There’s a lot to worry about, God knows. I just finished Edward Hallowell’s book, “Worry,” and though it brought up some worries, it offered some solutions. too.
Hallowell says: “The more you worry, the better you do, up to a point. They key is to know how to stop at that point.” Well, that was sort of comforting. I mean, all I have to do is read the news to freak out.
But, he has a point — if we weren’t afraid we wouldn’t call the police when we see a dog in a hot car or danger of any kind. So some fear is necessary. But, anxiety can also disempower us.
With all the things to worry about — from being bombed by North Korea to rising health care and housing costs, constipation, illness, car accidents, West Nile Virus, nuclear war or the news, etc. – fear might be the worst.
Hallowell pushes the point, “The worst, most damaging learning disability, also by far the most common… is fear. Fear of failing, fear of looking stupid, fear of being ridiculed or rejected.” It’s definitely a challenge to stop worrying. But, he says, “Failure and ongoing worry can make an unbeatable, if paradoxical, receipt for success.”
So, a little fear makes us more awake! I scratched my head at this point. But his final point helped me worry less about my own worries: “The good news is… the brain can always change back.” So, I can re-direct my thoughts, saying things to myself like, “relax, we all die someday anyway.”
I was struggling with the topic so I called a friend, “Hey, I’m writing a column called, “What me worry?” He chuckled saying, “I get a picture of Alfred E. Neuman and Donald Trump!” It turns out, laughter lessens anxiety, so remembering Neuman’s wit helped.
While too much fear can include paranoia, isolation, bad backs, gas or irritability- a little means you’re right on track! Ah, I can go to bed tonight and just let the fears roll right over me!
Mainly, the cure is: talk to yourself and either do something productive about the fears or guide your thinking to a safe zone. Just tell your head, (that round ball above your neck) something reassuring or calming: “You’re okay; this is do-able.” And you will find you feel better, lickety split. Or, find gratifying activities, meditate or express your emotional hairballs — that is, find a friend who will let you vent,
Also helpful were studies showing that when people talked about themselves in the second or third person — for example, “You can do this” or “Jane can do this”— they felt less anxiety.
And Hallowell ads, “The obvious reason people worry is that there’s plenty to worry about.” Not much consolation. But, he says, to function well you simply have to get off the “worry track” sometimes. He offers other solutions, from helping others, buying insurance, getting enough light, listening to music or doing yoga. You can also try nutritionists, medications or meditation to renew the cerebral cortex when the brain’s wiggly hodgepodge gets worried.
So, if you have a busy mind like mine, it’s a big job. Inner voices like “how do I retire? Or, what did Trump tweet now?” are a part of our lives now. But do tell yourself, “You will get through this!”
Recently, a friend called, worried about her money situation. She was losing sleep. She talked nervously on the phone. Her voice was shrill from fear. So, I called her back later to see how things were, she giggled: “Oh, that, I forgot about it.” I gasped, “What happened?” She laughed even, “Unexpectedly an inheritance came through.” Well, so much for worry.
I’m not saying it’s always this simple. But, in a troubled world like ours, it’s important to stay empowered. So stay centered, and point your brain down a street with less traffic.