Did I remember to unplug the flat iron? Is my boyfriend cheating on me? What if this Uber driver suddenly decides to drive off this highway á la Thelma & Louise? Having worries like these is a part of human nature; after all, the brain has evolved to predict potential forthcoming danger to keep us safe. But while some worries are fleeting or easily resolved, others have a way of latching onto the brain—which can have trouble distinguishing between real and hypothetical threats. And that’s where using a therapeutic tool called a “worry tree” can help.
Adapted from the self-help book Managing Your Mind by psychologist Gillian Butler, PhD, and psychiatrist Tony Hope, MD, a worry tree is essentially a problem-solving decision tree that poses “yes” or “no” questions to help you resolve or let go of any worry that’s gnawing at your mind or disrupting your sense of peace. And the first juncture at which the tree splits into two branches asks you to determine whether the worry at stake involves a real problem about which you can take action or a potential scenario that’s out of your control.