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Episode 6: Anxiety Buster for Kids + Adults: Worry Time



[00:00:02] Parenting is hard enough on a good day — but when you're facing a huge change like divorce, moving, a health crisis, or even a pandemic, it can be downright overwhelming. My name is Sara Olsher and I'm the founder of Mighty + Bright, where I help your family cope with the uncertainty that comes from life's major upheavals. Together we can help your kids take this hard time and turn it into resilience that they'll be able to use for the rest of their lives. Join me for quick and easy 5 to 10 minute episodes that will leave you feeling 100% positive that you got this.

[00:00:01] So this morning, I want to talk to you about worry time. So if you have any form of anxiety, you probably know what I'm talking about when I say at times I wake up in the middle of the night and just worry. It doesn't really matter what is going on in my life, I will find something to worry about at three o'clock in the morning. Sometimes I find that these things are really important things that I absolutely have to remember. And sometimes I find that I have just like made something really weird into something I am completely obsessing about.
And the reason is because my brain is used to worrying and it doesn't worry because it is trying to solve a useful problem. It worries because that is what it is used to doing and it will find a subject to worry about because that's what it does. And kids are the same way.

[00:01:09] They will get addicted to worrying . . . or they're going through a period of separation anxiety or a life stage where something is stressing them out, or maybe something really hard is going on in their lives, like a pandemic or a divorce or cancer diagnosis or something going on with a sibling or issues at school. And they're legitimately worrying about something that is super hard.
There is a way that I have found —and that is recommended by a lot of therapists — to help solve this problem for both adults and kids. It's called Worry Time.
For adults, this looks like scheduling some time (that is not close to bedtime), where you literally write every worry you can possibly think about down on a piece of paper. And you don't judge it, you don't read it, you don't do anything. You just put it down on paper so that it is taken care of. Then when you go to sleep, if you find yourself worrying about that again, you remind your brain, "Okay, I took care of that by writing it down and I can take care of it in the morning."
If you wake up at three o'clock in the morning with some other worry, you keep a piece of paper or journal by your bedside and write it down. That way, your brain learns to stop obsessing over the same thing. There is something that stops you in your tracks when you know that you have already done something about it. It is seriously life changing.
For kids, Worry Time looks a little bit different because, you know, it needs to be age-appropriate and you need to guide them through it. Basically, you schedule 5 to 15 minutes a day where you talk about what they are worried about. And if they bring up worries at other times of the day, you can say we're going to save that for worry time and, same sort of thing, you write down.

[00:03:10] If they're old enough, kids can write down the things that they're worried about and you can put it in a jar, then keep that jar filled up with little pieces of paper of the things that they are worried about. And then as time goes on during worry time, you can dump those pieces of paper out and you can say, "is this a worry that you still are thinking about and we should put back in the jar? Or is this a worry that maybe you are done with?"
Sometimes they will add more and more and more things to the worry jar during Worry Time, and other times they'll be like, "you know what, I don't need the Worry Jar, or I don't need the Worry Time, or I don't need that specific little piece of paper anymore because I'm not worried about it anymore." And then you can throw it away. 
I really like to do rituals where you're physically destroying the piece of paper. There's something really freeing about that, both for myself and for my daughter. You can take the paper outside and literally burn it or rip it up and bury in the ground. There's something really cathartic about doing that.
So that is worry time. We have gone in and out of using this tool in our house and when we have needed it, it has really served us well. I hope that this tip helps you and I hope you have a wonderful day.