Tag Archives: worry

Are You a Worrier? Three Tips to Worry Less.

8422339152_4403e7cd77_zI worry to some extent, of course, but I don’t think I worry as much as a lot of people.

Many people worry about how much they worry!

Today, the New York Times had an interesting article by Roni Caryn Rabin, “Worried? You’re Not Alone.

In it, Rabin points out several intriguing findings in a Liberty Mutual Insurance research paper, the “Worry Less Report.”

Apparently Millennials worry about money. Single people worry about housing (and money). People worry less as they grow older.

Some people — for instance, like my sister Elizabeth — feel that if they do worry about something, they’ll somehow prevent a bad thing from happening. Rabin points out, very sensibly, “Researchers say this notion is reinforced by the fact that we tend to worry about rare event, like plane crashes, and are reassured when they don’t happen, but we worry less about common events, like car accidents.”

Rabin also distinguishes between “productive worry,” which helps us solve a problem, and worry where you’re just, well, stewing in worry.

According to the report, here are some ways to tackle worrying: Continue reading

5 Ways to Be Present and Start Living Your Real Life

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 12.29.21 PMBy Levi Newman

We live in an age of distraction. Technology, around every corner and in almost every pocket, clogs life’s airwaves and makes it difficult to be mindful of the moment. Even as I type this (on a computer, no less) I can hear a television blaring a movie in the other room. My son, I’m quite sure, is on his Xbox 360 ,and my wife has checked her phone no less than 35 times in the last 10 seconds.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to take a trip without bringing along my iPad, but there has to be boundaries. That boundary should begin when we start to miss life as it unfolds in the present.

This idea has been running through my mind because of the 4th of July. I was sitting in the park watching fireworks with my family, equally enjoying the colorful explosions overhead and the look of excitement on my children’s faces, when I took a moment to glance at the crowd in hopes that I’d find the same delight amongst the masses. But what I found closest to me was disheartening—a man was watching every second of the event through the viewfinder of a large camera, never once bothering to look up and observe the beauty with his own eyes.

It was in this moment that I realized that we often squander the precious seconds of our lives because we are not mindful of the moment. That’s not to say we shouldn’t capture important events, but how often are we trying so hard to record something for posterity that we miss out on the importance of the memory for our own brain?

This is why living in the moment, or mindfulness, is so important. We should embrace life, letting our thoughts and feelings surround us until we’ve given active, open attention to the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

This way of thinking should apply to every moment, not just the bright and shiny ones. When we’re at work, we should fantasize less about clocking out at five and more about the task at hand. Not only would this make you a better worker, which has its own benefits for you and your employer, it would help you appreciate those around you.

When we’re living in the moment it also keeps us from dwelling on intrusive memories, such as past problems or uncertainty about the future. This decision to take active control of each moment isn’t an easy undertaking. Most of us allow our thoughts to control us, not the other way around. Because this sense of balance often eludes us, we need to stop concentrating on doing and focus more on just being.

The true reason to be mindful is simple: mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic and more secure in their relationships. This allows for reduced stress, an improved immune system, lower blood pressure and often alleviates chronic pains. Not to mention that being accepting of who you are and what you’re doing allows for a higher self-esteem and the ability to acknowledge and improve upon one’s weaknesses.

Here are a few simple steps to get you started on the right track.

1. Reduce your self-consciousness. In other words, dance as if no one is watching. Being able to be comfortable in your own skin is difficult, but allowing yourself that freedom is important.

2. Avoid worrying about the future by focusing on the present. If you’re so wrapped up in what’s going to happen tomorrow, you’re not concerning yourself with what is happening around you, which may ultimately prove to be more important.

3. Improve your relationships with others by taking control of your emotions and avoiding action and impulse. There are going to be times when you may feel like lashing out or losing control, but taking a few moments to collect yourself and be mindful of your responses can make all the difference in the world.

4. Make the most of time by losing the watch. Time often dictates every second (no pun intended) of our lives, so much that we may cut off the enjoyment of an event just to stick to a set schedule. Planning is important in life, but so is spontaneity. Take time to enjoy both.

5. Avoidance isn’t a solution. If you have a problem, the only way to improve your life is to tackle it head on. If you allow things to fester without addressing them you run the risk of things getting much worse before they get better. It’s OK to fear not having the answer, but being mindful of needed actions will help you through the toughest times.

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Levi Newman, a 10-year Army veteran and graduate of the University of Missouri. Levi currently serves as the senior author for the Veterans United Network. He also works as the Director of Outreach for Veterans United Home Loans, where he builds and maintains relationships with businesses, organizations and individuals. To keep up with Levi, follow him on Google+!

25 Ways to Feed Your Soul

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 5.52.23 PM

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

Instead of obsessing about food, fat, your weight and your multiple failures to lose ‘it,’ imagine what your life could look like, the shape it might take, if you shifted your focus to bringing joy to your heart, giving fresh energy to your day, to feeding your soul.

Envision what will happen when your thoughts no longer pull you astray, but rather connect your mind, body,sp and spirit.

Each and every day find at least one way to feed your soul.  Here are 25 ways to get you started.  Feel free to add your ways to the list!

25 Ways to Feed Your Soul

1.   Dream with your feet, bust a move, get your groove on, and … dance to the music!

2.  Dissolve your inhibitions in a smokin’ hot bubble bath!

3.  Become a fan of the funny. Go “Sky High” with cartoonist Tommy Rudmose.

4.   Light a candle, and then light another, and notice … nothing is lost when one candle lights the next.

5.   Be the fountain of gladness and make everything and everyone near to you freshen with smiles.

6.   Look beneath the iceberg; investigate what lies below as only one-seventh of ‘you’ is above water.

7.   Breathe into the moment for this very moment is the only one you have for sure.

8.   Pray with the rocks, the pebbles, the sand, as they are still and silent.

9.   Read, read, read, lest you yield yourself to ignorance.

10.   Play feverishly! Experience the world and the universe as the playground that it sure is; one for exploration and discovery. Explore, discover, have fun!

11.   Whip up a bowl of bliss. Combine one cup of the poetic with one cup of the mysterious. The perfect complement to any meal; filling, delicious goodness.

12.   Connect the dots from the past straight into your future, one to the next, and behold … the big picture revealed.

13.   Send the dark cloud on its way as it is but an illusion; a billow upon billow upon a billow.

14.   Open your eyes to the sweetness of the day.

15.   Make a mistake. It is, after all, one way of doing something and better than doing nothing.

16.   Remove the stops – one at a time until there is no … stopping … you.

17.   Love in general … round people, skinny people, tall people, short people, all people.

18.   Look for the bright spot. It is right there, to your right. (No, your other right).

19.   Sigh a deep sigh and start anew.

20.  Arrange flowers in good cheer, with a smile on your face and listen for the earth to joyously laugh with you.

21.   Sing with the birds after the storm.

22.  Begin your day in delight; end it in wisdom.

23.  Do not “think fun.” Feel your way straight into having fun.

24.  Do not worry about your worries. Worry is neither preparation nor a magic pill that wards off bad happenings.

25.  Smile at the messiness of life and then straighten your desk, toss the old magazines.

I hope that whets your appetite for ‘soul food!’

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For the best life, wellness and weight loss wisdom, visit Janice:
Our Lady of Weight Loss

Join the Kick in the Tush Club

Originally published May 2012

The Night My Husband Didn’t Call and the Fear of Losing a Loved One

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 1.39.39 PMThe clock in my kitchen is my go-to for all my timely needs. There are other clocks around the house, but for some reason I always consult the kitchen clock for accurate time. Oddly enough, the five minute intervals read “now” instead of numbers, so time telling is a two step translation process – a process that perhaps took the edge off last night as I was watching that minute hand in orbit, converting “nows” into numbers, waiting for my husband to come home after work.

We were all hungry, dinner was hot. Around 6:0o I called him four times in quick succession. I thought the intensity of my effort might encourage him to pick up, mentally willing him with every ring. Nothing.

So finally at 7:00 I sat the crew down to eat. Dinner was typical. The girls chowed down while my son staged a sit-in across the room. We ate the last half of our meal in intentional silence, doing our best to focus on chewing and tasting. In the silence I had a hard time focusing on anything really. Well, anything but this: Where the hell is my husband???

As the “nows” accumulated, one nagging, irrational thought snagged its claws on my otherwise typical thoughts. If he got into an accident, the hospital would have called me, right? Would I have a sixth sense if he was dead? Would I just know? He’s not dead, though. But he could be. No. Could he be? I’m sure he’s fine. Maybe I’ll watch a little TV.

The phone finally rang after I put the kids to sleep. He was fine, enjoying dinner with a friend visiting from out of town. He had actually told me several times he had plans but I forgot, didn’t write it down, screwed up. Oops. All that worrying for nothing. It’s not as if I didn’t have a gentle reminder telling me to be here and “now”.  Jeez.

The scene brought to mind of a poem I heard by Richard Blanco on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I pulled this off of NPR’s transcripts, so I’m guessing how the stanzas might be broken up. Enjoy…

Killing Mark” by Poet Richard Blanco

His plane went down over Los Angeles last week, again.

Or was it Long Island?

Boxer shorts, hair gel, his toothbrush washed up on the shore of New Haven, but his body never recovered, I feared.

Monday he cut off his leg chain-sawing. Bleed to death slowly while I was shopping for a new lamp.

Never heard my messages on his cell phone.

Where are you? Call me.

I told him to be careful.

He never listens.

Tonight, 15 minutes late. I’m sure he’s hit a moose on Route 26.

But maybe he survived.

Someone from the hospital will call me, give me his room number. I’ll bring his pajamas and some magazines.

5:25, still no phone call.

Voice mail full.

I turn on the news, wait for the report. Flashes of moose blood, his car mangled, as I buzz around the bedroom dusting the furniture, sorting the sock drawer.

By 7:30, I’m taking mental notes for his eulogy, suddenly adoring all I’ve hated, 10 years worth of nose hairs in the sink, of lost car keys, of chewing too loud and hogging the bed sheets,

when Joy yowls. Ears to the sound of footsteps up the drive and darts to the doorway,

I follow with a scowl: Where the hell were you? Couldn’t you call?

Translation. I die each time I kill you.

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Photo credit: LiLit Ghazaryan

Permission to be Imperfect: All Parents “Scar” Their Children

A Mothers Touch

By Vanessa Gobes

It was spring and I was walking under the pink magnolia blossoms lining Commonwealth Ave in Boston, on my way to a prenatal yoga class. After a long struggle with morning sickness and lethargy, I was starting to feel energized again and was exploring ways to stay in shape while carrying. Yoga sounded like a safe bet so I trotted off to my first class.

I was five months along, just starting to develop a visible roundness to my belly, finally wearing real maternity clothes and beginning to think of this baby as more than just the impetus for nausea and a stuffy nose.

There was a teensy person in there, growing fast. I’d just found out she was a girl and obsessively tried on baby names. I can’t be sure, but I can imagine myself mentally combing through “The Best 1,000 Baby Names of 2004” when my clog caught a mislaid brick and I face-planted right there on the sidewalk – well, more like belly-planted. I landed tummy first, arms reaching awkwardly forward and legs stretching behind me. I didn’t move.

A man in a business suit hustled over to help me find my feet and I stood there for a few moments, examining my scraped, bloodied palms, brushing sand off my protruding belly. I told the good samaritan I was okay and hobbled off to yoga, sniffling and deflated.

The scene, in general, was nothing overly memorable. The pain was minimal, the spring day was ordinary, the clumsiness was nothing I hadn’t experienced before. But this stumble laid the first foundational stone in what would become a motherhood filled with worry.

During the weeks following my fall, I had convinced myself that I’d caused my baby harm. I would lie in bed at night with my palms splayed out on my belly, begging Baby Girl Gobes for a kick or a hiccup or an arcing elbow to confirm that she was still alive.

I called my OB, “But I fell FLAT on my belly, doc… all of my weight… must have crushed her. Should I come in for an ultrasound or something? Anything?” My doctor assured me the baby was fine.

Pregnancy progressed normally but I still found other things to worry about: smoke rising from manhole covers, cabin pressure on a trans-Atlantic flight, chlorinated pools, bumpy car rides and arguments with my husband. All of these ordinary things seemed to pose a danger to my unborn child and I began to stockpile an armory of “what ifs.”

As I neared week 40, I committed myself to natural childbirth. I worked with a doula, an extraordinary woman who assured me that both the baby and me would be better off for a drug-free experience.

No drugs. No way out. Well, one way out – between my legs. Holy shit.

I liken the feeling to preparing for a date with the firing squad. The sentence has been decided, it’s scary, people are watching, it’s going to hurt like hell and the aftermath is a complete and utter mystery.

As it turned out, all those things were true. But instead of a blindfold and a lit cigarette, I was equipped with an IV and ice chips.

After several hours of contractions and pushing, my baby girl was placed gently on my chest and I briefly bawled my eyes out. I didn’t die after all. Instead heaven came to me. And with heaven, as is expected in motherhood, came even more worry.

Am I doing this right? Am I permanently scarring my child? Am I a crappy Mom? Is my kid going to hate me for all of the mistakes I’m making? We all ask these things, right? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions validate all of our parental concerns.

Because we aren’t doing it right. No one does. We are totally scarring our children. That’s what parents do. Every parent wears the Crap Crown sometimes. And yes, our kids will hate us at some point – we’ll just have to hope it’s short-lived and based in irrational, hormonal, misplaced logic.

But unlike the pain of childbirth, there is a way out of our looming motherly fears – acceptance. When we accept this inevitability, something really amazing happens. That tight grip we have on the worry and concern and anxiety, nestled so conveniently into parenthood, loosens. The worry evaporates.

We accept that there’s only so much we as mothers can do. We can guide them. We can educate them. We can encourage them. But we can’t live life for them. They are who they are.

They’re going to fail classes, get sick, lose games, offend adults, break arms, lose expensive electronics, crash cars, and make fools of themselves, just like we did. That will change when they are adults. Or it won’t.

Some will overachieve early then burn out – or maybe continue to overachieve and stress out. Some will fly below the radar then launch into the stratosphere of success later in life. And some will be total screw-ups for the duration of the ride. And all of that is okay.

There are important lessons to be learned regardless of the path, each as valuable as the other. In fact, the drug-addict / drop-out / derelict probably learns more about life than the magna cum laude MIT grad groomed by his parents for high achievement. Life without life-learning is no life at all.

But enough about them, let’s get back to us. The Mommies. Because we’re the ones connecting here. We’re exploring our own feelings associated with worrying about our kids (who probably aren’t worrying about themselves at all).

Worry is like tumbleweed, picking up all sorts of garbage as the winds of life roll it along. Garbage that doesn’t help us one bit. If we Moms allow the tumbleweed to entangle us, we’ll only end up with deep wrinkles, sleepless nights, and multiple prescriptions for Xanax.

But worry and acceptance cannot exist in the same space. It’s impossible. And there are beautiful side effects of acceptance: liberation, trust, and peace.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from the obsession? From the projection? From the competition? From the fear? From all of those ugly tendencies that we’ve been carrying around since scraping our bellies off the sidewalk in week 20 of pregnancy?

Dragging around a garbage bag of fear will only encourage those same feelings in our children. That black Hefty is only so thick. And our trashy bits end up ripping the liner, leaking out and causing a big stink for the people around us. People like the kids we’re worrying so much about. Sure, we can tell them not to worry. But our kiddos do as we do, right? So let’s do something helpful – model acceptance and collaboration.

Easier said than done, I know. But acknowledging fear and the reasons for fear is a beautiful stimulus for change, creating wide crack for light to shine in and expose fear for what it is: Useless, stinky garbage.

Meditation is a great way to drag those useless habits out to the magnolia-lined curb.

Often when I meditate lately, I hear the words “create space”. (I’d love to know who is saying that to me, by the way.) For me, the creation of space is a deliberate effort to push all of life’s clutter off to the sides and invite an open connection between me and the universe.  In that open space, I can find acceptance. Anyone can do this. You don’t need to take a class or read a book or have a special degree to do it. You just have to know how to breathe.

Solutions don’t have to be complicated or even external. Peace is as close as your breath.

I’m so grateful for this mindfulness practice. Through non-doing, I’m actually doing the best thing I could do for myself and my family. There will be times ahead during which my trust in the universe will be tested, I’m sure. Nights when I’m wearing a trench in my hardwood floors from pacing. Days when my kids are flailing and I’m desperate to carry their pain the way I carried their little bodies so long ago. But the more I practice acceptance, the easier I’ll recover from those angst-ridden moments. Mindfulness is a lifelong practice that deepens with time. And as far as I can tell, time is all we’ve got.

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vanessaheadshot-3Vanessa Gobes is a full time house frau and jane of all trades. She’s currently blogging her way to awakening through a steady diet of kindness, compassion and mindfulness – considering herself not quite Buddhist, but Bu-curious. Her current intent is to work on infusing a daily morning meditation routine into each public school in her town. Vanessa is a community activista, philanthropista and newspaper columnista in Winchester, Massachusetts. Read her stories on her blog, Bringing Up Buddhas.

“I realized I don’t have to believe my thoughts.”

ConcentrateOur mindfulness practice is not about vanquishing our thoughts. It’s about becoming aware of the process of thinking so that we are not in a trance—lost inside our thoughts. That’s the big difference. To train in becoming mindful of thoughts can help us to notice when your mind is actively thinking, either using the label “thinking, thinking,” or identifying the kind of thought—“worrying, worrying,” “planning, planning.” Then, becoming interested in what’s really happening right here. Coming home to the sensations in your body, your breath, the sounds around you, the life of the moment.

As our mindfulness practice deepens we become more aware of our thoughts. This offers us the opportunity to assess them and notice that much of the time our thoughts are not really serving us. Many thoughts are driven by fear and lock us into insecurity. During our residential meditation retreats, one of the biggest breakthroughs people share with us is:

“I realized I don’t have to believe my thoughts.”

Training in mindfulness allows our minds to have a choice. At the moment in which you pause and realize that these thoughts are not really serving me, you have the option to come back to presence. This process of choosing becomes more powerful as you realize how thoughts can create suffering and separation. They create an “us” and a “them.” They create judgment and end up making us feel bad about ourselves.

In those moments when you’re lost in thought, what if you could pause and say, “OK, it is just a thought” That is revolutionary. That can change your life!

Now, the key is that we approach this with a gentleness and kindness. Each time we recognize thinking and come back into the present moment with gentleness and kindness, we are planting a seed of mindfulness. We are creating a new habit—a new way of being in the world. We quiet down the incessant buzz of thoughts in our mind. We take refuge in what is true—the aliveness and tenderness and mystery of the present moment—rather than in the story line of our thoughts.

“Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.”— Wu Men

Enjoy this short video on Catching Fear Thoughts:

 

Adapted from my book Radical Acceptance (2003)

For more information visit: www.tarabrach.com

photo by: RelaxingMusic

Let Go Of Worry

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

How often do you catch yourself worrying?

When I was a kid my mom used to say to me, "95% of what you worry about never happens." I think she recognized that I was the "worrying type" and was trying to help ease my mind. Although this rarely worked, I appreciated her sentiment and know now that she was right.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been prone to worrying. I continue to work on this, let it go, forgive myself for it, and choose different ways of being in the face of my fear. And, I still catch myself worrying more than I’d like – about the future, about my body, about how things will turn out, about what people think about me, about money, about the well-being of my loved ones, about the state of the world, and much more.

However, no matter how much we worry, it never really helps. And, as we look deeper at what worrying actually is – a set-up for failure, a negative attractor, and a denial or avoidance of feeling our true feelings – we see that it can have a damaging impact on our lives, our work, and our relationships. When we worry, we’re simply preparing to be upset or angry – assuming something won’t work out in the future.

Worry not only creates stress, it has an impact (usually negative) on what we create and manifest, and on our experience of life in general. Worry is a superficial emotion. It’s clearly something that many of us are all familiar with, can share with others in a way that will garner sympathy, empathy, or even pity, and is easy for us to go through daily life experiencing. However, underneath our worry are usually deeper emotions like shame, fear, guilt, hurt, or anger; many of which are more difficult for us to feel and express.

If we’re able to tell the truth and face our deeper feelings, we won’t have to waste our time and energy worrying.  We can then deal with the root of the issue, not the superficial impact of it (which is what worry usually is).

There’s nothing wrong with feeling scared, angry, hurt, and even "worried," in and of itself. These emotions, like love, gratitude, excitement, joy, and others are very important to our human experience. Emotions that are felt deeply and expressed appropriately give us power (regardless of what they are). Emotions that are not felt deeply, that are denied or avoided, and are not effectively expressed, can be damaging to us and those around us.

Worry is always a sign that there are some deeper feelings or issues for us to address. It’s often a good reminder for us to get more real, take better care of ourselves, and pay attention.

Below is a list of some things you can do when you get worried.  These simple ideas can help you move through your worry in a positive way:

1.  When you notice yourself worrying; stop, check in with yourself, and take a few slow deep breaths (all the way down to your belly)

2.  Ask yourself, what’s underneath my worry? (i.e. why am I really worried and what am I really feeling?)

3. Face, feel, and express these underlying emotions – get support from others in this process if you need it.

4.  Once you have felt and expressed these emotions, choose how you want to feel and what you want to create, instead of playing the role of the victim.

5.  Appreciate yourself for the courage it takes to be honest and to deal with the challenging situations or emotions you’re experiencing.

6.  Focus on the good stuff in your life (i.e. be grateful for what you have, who you are, and what you’re going through)

7.  Be of service to others – generously put your attention on those around you who can benefit from your help.  It will be a great gift to them and to you. Service can allow you to shift your attention from your worry to what you have to give, which is a true win-win for everyone involved.

What can you do today to let go of anything you’re currently worrying about?  How can you let go of worry in an on-going way in your life?  Share your thoughts, ideas, insights, actions, and more on my blog here.

To listen to this week’s audio podcast, including additional thoughts, ideas, and tips, click here.

The Blessing in Fear

The blessing in fear is that fear teaches us what we need to learn how to overcome. It teaches us where our strength and courage are which is within. Fear will also teach us where our fear is. So fear is going to show us things that, perhaps in our wisdom and practical nature, we might realize we would rather not do.

John Morton, D.S.S.

At times, that involves taking risks and getting involved in things we don’t know much about. Perhaps there may be things to be concerned about. So be watchful and aware. At those times, fear then provides you wise limitations while teaching you about your strength and courage.

For example, I don’t want to step barefoot on a metal tack and then have to get a tetanus shot and interrupt my day. You might say, “Well, then don’t go barefoot. Don’t step on a tack.” How could I do that? Should I give in to my fear and never go out walking barefoot? Never enjoy the ground beneath my feet? That would be an extreme and unnecessary response.

My point of view is that there will always be something we’re going to be concerned about. So we might as well go ahead and explore. Be an adventurer in your life. You’ll find the blessing in fear as it is your friend who brings you greater strength and courage in your life’s adventure.

The source of your strength, your Spirit or Divine Self, is larger than any fear. If you don’t have that experience with yourself, it’s an opportunity to delve deeper within to find the strength that overcomes whatever the fear would be. It’s not that you will never experience fear again. You may still be aware of the fear. But by tuning in to your divine nature, your relationship to fear will change so you are one who functions in the strength and courage that is of the Spirit.

I see the Divine Self as one who doesn’t have worry or fear. In the Divine Self, things are taken care of. Your needs are met. You can experience that everything is on purpose and happening in a way that’s for your upliftment, learning, and growth. In truth, nothing is happening against you ever. You don’t have to fight or struggle. So take a moment in your day to tune within and get a hold of that divine consciousness that doesn’t have worry or fear. Then choose to move forward with the strength, courage and joy that is of the Spirit.

Baruch Bashan (the Blessings Already Are)

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John Morton, D.D.S. is the author of the inspiring books,The Blessings Already Are and You Are the Blessings.  Learn more about John at www.JohnMortonMinistries.org  Contact John at goto@johnmortonministries.org.

Break the Habit: How to Stop Worrying

 Worry is a prevalent habit, and since it is annoying rather than disabling, many worrywarts don’t recognize themselves as anxious. In fact, worriers often feel justified. Why not turn the car around to double check that you locked the door? Why not worry about global warming, terrorism, and all the other aspects of an unsafe world? Worry is anxiety backed up by excuses invented by the mind. Therefore, this is one aspect of anxiety where the mind must be taught to think in a different way. Convinced by its own beliefs, a worried mind will never abandon its habit.

The first of these beliefs is rather surprising: Worriers believe they are doing good.  They feel that they are protecting themselves and others from danger. Since their minds are filled with every conceivable risk, worriers wind up being right some of the time. They are like hoarders who never throw anything out. If one hoarded item proves useful, it justifies keeping a hundred that aren’t. The worrier uses the same logic. They don’t see the obvious: worrying about ninety-nine useless things out of a hundred is a waste of time and emotion. Until they accept this fact, worriers will feel justified. Everyone but them knows that worry is far more harmful than helpful. It’s excessive. It annoys other people and makes them exhausted and impatient. Far from making a positive contribution, worriers slow things down, throw up needless obstacles, and increase anxiety in others. In the end, they usually wind up being shut out and ignored. In response to being ignored, they worry even more.

Just as defeatism is a second belief: worriers feel that they need to worry. If this need isn’t fulfilled, they fear calamity. Who will keep things in one piece if they aren’t doing the worrying that is so desperately needed? This need is related to other kinds of obsessive behavior. It blocks deep insecurity by giving the mind a "solution" that feels convincing even though it is utterly false: the more I worry, the safer I will be. Clearly a worried mind must get out of its obsessive groove. To turn the mind around, it must be given better reasons to not worry than to worry. Here are some examples of what I mean.

Worried belief: The world is unsafe. It’s only natural to worry.

Better belief: You can still be safe in an unsafe world. By making your personal situation safe, you add to the world’s overall security.

Worried belief: Life is full of accidents and random bad things. I have to be on the lookout for them.

Better belief: Accidents can be prevented with useful measures like wearing a seat belt and not living in a flood zone. Once they are in place, there’s nothing more to do. By definition, unpredictable things cannot be foreseen.

Worried belief: I inherited the worry gene. I can’t help it.

Better belief: I learned how to worry, so I can unlearn how to worry. It’s a habit rooted in my sense of insecurity. By becoming more secure in myself, I can gain control over my fears.

In addition, a recovering worrier should write down certain basic facts and consult the list regularly to see if their belief system is starting to match reality.

    • You aren’t helping the situation by worrying. You will be of greater help by pitching in on a practical basis.

    • You aren’t improving anyone else’s life by worrying about them. To improve their lives, be supportive and appreciative.

    • Not to worry is psychologically healthy. Non-worriers aren’t being careless or negligent.

    • Worry is a sign of deeper anxiety. It is healed by addressing that deeper level.

    • Worry is making you unhappy. This is reason enough to give it up.

    • Worry leads to bad decisions because they are colored by needless, unrealistic fears. If you want a better life, you need good decisions.

    • Worry shuts out others who want to be close to you. The more you worry, the farther away they will go.

Worriers, like other anxious people, don’t understand why their fears seemingly come out of the blue. “I wasn’t doing anything. I was having a normal day, when suddenly I was hit by this certainty that something bad was going to happen.” The hidden element is that anxious people need to be vigilant all the time. So when things settle down, it’s only a matter of time before they notice that they are not being vigilant. Anxiety jumps to the “rescue,” putting them back into their familiar groove.

Often there is a family history of tension, stress, or abuse. Perhaps one parent is an alcoholic or has a bad temper; there might be constant fighting and arguing in the house. Under those circumstances, a child learns that there is always a storm to follow the calm. This lesson becomes imprinted as a fearful expectation. “Mommy and daddy aren’t yelling at each other, so I need to be very, very still and make them not start again.” This childlike reasoning doesn’t work, of course. The parents won’t stop fighting, the father won’t stop drinking, and the mother won’t stop having angry outbursts. So the only form of control the child has in order to live with its fears is to constantly wait for the other shoe to drop. The habit born in childhood of being on the lookout for new troubles is at the root of much adult anxiety.

We can simplify this by saying that for an anxious person, the mind is no friend. It is necessary, then, to turn your back on fearful thinking and stop trusting it. Learn to confront the onset of worry with the following statements to yourself:

            Fear feels convincing, but it’s only a feeling, and feelings pass.

            The situation can be dealt with.

            I need a clear decision here.

            I will look for a clear decision in myself first, then I will turn to others I can trust.

 

            The voice of fear is the last thing I can trust.

This doesn’t mean that you should fight against your mind. “Calm down” and “There’s nothing to worry about” are useless phrases when other people try them; they are equally useless when you try them on yourself. The mind that fights with itself only adds another layer of anxiety, because when you know that fighting the fear is pointless, you feel more helpless. The way to healing is always the same: find your true self, become whole, rise above the divided self. Even though worry is milder and less disabling than phobias or panic attacks, it needs to be healed if you want to find the kind of inner peace that no one can take away from you.

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PHOTO (cc): Flickr / pink sherbert photography

 


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