry sounds absurd, and will just result in an overflow of worry from the allotted time?  If anyone knows other interesting methods of reducing stress, feel free to comment with your suggestions!

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1 Comment

This blog post is PERFECT for college students. Personally, I considered myself a worrier and I am always trying to stay one step ahead of tackling everything that I need to get done. Before I came to college, I always heard people saying, "Oh you will have so much free time at college!" I am started to wonder what these people where thinking! As college students, there are so many activities that take up our days, whether it be class, studying, clubs, etc. I find that I have little time to relax because if I am not doing something, I am worrying that I should be doing something or I am thinking about events that I have coming up. I found your blog post very surprising because of the concept of "allotting time to worry." To me, I think this could be a good thing and could work, but then I also find it a little hard to believe. I know sometimes I find myself trying to read a chapter for one class, but then I am thinking about something completely different, so I am not taking in any of what I am reading. It that respect, I think setting aside a time to worry would work well because it would allow me to stay focused on this one task and I can think about other things later. On the other hand, having a specific time to worry just seems to be something we should try and want to stay away from in general because we should want to just "live in the moment" and realize that everything will eventually get done. Overall, I think it depends on the person if this de-stressing method will work. Something that I find that can help reduce my anxiety level is writing down all of my task in an agenda book and then crossing them off as I go. Also, before I go to bed, I think about everything that I will do the next day and mentally prepare for it so there is less time to worry in the future about getting something done because I already know what I need to accomplish. Anxiety and stress can play prominent roles in our lives, but I think a method to reduce those really depends on the person. Maybe it is absurd to one person to set aside a time to worry, but if setting aside a time to worry helps someone else, I say do it!

Does anyone else having stress reducers that they believe really helps them?

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