Worry diary (A complete guide)

Worry diary

In this guide, we will discuss what the worry diary is and how to implement it. 

What is a Worry diary?

A worry diary is a way for you to track down those thoughts that make you feel anxious or uneasy.

You have many options to track them down as a notebook you can label as your worry diary, the notepad in your computer or a word document or even your phone so you can write them down on the spot if you don’t have your worry diary handy. 

Worry diary (A complete guide)

We should discuss what worry means.

Everyone understands worry in a different way and under various situations and the way we feel can also vary from one person to the other.

While we worry we are generating a never-ending cycle where the worry makes us feel anxious and when we are anxious we keep worrying.

The idea is to gain control over excessive worrying. 

With the help of your worry diary, you can start noticing certain patterns and triggers that can help you manage your worry in a different way, meaning, looking for solutions to the problems those thoughts are generating.

Feeling worried from time to time is normal and it is part of our emotional nature.

But when we tend to over-worry, then that can cause negative effects in our lives.

For example, isolating us from other people or even stopping us from doing things. 

It is hard to stop worrying but when we learn how to cope and manage the worries as they come then it gets easier and we tend to do it automatically when the situation demands it. 

Worry diary (A complete guide)

What happens when we worry?

Basically, when we get z specific and automatic though such as “What If the bus gets stuck in a traffic jam and I am late?”.

This thought will certainly trigger some emotional responses as worrying, feeling anxious, frustrated and overwhelmed. 

Next, our body reacts to the emotions and activates some physical responses such as being irritable, frustrated, exhausted or tense.

This will eventually lead us to behave in a certain way like for example, seeking reassurance from others or keep worrying.

And the cycle maintains that anxious response after every worrying thought. 

What can I do to stop worrying? Writing down your worries…

First, you need to understand what worry is and how it is manifesting. Then it is necessary to classify your thoughts.

They can be either practical worries that we can act on or hypothetical worries that are things we can’t control. 

Most of the time we have hypothetical worries, meaning things that we can’t control or events in the future that can’t be solved or any action can be taken at that point in time.

Our worry diary will be very useful when classifying the worrying thoughts.

This will train your mind into classifying the thoughts automatically and by then you might not even need your worry diary. 

Let’s say we are in the middle of classifying that automatic thought. We need to decide if the current worry can be solved at that moment.

If yes, then we make a plan to solve it, meaning this becomes a practical worry and likely relates to a problem you are experiencing now. 

If you can not solve anything at the moment or it is out of your control then this gets classified as a hypothetical worry.

It is likely that it is a worry about something that is in the future and doesn’t have a practical solution now. 

Why do we write the worries down?

According to choose help UK, we write down the worries for three main reasons:

  1. Writing these worries down removes some of their power over you. You no longer have to stay mentally vigilant to keep track of them once they’re in your notebook.
  2. Releasing the worries to paper frees up a little headspace and this enables you to think more clearly and rationally.
  3. Once you’ve written them down you can begin a structured worry-challenging exercise which should bring some healthy perspective.

It is time to worry!

Now that we have written our worries down and we have classified them, then pick one hypothetical worry and purposefully start worrying.

For each this hypothetical worry you have chosen, consider how you felt when you wrote it down and consider how you feel about it right now. 

It is time to think about it. Ask yourself if that worrying thought that was in the future has already happened, think about how you have dealt with it if it has already happened and if it didn’t happen then think about how it is no longer a problem.

It is vital to take some minutes to reflect on it. 

When finishing analyzing every thought you have written down and they are no longer a problem then put a line through them and let them go!

You can make it even more symbolic by reaping the page and throwing it away in the garbage.

This way you are saying goodbye to your worries. Then start again with a new piece of paper and new worrying thoughts.

This takes time and repetition, don’t feel discouraged or frustrated if you can’t manage to do it the first time.

Keep practicing, I promise you’ll get better. 

Practical worries: problem-solving

When we start worrying, we feel our problems are bigger than us and it can make us feel frustrated and overwhelmed.

Here we will learn how to use problem-solving as a powerful tool. 

Problem-solving will let you distance yourself from your worries and will let you find practical solutions.

There are eight steps we need to follow for problem-solving.

Identify the worry you want to focus on

go back to your worrying list and pick one of the practical worries you would like to try solving.

Choose one that you really feel like sorting out and feels manageable.

For example, you are worried about the exam you have tomorrow and you haven’t studied. 

Convert the worry into a practical problem

Convert your practical worry into a problem to solve.

For example, if you are worried about the exam tomorrow, what can you do to stop worrying? Probably if you revise then you might have a better outcome.

Identify potential solutions

Identify as many potential solutions as possible as crazy as they might sound.

For example, one potential solution can be to review, another possible solution can be cheating, another option can be feeling sick and avoiding to take the test. 

Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each solution

Asses the main advantages and disadvantages of each solution and consider the strengths and weaknesses. 

Select your best solution: 

Choose the solution based on the analysis of strengths and weaknesses. 

For example, the strength the first option has is that you will feel very happy when you get a good grade earned with your sweat, but for the second option, if you cheat then you won’t feel as good. 

Develop a plan to apply your solution

Outline the steps you will take and how you will do it. Make sure you have the four W’s covered- what, where, when and with whom. 

For example, What- could be studying, Where-the library, When-now, Whom-other classmates. 

Put your plan into action

Follow the steps from your plan, record what you did and what happened next, this will help you review later how effective was your plan and what you could do differently next time.

In our example, let’s say you got the grade, if you examine step by step you’ll notice your plan was successful but if it was a bad grade then you’ll need to find what went wrong.

Probably having more time to revise next time. 

Review your plan

Reviewing is important since you can sit and think about the problem if it actually got resolved or reduced.

Here you can identify what worked well and you can keep putting into practice this technique as long as you need to. 

Worry diary (A complete guide)

Useful tools

Here are two versions of the worry diary, you can print them out and start applying what you have learned. 

Printable version of the Worry Diary

Worry Diary example

Worry diary (A complete guide)

Why is this blog about worry diary important?

Many people in the world live with anxiety and for some is a very disabling condition.

They seem to have let anxiety and excessive worrying take over their lives. This is something to be aware of and raise awareness.

We are not our disability or our anxiety or our depression or any other mental illness. We are who we chose to be.

Research has shown the effectivity of problem-solving.

With this technique, you can basically analyze and find a solution basically to any problem that you might think of.

Just try it yourself and you will notice the positive impact it will have in your life. 

Here we have discussed how the worry diary can help us gain that control back and the confidence we lost in ourselves due to the anxiety.

Please feel free to comment on the content on the comments section down below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about worry diary

How do you worry time?

After identifying and evaluate your list of worries you can set up a daily worry time.

This can be a 10 to 30 mins predetermined time where you are allowed to worry about anything you’d like. 

Does writing a diary help anxiety?

Writing a diary helps with your anxiety in the sense where you can simply write down your thoughts and feelings as they come and then you have the opportunity to analyze them and understand them more clearly.

What is Self Help Anxiety?

Self-help for anxiety means you identify your triggers, understand them and use some techniques to help you cope or manage the anxiety when you start having those worries again.

This can help you train your mind and be ready when those thoughts decide to appear.

What is a hypothetical worry?

Hypothetical worries are often about future things that might happen.

These thoughts are about things we cant actually control.

This thoughts perpetuate the never-ending cycle of worrying since we feel bad because there are things that might happen in the future but we can’t do anything to change them.

What is anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorder refers to a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by extreme fear or worry.

The anxiety disorders can be classified in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias.

Recommended reading

  1. Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything 
  2. Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People 
  3. The Art of Problem Solving, Volume 1: The Basics Solutions Manual
  4. Thinking, Fast and Slow 
  5. Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities
  6. Write It Down, Let It Go: A Worry Relief Journal 

References

University Of Exeter: Dealing with worry

NHS: Wellbeing Workshop

Choose Help UK

Worry diary (A complete guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.