Exposure Technique – The Worry Tree

We all worry about things, let’s face it. I accept that every person on the planet has something to worry over, but for those of us with anxiety a simple worry can result in a full blown panic attack.

While we can use technique after technique to suppress our anxious thoughts in the short-term, this will not make them go away. If we stop fighting, they’ll come right back, usually stronger than ever. Surprisingly, if we can accept that our anxious thoughts exist and stop fighting them, they lose some of their power. Acceptance also takes a lot less energy and so leaves you with more resources for coping.

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Recently I read through a technique for handling the daily worries that I have so that they don’t trigger my anxiety, this technique is named the ‘Worry Tree’

First off you need to distinguish a hypothetical worry from a real worry. Hypothetical worries usually involve “what if?” questions, for example, “what if I missed the bus to work in the morning?” could lead to worrying if that will lose your your job. These worries are things that could possibly happen but are an extreme result which may in fact never become a reality. Real worries are usually around problems that are an issue for you right now, for example, “I’ve missed my bus to work and I’m going to be late for an important meeting.” In this situation, the problem is not hypothetical as it has in fact happened….it’s a reality.


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After you’ve confronted your worry, and accepted it and figured out if you have a hypothetical or real worry the next step is to ask youself what can you do about it? If you can do something about the problem, what can you do? Try to think of as many possible solutions as you can before choosing the best solution. For example, if your worried abou being late look up schedules for your means of travel and usually I choose the time just earlier of the one I’d originally go for. If your driving then see if you can plan the route in Google maps, that way you know how long it would take and if there were any traffic delays happening on route! If you can’t think of a solution right away, or if it is a hypothetical worry, let the worry go for now.

When you’ve figured out a solution the next part of the tree is to see when you can do something about it? Do you have the resources to do something about it right now or do you need to wait until later? For example (I know, that’s my favourite phrase in this post) if you are worried that you have the time wrong for your doctor’s appointment, you can take action now by ringing the doctor. But if your worried about having made a mistake in a report or and essay that you would obviously need to wait until you could access a computer to fix it!

Once you’ve filled those steps on the worry tree, the final step is always the same. Take action! Then let the worry go once you have taken action to solve the problem! So there you have it, one more technique in your anxiety bag of tricks to help cope.

Until my next post, see you all online! Charlotte x

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Disclaimer – images and technique taken from Silver Cloud


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