Inner Office Hours: The Worry Thirty.

(source: cute keyboard DIY)

Arnie Kozak, the author of Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants, describes an exercise in his book he uses in his mindfulness training called ‘inner office hours’.

Inner Office Hours means you assign yourself a specific time and duration to have your worrying and negative thoughts. You know, really mull over them, spin them around in your head and let them consume you until *PING*, time is up and you go off into the real world again.

This way you prevent yourself from having a negative thought fest, all day, everyday. You just put it in the time you took for negative thinking and if it pops up during the day? You shake your head and tell it ‘no’: You firmy remind yourself it’s not your Worry Thirty yet, and you move on.

I read that and it reminded me of a friend of a friend. When her relationship ended, she was writing her thesis as well as working (almost) full-time. She was real busy, and ambitious. She could not take any time to fall apart; there was no time to do the whole pyjama-Ben&Jerry’s-listening-to-sappy-music crap on her schedule. Out of necessity, she gave herself half an hour a day. She used it to cry, to rant, to obsess, to freak out, whatever was on her mind in that half an hour. After that half an hour, she would re-apply her make-up, take a breath and get back to business.

I liked the idea of this for a couple of reasons. First, we don’t always have the time to fall apart. Sometimes it’s too inconvenient to completely indulge in our pain or problems. Second, it can be like waning yourself off of continuous worrying; you just cram everything into the thirty. This can only be healthy, really. 30 minutes a day beats 24 hours a day. Third, by giving it your complete attention in that half an hour it’s not stuck in the back of your mind the whole day, you take time to truly process or problem solve instead of just ruminate. Fourth, when you spend some time on your negative stuff you can actually sneak in something constructive and work on your issues. And finally, it leaves the rest of your day open for (more) positive thinking.

So why not give it a shot? Twenty minutes dedicated to weight worrying or body issues? Half an hour to process stress at work and your fear of losing your loved one? Whatever trouble you might be having, just throw it in the assigned worry time.

If I could recommend anything, it’s writing in those Worry Thirty. Sure, you can just sit, crying over your coffee or having your inner pity party or problem preaching while Sad.FM is on in the background, but writing enhances the process. It clarifies, organizes and clears out the clutter of thoughts. Therefore, I recommend putting it on paper.

Naturally, I gave this a go. Tried the Worry Thirty Minutes. Grabbed a notebook, set a timer, put on some music and worried about ALL the things until my time was up.

Turns out I’m both frightening and a little funny when I let myself worry. Take a look.

  • I’m afraid I can never make a living as a writer and when I have to leave my job as a teacher in a year, I won’t find a job as a psychologist. I envision I would end up in telemarketing and that would make me blow my brains out. With my headset still on for dramatic effect.
  • I worry that I’m never going to be happy with how I look, and that I’m never going to get the flat stomach I want and that I’ll eventually get so frustrated with this I’ll just go on a permanent binge and leave hateful comments on the pictures of skinny women on Instagram.
  • I’m afraid my boyfriend will break up with me because I’m sad and no fun and that I’ll move back home. With my luck (and his dating background), he would start dating some psychotic lunatic so that not only am I heart-broken, I would still worry about him getting injured, cuckolded or found in a ditch somewhere.
  • I worry that my Type A personality traits and my hippie-Universe-yogi side are just so incompatible that they can’t co-exist and that I eventually end up with a whopping case of Multiple Personality Syndrome like in that book ‘Sybil’. But hey, at least I’d be an interesting case in my field.
  • I’m afraid I’m just weak.
  • Maybe I’ve just used up all my happiness in the past year. Like, I just sucked my Lifetime Supply of Happiness dry and now it’s gone. And that from now on I’m just going to be this eye-rolling, sarcastic bitch who admittedly is really funny but who may need to be put on suicide watch after a while.
  • I am worried I’ll eventually give up. That I will stop trying to get better and that I eventually can’t even get out of bed anymore.

…Well, that was totally depressing. Sorry if I made you reach for your Zolofts or liquor there.

But. Bright side: I don’t have these things swirling in my head in big dark neon signs after these thirty minutes. They’re in font, out of my head. In a way, it can be a relief, and make some space. And now I can just go to bed because writing about it gave it enough attention for me to let it go for now.

Thusly, I may dig the Inner Office Hours, Worry Thirty thing.

I think that it can be good to dedicate a half an hour to whatever your problem, pain, worry or stressor might be. By giving it the power in that dedicated time, it’s easier to deny it power throughout the rest of your day. Get it all out of the way and move on, until your next Worry Thirty rolls around the next day. And especially if you can end on a constructive note and firmly close up shop once time is up, this technique might do you some good.

(seriously, how cool is this?) 

That’s all I got for you now, sweet cheeks. Thanks for the sweet comments on the previous article, by the way. I may be sarcastic and mean a lot of the time, but I was totally having Broments with all of you. Your kindness and support is more than I deserve and much appreciated. Thanks for that. Kisses.

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  1. Goeie! Ik ga dit staks eens proberen. Het lijkt me sowieso wel verhelderend om eens alles op te schrijven en zo ook een goed overzicht te geven aan mezelf waar ik nu eigenlijknallemaal mee inzit. Want door het half weg te drukken de hele dag lijkt al het negatieve zó overweldigend en allesomvattend… Ik hoop dat dit ook daarvoor een oplossing kan zijn.

  2. Having a (usually more than) fulltime internship, I actually do this once a week (or sometimes once a month). I make problem lists and write out all the stuff I could possibly be worrying about. Some problems come back very often. Some are completely gone after a month, even if I didn’t come up with a strategy for them. It’s funny to re-read your writings, indeed. Thanks for sharing yours, and for reminding me I need to pick this up again!

  3. Oh bedankt! Eindelijk in duidelijke taal wat al een eeuwigheid vaag rondzwermt in mijn hoofd maar waar ik geen concrete actie op kon kleven. Ik begin er morgen meteen mee, al moet ik in het begin misschien zowel ‘s ochtends als ‘s avonds een office hour inplannen 🙂 Hoera voor schitterende ideeën!
    ps: Het is niet ‘more than I deserve’, het is exact wat je verdient, en misschien zelfs nog te weinig! x

  4. It read about a very old tradition in … (yes, if I had a good memory I would have told you!). When someone is in mourning, he puts on a ‘mourning blanket’, sits with these blanket for a while and is overwhelmed by his emotions. When the blanket is off he will return to his daily life.

  5. Dit is een tip die ik al vaak heb gelezen en volgens mij ook al eens heb geprobeerd (lang geleden). Ik denk dat het me niet zal lukken om binnen de gestelde limiet te blijven. Misschien ga ik het wel weer proberen, nadat ik er flink over gepiekerd heb. 🙂

  6. Heey Lianne,

    Ik heb zojuist op jouw aanraden Spirit Junkie gelezen, en vanuit dat opzicht schreeuwt t “EGO” 😉
    Heb vertrouwen dat het goedkomt (luister naar je ~ing) en zie in dat de zorgen onrealistisch zijn 🙂 You’re awesome just the way you are (Hellooo Bruno Mars muziekje)

    Misschien heb je er wat aan dit boek eens te herlezen? Dit filmpje is misschien niet echt van toepassing in deze context, maar ik vond de comment met FLAP wel erg toepasselijk (forgive, love, accept where they/you are in life’s journey en patience) Ik ga m in ieder geval onthouden!

    Ik bedoel dit overigens helemaal niet betweterig, maar misschien helpt het je een beetje 🙂 je bent een van mijn grootste voorbeelden en je komt weer uit je dipje, ik weet het zeker!

    Ik vind het overigens een goed idee negatieve gedachtes een tijd te geven zodat ze je dag niet overrulen. Ik ga het onthouden voor wanneer er iets vervelends op mn pad komt.



    ps: vergeet niet van het goddelijke zonnetje te genieten voor zolang het mogelijk is 😉

  7. Fijn om te horen dat het zo goed werkt. Ik heb het wel eens eerder gehoord, maar ik durf het toch niet helemaal aan of zo.
    Ik wilde trouwens nog reageren op je vorige post, maar om een of andere reden heb ik het niet gedaan – maar ik vind het heel tof hoe je jezelf weer zo op rails hebt gekregen toen je in de put zat. Ik hoop dat je je nooit meer zo waardeloos hoeft te voelen, want dat ben je absoluut niet. Keep rockin’!

  8. I’ve tried this myself because my (old)therapist recommended it to me but I just couldn’t do it. Because after my designated 10-15 minutes of worry-time I couldn’t turn it off and get on with my day. My new therapist however told me that it’s ok to NOT be able to just turn off the stressing and put it aside and get on with my day. So instead I just tried to deal with the thoughts that I was having throughout the day because me realising that I couldn’t put it aside me and move on with my life was more stressful than anything.. If that makes sense.. Howevssssss it’s toootally awesome that you’re able to manage this way. Writing things out can have a calming effect.