Worry dolls - Elsa Support

Worry dolls

In a world that often whirls with stress and anxiety, discovering simple yet effective methods to manage worries is crucial. Let’s look at worry dolls, petite handcrafted figures believed to possess a magical ability to absorb our concerns and bring peace.

Where do they originate?

Worry dolls, also referred to as trouble dolls or anxiety dolls, have their origins in Mayan and Guatemalan traditions. As per folklore, when someone is troubled by worries, they can confide in these dolls before sleep. The dolls, reputed to be gifted with the power to assimilate worries, are placed under the pillow. As the tale goes, the dolls shoulder the burden of worries, granting the person a peaceful night’s sleep.

The Science 

There is a psychological rationale to their efficacy. The act of confiding in an object, even symbolically, can be therapeutic. It allows individuals to externalise their concerns, which can lead to a sense of relief and a renewed outlook.


  1. Verbally expressing or acknowledging worries can provide emotional release. Sharing concerns with worry dolls can act as a cathartic process, offering comfort similar to conversing with a friend.
  2. Engaging with worry dolls provides a tangible approach to addressing concerns. The physical act of entrusting worries to the dolls’ care can help individuals feel a sense of control over their anxieties.
  3. Focusing on the act of confiding in the dolls can redirect attention away from distressing thoughts, promoting mindfulness and temporary distraction.
  4. Placing worry dolls under the pillow can create a bedtime ritual that signals the brain to transition from worry mode to rest mode, potentially enhancing sleep quality.
  5. Keeping the dolls on display can serve as a visual reminder that worries are acknowledged and, in a way, being managed.

How to use

  1.  You can purchase worry dolls from various sources or even craft your own. Choose dolls that resonate with you. There are so many ways to make your own using pegs, lolly sticks, pipe cleaners or scraps of wool. We even have a worry doll poem on the website you can use.
  2.  Spend a few moments sharing your concerns with the dolls before placing them under your pillow. As you do so, visualise your worries transferring to the dolls.
  3.  If you prefer, showcase your  dolls in a location where you’ll see them regularly.
  4.  Just as you might confide in a friend, revisit your worry dolls periodically. As your worries evolve, your interaction with the dolls can evolve too.

Suggestions for how to make your own Worry dolls

  1. Traditional Worry Dolls:
    • Materials: Wooden clothespins, yarn or embroidery thread, markers, fabric scraps, glue, scissors.
    • Instructions: Wrap yarn or thread around the clothespin to create the body. Use markers to draw the face. Attach fabric scraps for clothing using glue. Create multiple dolls, each representing a different worry.
  2. Lolly Stick Worry Dolls:
    • Materials: Lolly sticks, yarn or string, markers, fabric scraps, glue, scissors.
    • Instructions: Glue lolly sticks together in a cross shape to form the body. Wrap yarn or thread around the centre to create the head and body. Attach fabric scraps for clothing. Draw the face with markers. These can be used as pocket-sized worry dolls.
  3. Pipe Cleaner Worry Dolls:
    • Materials: Pipe cleaners, yarn or thread, markers, scissors.
    • Instructions: Bend a pipe cleaner into a human-like shape, creating a head and body. Wrap yarn or thread around the pipe cleaner to form the body. Draw the face with markers. These can be quick and easy worry dolls to make.
  4. Natural Worry Dolls:
    • Materials: Twigs, leaves, yarn, markers, glue, scissors.
    • Instructions: Collect small twigs and leaves from nature. Use yarn to create bodies for the dolls, attaching them to the twigs. Use leaves for clothing or decorations. Draw faces with markers. These can be unique and eco-friendly worry dolls.

Other uses for Worry Dolls

  • Give worry dolls to friends or loved ones as a symbol of your support and care. Each doll can represent your connection and the willingness to listen and share.
  • Use worry dolls as mindfulness tools. Hold a  doll and focus on your breathing or other sensations, allowing it to ground you in the present moment.
  • Create imaginative stories or plays using dolls as characters. These stories can explore themes of courage, resilience, and problem-solving.
  • Teachers and ELSAs  can use worry dolls in the classroom to encourage open discussions about emotions and provide a tangible tool for students to express their worries.
  • Place dolls in places where they can be easily accessed, such as in a pocket, purse, or on a desk. Holding them can offer comfort during stressful moments.
  • Incorporate dolls into art projects, such as collages or mixed media pieces, to explore themes of emotions, coping, and growth.
  • Continue the tradition of placing  dolls under pillows, but instead of worries, focus on positive intentions or hopes for the next day.
  • Use dolls as conversation starters in group settings. Pupils can take turns sharing their thoughts while holding the doll, promoting open communication.
  • Include worry dolls in self-care kits or baskets, offering a unique tool for self-soothing and emotional expression.
  • Carry worry dolls with you when travelling. They can be a familiar presence in unfamiliar settings, providing a sense of security.


In a world where stress and anxiety are all too common, uncovering creative methods to manage these feelings is invaluable. Worry dolls, with their origins steeped in tradition and their psychological benefits, offer a charming and practical solution. Whether through symbolic confiding, mindfulness, or sleep assistance, worry dolls provide a pathway to comfort and calm amidst life’s worries.

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