Don’t Worry, Be Healthy
Posted by Gail | Filed under Life Lessons
By nature I’m a worry-wart. I’ve had to work hard at reducing my need to control EVERYTHING and worry less. It’s been a struggle, but one that had definitely paid off in spades.
My idea of dealing with anything was to worse-case it seven ways from sideways. If I imagined the worst that could happen, whatever did happen couldn’t possibly be as bad. Problem was, I expended so much energy worrying all the options through to the better end, I wore myself out from the inside.
Research shows that chronic worrying stems from a craving for control. Not news to me. But the more we twist ourselves into knots over the What-Could-Happen, the more we reduce our bodies’ abilities to cope with stress. Spending too much time worrying can actually weaken your cardiovascular system. Never mind the havoc it plays with your emotional functioning.
According to Robert Leahy, director of the American Institute of Cognitive Therapy, in his book The Worry Cure, 38% of folks say they worry every day and more than 19 million Americans are chronic worriers. Wow!
That’s not to say that all worry is bad for you or unproductive. But if you let your emotional mind take control of the process, you’ll be wringing your hands and beaded in perspiration in no time. You’ve got to decide if your worrying will help you find a practical solution to a problem or if it’s just your brain going round and round on a hamster wheel of What Ifs.
Learning to accept uncertainty helps too. I had this lesson in a big way last year and it has helped a lot. After trying to plan everything to within an inch of its life, every plan I made was thwarted. It was as if The Goddess was saying directly to me, “Gail, give it the hell up!” I got the message.
Mindfulness helps too. Springing from Buddhist teachings that encourage you to stay in the present moment, experiencing all emotions without evaluation, and learning to put away the wondering mind – backwards or forwards – mindfulness has been my biggest tool. Whether you choose to meditate for an extended period each day, or you take quick five minute breaks throughout the day to “stay with your breath”, mindfulness quiets the brain and eases tension.
Sometimes people aren’t even aware that they’re worrying because they refuse to admit the potential downsides to themselves; worrying in silence and ignorance may be the worst worry of all. Admitting to the potential downside and reframing the worry can help. What would happen… really happen… not as some speeded up disaster movie in your mind? If you can create a positive spin by finding the lesson in the negative experience, you’ll not only be wiser, you’ll be stronger in dealing with the stress.