Education Trends: 4 Psychological Reasons You Should Write Down Your Worries

5 min read

Edition: February 20th, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS


Writing your concerns down on paper is an incredibly powerful way to break the habit of chronic worry. (Image Credit: GETTY)
  • Excerpts from article by Nick Wignall, published on Medium.com

Sometimes worries happen to us — a sudden uncomfortable life situation, a big loss and its repercussions, etc. But most of the time, worrying is just something we do. And when we do it enough, we get in the habit of worrying, which leads to chronic stress and anxiety.

Most people assume that they have to worry in their heads. But in reality, there’s a much better way to worry — a way that reduces your anxiety and makes it less likely that you’ll end up in a spiral of worries.

Never worry in your head when you can do so on paper!

It is an incredibly powerful way to break the habit of chronic worrying, and dramatically reduces your overall stress and anxiety levels.

Here are 4 psychological reasons why you should write down your worries:

1. Worrying on paper creates space between your fears and your identity.

  • One of the biggest causes of anxiety is that we over-identify with our thoughts and fears.
  • A simple, mildly irrational worry leads to an extremely irrational and negative belief about yourself as a person.
  • Psychologists call this cognitive fusion, which is when you conflate what you think with who you are.
  • It’s extremely harmful for your confidence, self-esteem, and eventually your performance and effectiveness.
  • Everybody has worries. But when you elaborate on your worries with more worries, that’s where anxiety and self-doubt come in.
  • Luckily, you can stop this process by taking a moment to write your worries down instead of amplifying them in your head.
  • When you write down your worries, it’s easier to see them as separate phenomena distinct from you as a person. They are a part of you but they don’t define you.

2. Putting your worrisome thoughts on paper slows down your racing mind.

  • You probably don’t appreciate just how fast a worrier you are.
  • In the span of just a few seconds to minutes you can have dozens of specific worries, each of which raises your anxiety and stress levels.
  • The reason the speed of worry matters is because worry is the engine of anxiety — each little worry produces a corresponding unity of anxiety.
  • So no matter how small each worry on its own seems, even if you only spend 30 seconds worrying, you may have introduced 15 specific worries worth of anxiety into the system!
  • This brings us back to why it’s so helpful to write your worries down on paper: You can’t write nearly as fast as you can think.
  • If each of those worries is one unit of anxiety, think of how much anxiety you’re saving yourself by simply worrying on paper instead of in your head!
  • You can drastically decrease your anxiety when you confine your speed of thinking to the speed of writing.

3. Writing down your concerns short circuits the habit of overthinking.

  • Overthinking means thinking when it’s not helpful. And it’s the source of a lot of emotional suffering and unhappiness.
  • It’s a hard habit to set aside — even if we know it’s irrational and unhelpful.
  • And the reason is simple: Habits get strengthened through repetition. And your overthinking habit is no exception.
  • Every time you have an initial worry and then follow it up with another worry, you’re effectively rewarding your brain’s decision to throw that initial worry at you.
  • As a result you are strengthening the habit and making it more likely to occur in the future.
  • But when you have a worry and then don’t immediately follow it up with another worry, you’re withholding reward and breaking the cycle — and along with it, the habit.
  • Writing down your worries is helpful because it short-circuits the habit formation cycle that keeps worry going.
  • When you get in the habit of having an initial worry then pausing, pulling out a piece of paper, and slowly writing it down, you’re weakening the habit of worrying in response to worry.
  • The less of a habit worry becomes, the calmer and less anxious you’re going to feel.

4. It makes you realise you’re the author of your life story — not a victim.

  • Most people with chronic worry and anxiety believe that worry happens to them.
  • Like a character in a story, they see worries as a series of unfortunate events that befall them and cause them to be anxious and stressed out.
  • But a vast majority of our worries are things we do — sometimes deliberately, but usually habitually.
  • It’s crucial to remember: Sometimes worry just happens, but most of the time it’s something we do.
  • This means that you’re not just the character in your life’s story, but you’re also the author — capable of taking control of the narrative and changing how the story ends.
  • Even if you can’t control when an initial worry pops into mind, you can control how you respond to it.
  • Writing your worries down helps you shift your perspective from a passive character to an active author. And as the author of your life, you can choose to elaborate on a worry or not.
  • The confidence that comes from this belief is huge when it comes to counteracting worry and anxiety.
  • If you want to control your worries, start writing them down.

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Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Career Trends: 6 Ways to Include Self-Care at Work


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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