January 25, 2016

How to Make a Worry List: The Importance of Emotional Triage

How to Make a Worry List: The Importance of Emotional Triage

We all know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. Whether you suffer from a diagnosable anxiety disorder or you just have normal worries, life can sometimes be too much, Luckily there is a simple technique to help you better manage your stress and reduce your uneasiness. It’s called the Worry List.

 

Even though we sometimes think that we can multi-task, research shows that that is really an illusion.  In fact, one of the most stressful experiences of everyday life is when we feel overloaded, i.e. that sense that what has to be done is more than what can be done.

 

Fortunately our emotions are often distorted and exaggerated. Things are rarely as bad as they seem. Emotional triage is helpful a way to rationally examine our fears and reasonably address problems and obligations we face.     

 

The key to reducing our anxiety and feeling more in control is to:

  1. Realize that we can’t do everything at once and, thus,

    2) We must prioritize the relative significance of each obligation.  

    3) Address each item in the order of its importance.

 

If you have ever been to an emergency room, then you know that triage is the first step to being seen. Hospitals know that emergencies are not all the same and that some must be treated as soon as possible while others can wait.  For example, someone who is having trouble breathing or whose heart is in distress or who is bleeding gets priority over someone with a broken arm.

 

The same logic applies to dealing with our emotional stress only in stead of going to an ER, all we need to do is to get a pencil and paper to write out a “worry list”. Making a worry list is easy and very satisfying. 

  • You start by taking an inventory of all the things that bother you. Just write them down in no particular order.
  • Then, go through each item on the list and ask yourself just how urgent it really is.  You may want to divide your worries into categories such as urgent , semi-urgent or non-urgent to further organize tghings.
  • Finally, go through each category and assign a number or what is literally #1, #2 , #3  on your list and so on. This number will then be the order in which you address each issue.  It’s just like in a bakery, you deal with each item when its number comes up. 

It is amazing how powerful this simple exercise is and how quickly it reduces the feelings of stress and being out of control.  Organizing and sequencing a large number of things to do gives us a needed  sense of having control.   

 

Again, the important two things to remember is that our initial belief that everything had to be done all at once was false and that it’s impossible to everything all at once anyway, so stop trying.  It is calming to realize that everything will be taken care of but, that each issue must wait its turn.

 

Patience is a learned virtue for ourselves and others. With a little practice you will soon develop confidence and experience the relief that comes from employing the worry list. It is wonderful to discover that everything that you thought was a crisis and needed immediate attention, wasn’t and didn’t.  Good Luck !

Rev. Michael Heath    1 25 2016     

 

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