The Problem With Worry
There is a conversation in the movie Bridge of Spies when Tom Hanks says to Mark Rylance “Aren’t you worried” and he says “Will it help?”. Unless worry results in action of some sort it is not helpful at all. In fact, just like guilt it is very unhelpful. One of the biggest health issues today is maintaining a relatively calm and balanced life. While that is a challenge in our increasingly complex and responsibility full life, worry decidedly makes matters worse. Worry ups the stakes and causes high levels of anxiety.
We worry about our finances, our children, our work, our health, climate change, nuclear war, the government etc. etc. I have worried most of my life about things that have never happened or turned out to unfold in a much different way than my mind envisioned. What is the Mark Twain quote? ”I am an old man and have known a great many troubles but most of them never happened”. Yes, we worry about the future and regret the past so much that we forget the “oh so fleeting” present moment!
When I think of “worry” I think of the song by Eric Burdon and the Animals “War what is it good for? Absolutely Nothing” I think that way about worry. We can let it ruin our life or we can put it in its place. Worry comes with anxiety, rumination, sleepless nights, fingernails that aren’t, lost days and lost nights, lost opportunities, irritability, ulcers, cardio vascular issues, overeating and over using drugs and alcohol. It affects our relationships, family life and work. The main casualty is not being present for our life. Worry occupies our mind so much that we lose sight of what is in front of our face. In fact, the more we worry the more we lose out in precious life moments and what is really important in life.
Isn’t it time we put an end to worry or at the very least put it in its place? Easier said than done. For one thing we are bombarded by images and advertising that reminds us to take care of our health, to make more money, to love and be with friends and family more and to perform better at work at being a wife, mother, husband father
In challenging the authority of “worry” we can ask the following questions:
“Is there evidence to substantiate my worry about_________?
Is there anything I can do about___________?
Will worrying help?
Would appraising the situation clearly be more helpful than worrying the time away?
Is there someone I can talk to who can help me problem solve and reduce worry?
Do we just need to accept things as they are for today?
Maybe the following poem is helpful in this regard?
God give me the SERENITY
to accept what I cannot change?
To CHANGE the things I can
And WISDOM to know the difference”
When our mind is clouded by worry it is hard to discern the truth of the situation we are worrying about. Fear gets in the way and if we are unable to to take a break and relax our activated brain it is almost impossible to put worry in its place. Worry and fear activate our sympathetic nervous system and the flight-fight-freeze response. We are on guard and even more sensitive to environmental and social cues.
So how can we minimize worry in our life? We can find ways to get our nervous system to “Stand down” by taking breaks and focusing on one day at a time. We have no control over the past or the future. We can only change things one moment, one hour, one day at a time. We can easily get overwhelmed by the big picture. Taking things piece by piece and being realistic about our capabilities is an important step. People sometimes take on more than they can handle and then crash and burn or they become debilitated by the task ahead and do nothing compounding the angst.
Breathing exercises and calming activities really help to put “worry” in perspective. Mindfulness training and staying in the present, living life one day at a time are effective strategies to get worry out of your life. The most important thing is to not let worry control your life, to start putting it in its place immediately! Many people are afraid to tackle worry and beginning in case they make a mistake. Procrastination becomes the strategy. We know what happens next! Worry gets worse!
My children and grandson all tell me not to worry about them. I think as a parent and with people you love it is impossible not to worry about them but we do not have to worry 24/7 and there are many situations we can challenge our tendency to worry especially when it is not helpful at all.
If you need help in your campaign against “worry” contact me for a free 30-minute telephone consultation and ask me how I can collaborate with you to defeat your foe. Contact me at 604-562-9130.