Sure, there’s a lot we could worry about right now.
Life is full of the toll of Covid-19, economic uncertainty, shutdowns, political battles. And now there’s even a brain eating amoeba!
Fear has many faces, and one of its sneaky forms is worry. In worry, you allow your mind to be consumed by actual or potential problems. Getting stuck on the worst-case scenario. We used to call it being a worry wart.
A strong image from childhood is my stepdad sitting with his head in his hands, worrying. I wished I could help him. He was such a staunch Catholic. I wondered — where was his faith?
But he did hard physical work as a building contractor to provide for his wife and six children. I can’t blame him.
I couldn’t help him, but hopefully I can help you.
I had to learn to undo this family legacy.
Worry is a habit and habits can be changed. You can stop the worry war within you. Stop the worry wart within you. Changing the addiction to worry is necessary for living a happy and productive life.
It boils down to this: WORRY DOESN’T DO ONE DAMNED THING TO HELP!
In fact, it is very damaging.
What happens with worry
Stress raises your heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar. If that happens over and over, blood vessels tend to get inflamed. This can lead to hardened artery walls, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and the potential of heart or kidney disease.
Your immune system can be suppressed, making you more susceptible to colds and contagious illnesses. Not a good place to be during a pandemic!
And not only is worry damaging to your body, but also has mental and emotional harm, limiting your energy and enjoyment.
Worry can become a state of mind, called Generalized Anxiety Disorder. (GAD — certainly not GLAD). Like a deep fog around you, it’s a drain on your body, emotions, and creativity.
Uh-oh! Are you worrying about worrying? You can get out of the rabbit hole.
Now it doesn’t mean to pretend problems don’t exist or gleefully ride off on a unicorn. You gather your courage, bite the bullet, gird your loins — and get ready to face it.
Here’s 5 ways to counter the worry habit thoughts. Try one at a time.
1. Pinpoint the worry
Ask yourself: What’s the actual worry or problem?
Is it health? Bills? Relatives? Your job? Fear of Covid-19? Write them down.
Even better is to continue to write anything else about these thoughts. Identifying the worry limits its power to take over your life. Now you have something to face.
Now let your mind go wild in thinking of possible solutions. You can imagine anything — some you won’t carry out in reality! Just imagine.
Many worry journals abound; check the wonderful website TinyBuddha or Amazon.
2. Ask yourself: what’s the opposite of worry?
Books abound on advice, like the classic Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. But it’s difficult to do a stop” or “don’t”. The mind responds as though you told yourself to DO it.
So, instead of a worry war, we can affirm things like:
I am calm in all circumstance –
I am confident I can handle whatever comes to me
I am at ease.
I enjoy life!
What words could you tell yourself now? Do it now.
3. Settle into the present moment.
This precious moment, that will not come again. Worry is living in the past or in future. Its twin monster is regret. Shoulda coulda woulda.
All we can do is live in this day. Even more so, all we can do is to live in this present moment.
Then we have a day filled with moments of “now.” Tomorrow will be a whole new set of “now’s.”
Many books talk promote the benefit of living mindfully in the present:
Be Here Now by Ram Das
The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle
Peace is every step by Thich Nhat Hahn, with over 100 books on being present.
I also recommend 10-minute mindfulness: 71 Habits for Living in the Present Moment by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport. Gives many practical tips for living in the present.
Easy for you to say! Can’t just order yourself to relax, but there are methods, like relaxing exercises and meditation.
A simple google search brings up many practices, like harvard.edu — relax. Techniques like breath focus, body scan, guided imagery, and repetitive prayer.
For right now, imagine yourself in a beautiful place, like a tropical beach. Take a deep breath and feel it slowly move down your body. Feel this breath nourish and vitalize you.
As you continue to breathe deeply, imagine your worries are melting away. What seemed like an iceberg big enough to stop the Titanic, can start to dissolve.
Rinse and repeat. As often as necessary.
Gratitude is an instant uplifter, moving into a lighter energy.
· Recall three things you are grateful for. Thank them.
· Recall three people you are grateful for. Thank them for their gift in your life.
· Feel gratitude for the gift of life itself.
When I get out of bed in the morning, I think of all the people who cannot do this simple act. What could you be grateful for each morning?
You have the power to escape the tentacles of the worry monster. Just make a few simple changes from damaging habits to helpful habits. Once you start doing this, you won’t want to go back.
This is a practice, not a goal to strive for. Don’t worry! You’re on the right path.