Worry Postponement for Uncertain Times

It’s certainly a time of uncertainty, which makes it normal for you to be worried. If you feel that worry is taking over your life, it might be worth trying to find ways to limit the time you spend worrying.

Psychologists say there are two types of worry:

  1. Real problem worries: Actual problems affecting you right now that you can act on now. Examples: “I can’t afford my phone bill.” “My hands are dirty from weeding. I need to wash them.
  2. Hypothetical worries: Things that do not currently exist but might happen in the future. Examples: “What if everyone I know dies?” “Maybe all this worry will make me a terrible person.
man in pink jacket waiting for his next class
Worry, by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

People who are bothered by worry often experience it as uncontrollable and time consuming. They also often see worry’s value. So instead of trying to get rid of worry, you can try to postpone your worries.

Set time in your day to do nothing but worry and limit that time. Try this for at least one week:

  • Prepare. Decide when and for how long your worry time will be. Set it aside each day.
    • Consider the time of day you think will be the best to attend to your worries and when you’re most likely to be undisturbed.
    • If you’re unsure, 15 – 30 minutes per day at 7 pm is often a good starting point.
  • Worry postponement. During the day, decide which worries are problems you can act on now or whether they are hypothetical and should be postponed.
    • If it’s not a worry you can do something about right now – redirect your attention through mindfulness.
    • Focus on your senses.
    • Focus attention externally.
    • Say to yourself “I’m not going to engage in this worry now. I will engage in this worry later.”
  • Worry time. Use your dedicated time for worrying. Try to use all your worry time, even if you do not feel you have much to worry about or even if worries don’t seem pressing at this time.
    • You might write down the hypothetical worries you’ve had during the day. How concerning are they to you now? Are any of them worries that can lead you to practical actions?
    • Reflect on these worries – do they give you the same emotional kick when you think on them now as they did when they first arose? Can any of the worries be converted into a practical problem to which you can seek a solution?

Remember to respond to yourself and your worries with the compassion you’d offer a loved one or close friend.


For more strategies for dealing with worry during these difficult times, visit https://www.psychologytools.com/assets/covid-19/guide_to_living_with_worry_and_anxiety_amidst_global_uncertainty_en-us.pdf

If you are looking for ways to connect and feel supported through this experience, CAPS is offering two COVID-19 online support groups through ZOOM (if you are interested, click here if you are an undergraduate senior, and here if you are any other UNC student – must be residing in state.) If you notice your mental health symptoms worsening, or you feel you or a friend are in crisis, you can call CAPS at 919-966-3658 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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