In Guatemalan tradition, people would tell worry dolls about their worries, then hide the dolls under their pillow while they slept. The next morning all of their worries would be gone, taken away by the worry dolls.

Such a simple yet meaningful process. You have a worry. You share the worry. The worry is gone. As a therapist, wife, mother, and friend I often wish it were that simple.

This strategy is one that I often share with families and couples about giving and receiving support.

Hold the Bowl

Worrier: I am feeling overwhelmed and need to talk.

  • Directly state what you need from your listener: I need to vent. I just need you to listen. I need to share what’s troubling me but I do not want advice or for you to tell me what to do.


  • Take a deep breath.
  • Clear your mind, as well as your conscious, of any responsibility or pressure to fix and just be open to hold whatever is troubling your loved one.
  • Imagine yourself holding a large bowl and as your loved one is speaking all of their worries are filling this bowl.
  • Once they are done, acknowledge, clarify and validate what was shared. Then imagine yourself dumping out the bowl. Not taking it in. Not owning it. Not feeling responsible for it. Just dumping it out creating space for breath, clarity, healing.

A visualization for releasing worries

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Get comfortable, (close your eyes, sit in a comfortable position).
  • Identify your worry.
  • Picture yourself placing this worry on a leaf.
  • Breathe in deeply, saying to yourself  “breathe in calm”.
  • Breathe out deeply imagining the worry on the leaf blowing away as you say to yourself, “breathe out worry”.

The goal is to release the worry. To give it away… whether to a doll, a loved one, or a leaf. You have the worry. You share the worry. The worry is gone, (or at the very least shared and lessened).