A Worry Jar – can be a helpful way to manage your worries and anxiety
Helping Your Teen Overcome Worries and Anxiety
As parents, it can be hard to know how to help your child manage their worries. You may want to help them realise they’re overreacting or catastrophising, or may feel like getting them to be positive and stop ruminating would be helpful The thing is we all worry at times, and for some people it can impact their day, leaving them anxious, overwhelmed, have trouble sleeping, trouble making decisions and loads more
In this post, I will share with you a helpful technique called the worry jar, which can assist your teen in managing their worries effectively.
What is a worry jar?
- A worry jar is a practical tool that allows your teen to contain their worries and prevent them from overwhelming their thoughts.
- By creating a physical space for worries, your teen can experience a sense of relief and reduce repetitive thoughts.
Instructions for Creating a Worry Jar:
- Find a glass or plastic jar that your teen can decorate or label.
- If they like they can personalise the jar by decorating it creatively.
- Label the jar with a name, such as “Adams Worry Jar” or “My Worry Jar.”
- Each time your teen has a worry they can write it down and put it in the jar
- Once all the worries are inside, have your teen close the jar and keep it closed until ‘worry time’
Scheduling Worry Time:
- The next step is to establish “Worry Time,” which is a designated period when your teen can freely express their worries.
- Setting a specific time for worry allows your teen to compartmentalise their concerns and prevent them from dominating their entire day.
Instructions for Scheduling Worry Time:
- Choose a time slot of 10-15 ( no more than 30 ) minutes after school or after dinner (avoid right before bedtime).
- Write down the worry time on a piece of paper and attach it to the worry jar (e.g., 4 PM to 4:15 PM).
- Consider setting a timer or alarm to remind your teen when worry time begins.
- During worry time, your teen can open the jar and focus on their worries.
- They can review all their worries or choose a few to reflect on each day.
- Depending on their preference, your teen can spend worry time alone or with your support.
- To signal the end of worry time, use a timer or alarm to indicate that it’s over for the day.
- Your teen should then close the jar to symbolise putting their worries away.
Why Worry Time is Helpful:
Worry time serves as a helpful tool for anxiety for several reasons:
- It creates a dedicated space for worries, freeing your teen from constantly replaying them in their mind.
- It encourages your teen to acknowledge and confront their worries in a controlled manner.
- By saving worries for designated times, your teen can focus on other activities and regain a sense of control.
- Over time, your teen may realise that some worries lose their power or become less significant, leading to a sense of accomplishment and relief.
Categorise the worries:
Once your teen has written down their worries and placed them in the worry jar, it can be helpful to further categorise the worries into three different groups: Action, Reflect, and Accept. This categorisation allows your teen to approach their worries in a more structured and proactive way.
- Worries that fall into the “Action” category are those that your teen can take direct action on to address or resolve. These worries are within their control, and they can develop a plan or take steps to alleviate them.
Instructions for addressing worries in the “Action” category:
- Encourage your teen to identify specific actions they can take to address each worry.
- Help them break down the actions into smaller, manageable steps.
- Support them in developing a plan or strategy to tackle these worries.
- Encourage them to take action and celebrate their progress along the way.
- You can use a traffic light system to help identify priorities
- Worries that fall into the “Reflect” category are those that may not have immediate solutions or require deeper thought and consideration. These worries may be related to self-reflection, personal growth, or uncertainties.
Instructions for addressing worries in the “Reflect” category:
- Encourage your teen to take time during their worry time to reflect on these worries.
- Help them explore their thoughts and feelings surrounding these worries.
- Encourage journaling or engaging in activities that promote self-reflection, such as meditation or creative expression.
- Support them in seeking guidance or discussing these worries with a trusted adult, such as a counsellor or mentor.
- Worries that fall into the “Accept” category are those that your teen recognizes as beyond their control or not worth spending excessive energy on. These worries may include uncontrollable events, hypothetical scenarios, or irrational fears.
Instructions for addressing worries in the “Accept” category:
- Encourage your teen to practise acceptance and letting go of worries they cannot change or influence.
- Help them develop a realistic perspective on these worries and differentiate between what they can control and what they cannot.
- Support them in cultivating mindfulness techniques that can help them observe and let go of unhelpful thoughts.
- Encourage them to redirect their focus and energy toward more positive and productive aspects of their life.
Alongside the worry jar technique, there are other strategies you can explore:
- Breathing techniques: These can help your teen manage anxiety and stress. Take 10 big deep breaths having a pause between inhaling and exhaling
- Mindfulness practices: Trying focusing on things you can smell, hear, taste, feel and see.
- Meditation and relaxation audio: using apps like smiling mind or other guided exercises
By sorting worries into these categories, your teen can gain a clearer understanding of their worries and develop appropriate strategies for each type. This approach empowers them to take action when possible, engage in self-reflection when necessary, and let go of worries that are not productive or controllable.
- The worry jar technique, coupled with other tools, can empower your teen to manage their worries and anxiety more effectively.
- By providing a physical space for worries and scheduling worry time, your teen can experience relief and regain control over their thoughts and emotions.
Accredited Mental Health Social Worker and Family Therapist