Heard in the office this week:
- Who is going to win the election? What will happen after the other disgusting/deplorable person loses?
- What if my brother brings his girlfriend who no one likes to Thanksgiving? Suppose I can’t stop eating and gain 5 pounds? What if the snow or rain causes airline delays? What if I’m allergic to the food, the cat, the mold or dust?
- Suppose I lose my job and can’t afford my rent?
- I’m afraid my mother’s getting so critical of me that we can’t get along.
- What happens if I can’t fall sleep tonight—again?
- What if my back pain never goes away and I have to live like this forever?
- What if no one likes me?
(Insert your own worry here.)
Having concerns about the future is natural. But my heart goes out to those who live in worry and fear overdrive, constantly preoccupied with worst-case scenarios of doom and gloom, playing the “what if” reel over and over with no peace in sight.
For the worriers among us, daily life can become a prison filled with suspicion and lack of trust—and no possibility of hope, let alone relaxation or joy. Worry is itself truly draining. It robs a person of being open to the challenging and the uplifting experiences that keep us engaged and present participants in life.
“Worrying yourself sick” is not just a cliché. Too much fretting has serious physical and emotional consequences. In a recent study in Norway, researchers discovered that obsessive worriers were 73% more likely to develop heart disease than those who were able to keep their anxiety in check.
But how DO you turn it down? Stay tuned—I have some ideas that just might do the trick.
So what exactly can happen with excessive worrying? Let’s count some of the ways it can affect your wellness.
- Your appetite: Worry can cause you to not eat enough, or to eat much more than you would in a peaceful state. We turn to “comfort foods” for a feeling of protection or relief from constant painful or troubling thoughts, but that comfort is fleeting. Bloat, guilt, and extra pounds, anyone?
- Your habits: Alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, games—whatever your addiction is, these distractions temporarily take you away from the discomfort of worrying. But of course, they lead to their own health and wellbeing consequences.
- Your attention: When you are constantly worried, you spend precious energy anticipating what could go wrong next, and then after that. You devote your productivity and the best of your talents to preventing new episodes of anxiety or worry and concern, rather than to the joy of the current moment.
- Your stress level: Excessive worry over real or imagined danger triggers the “fight or flight” response. Our ancestors used that surge of adrenaline for survival in the wild. Nowadays, that rush can bring on a whole host of health problems, such as muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, headaches, fatigue, shallow breathing, dizziness, irritability, and loss of concentration, just to name a few. Worry turns to stress in an instant—immediate sabotage to your health, wellbeing, and happiness.
- Your relationships: They all take a hit when you’re worried and anxious. Being attentive to someone’s present needs is hard when you’re focused on past events or future fears. Irritability, not listening, and general shutting down to others can be common patterns resulting from constant worrying.
Convinced yet of the risks of the worry habit? Then let’s use this valuable information to become warriors in pursuit of more peaceful and joyful living. Here’s how to adjust your mindset and recapture the gifts that worry can steal.
- Be aware, and be real.
This is the most important piece of advice that I’ve learned. So often we’re entrenched in our fears that we fail to see what’s true here and now. Stop! Remember that worries are just thoughts. Like clouds drifting in the sky, they can come and go. Recognize their impermanence, and choose to release them.
The reality is that most things we fear will never happen. Being mindful that a dark cloud just passed through can be helpful if you let it remind you that the light will return soon.
- Be able to listen.
Where do you feel stress and worry in your own body—in your stomach, in your chest, in your head? Put your consciousness there for a few moments. Your body is telling you it needs your attention. Now is the time to really listen. Reassure yourself that it’s okay to feel those sensations and think those thoughts.
- Be ready to name your feeling.
This technique is a genuine lifesaver. As you think a troubling thought, quickly find a name for the emotion, like “sad,” “stressed,” “jealous,” or “judgmental.” What you’re doing here is separating yourself from the feeling, observing it in a clinical fashion. My patients find that this rational, objective treatment of emotion quickly disperses the troubling thought like popping a balloon.
- Be armed with some humor.
Quick, what’s a name for that person that you are being in a stressful moment?
I can be “Restless Roberta” at one minute, “Nervous Nancy” the next, and “Worrying Wilma” another time. Who are you? This playful “name-calling” quickly dissolves some of the seriousness that comes with doom-and-gloom thinking, replacing it with a little levity and perspective.
- Be ready to catch the universe doing something right.
Change your negativity to hope and curiosity by seeking out at least 5 ways the universe had your back today. What happened that raised your vibration? For example: (1) I’m wearing a new sweater that I feel great in, (2) …and I happen to look fab in this color as well, (3) many colleagues were cooperative and helpful at work today, (4) it’s a lovely day outside, and (5) I’m safe and warm and dry.
You get the idea—try it now! How might you fill in your own blanks today?
You are a sensitive, caring woman concerned about the world we live in, and you especially want to look out for those you love. But I’m here to tell you that excess worry won’t do anything except deplete your vitality, one of your most precious resources. Click here to schedule a free consultation. I would be so honored to guide you in reclaiming the peace and joy that worry can steal.