Sometimes, you just need to take a deep breath. After all, Robert Frost observed, “The real reason that worry kills more people than work does, is that more people worry than work.” Perhaps we’d all worry less, and therefore be healthier, if we would just follow the wise advice of Marcus Aurelius who urged, “When you arise in the morning, think of what precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Ahh, if it were only so easy, right?
If it were that easy and we all stopped living in the future, predicting and anticipating “horrible, terrible and awful” occurrences for which we have no evidence, we’d worry less and be happier—and healthier. Sri Swami Satchidananda, writing in The Golden Present, said that “the past and the future are not even visible,” yet we live as if we are sure the “awfulizing” and worrying we do is for good reason. The only thing we have for certain is the present. “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow,” notes a Swedish teaching.
Worrying is a set of thoughts that create uneasy feelings and being overly concerned about a situation or problem. Our bodies go into hyperdrive, when we “terribilize” on what might happen. When people see, really see, what worry does to their health, they begin looking, almost immediately, for tools to help them turn away from “horribilizing” and worrying needlessly, to the present. “Worry itself is one of the most painful conditions,” said Albert Ellis, Ph.D.
The list of self-created ills caused by our exaggerated sense of what can go wrong begins in one’s mind, creating anxiety and fear about the future. The physiological arousal we create when we focus on the long list of terrible misfortunes that never happen creates the “fight – flight” response that causes our sympathetic nervous system to release a variety of stress-related hormones, in particular, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase blood sugar levels and triglycerides that can be used for fuel but can also create physical havoc.
Have some difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, racing heartbeat, headaches, irritability, muscle tension, breathing difficulties, nausea, excessive sweating, trembling? Is your immune system compromised? Having digestive problems, memory loss, and coronary artery problems? Depressed? Suicidal? Appetite problems? Job performance issues?
Welcome to what may well be anxiety-induced health problems.
Healthy negative emotions like concern and worry, and their unhealthy negative emotion extension, anxiety, are negative. There’s nothing good about worrying. No, it won’t help you prepare, no it won’t help you solve-problems better, and no it won’t help you deal with tough situations you may face. You may believe that worry does that for you. But you’d be inventing a story. You may choose to use worry that way, but why, especially when it easily becomes unhealthy anxiety? Worry is a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy, and created negative conditioning, negative expectations, negative planning, negative programming, and negative visualization. It won’t help you find solutions, prevent you from overlooking anything, help you figure things out, keep you from being surprised, or any other bad rationalization you can create to convince yourself that worry is good.
So what are we to do? Someone once suggested, “Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more; and all good things are yours.”
Here’s a checklist to follow to find peace, rest and the mindful awareness that contemporary experts of defusing worry, teach:
- Start with a medical checkup if you have any doubts or concerns about your health.
- Exercise, move, be active. Not too much. Everyday.
- Cut back on your caffeine and “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
- Meditate and become mindfully accepting of the here and now, the present, for as little as 10 – 15 minutes daily. This will help you observe your thoughts without judging them.
- Breathe. Really breathe, inhaling rest and exhaling tension.
- Catch your invented predictions, your “this could happen,” then challenge and dispute these “going to” exaggerations, and finally, choose a more realistic focus and set of thoughts that are in the present.
- Rid yourself of “demanding” thoughts, “awful” thoughts, “I can’t bear it” thoughts, and “self/other depreciative” thoughts.
- Become a “nevertheless” or “regardless” thinker who is confident that whatever happens, “I’ll handle it.”
- Contact a transformational coach to be your thinking partner, who will help you shift your current, self-disturbing and irrational, thinking to make room for the healthy, happy, worry-free life you desire.