By Kathy Ryndak and Gord Riddell
How much of your time do you spend worrying? Worrying about the future, other people, your health, your finances or the state of world affairs. If you answered most of the time, then you are right up there with the majority of people in today's society.
Worrying seems to give us this false sense of being in control of everything and everyone around us. That somehow if we were to stop worrying, the world, as we know it and want it, would suddenly come crashing down. Worrying allows us to map out battle plans, to be fully prepared for any eventuality. However in the process of mapping out such plans, our anxiety level is rising along with our heart rate and blood pressure. We have moved our body, in this worry process, into full alert and have flooded it with adrenaline. An important hormone when we are in a life and death, fight or flight situation. In reality, very little, if any of our worries even come close to life or death.
The problem is our bodies do not know the difference. Once the adrenaline begins to flow and all systems go on high alert, we lose any objectivity as to whether we really need to be in such a state of internal crisis. Once in this heightened state we are in full survival mode and the possibility of finding creative solutions to our problems or perceived outcomes is severely hampered. Creativity does not flourish in such a chaotic environment.
The interesting thing about worry is very, very few of the nightmare outcomes that we imagine and live over and over again in our mind ever happen. It doesn't matter how many times they don't come to fruition, we keep the same worry pattern in place.
All of our worry is fear based. Worry is an attempt to somehow prepare us for the worst possible outcome. To let us know that no matter what, we can handle it. This in itself is not a bad thing. Knowing what your skills are and knowing you have the ability to handle anything that comes your way is important information. It allows us to be confident in ourselves and in our surroundings. The problem with worrying though is it can take on a life all its own and rather than re-enforce our strengths it spins us into this cycle of catastrophizing. We get stuck in only the worst-case scenarios that are always the scariest and usually the least likely to occur.
The biggest culprit to all this fear and worry in our life is almost invariably the media. The nightly news feeds us all the horrors and dangers of the world and of own locale. We find out the latest food or product which will give us cancer, we listen to President Bush feed on the absolute fears of the American people about weapons of mass destruction (piped right into our Canadian living rooms), we get safety tips on where to walk and which locks and alarms we need on our homes just to get through another day. A recent statistic in the U.S. shows the murder rate has in fact fallen by 20 per cent yet the reporting of murders by the media has risen by over 600%! All of this information is taking its toll on our body, mind and spirit.
What to do
- If possible turn off the TV nightly news and read less newspapers. Do you really need to subject yourself to this much negative information?
- Become aware of when you are worrying and find something to do to distract yourself from the worrying. Do anything from exercising, meditating to washing the dishes. Don't allow yourself to sit there and feel immobilized or overwhelmed.
- Worrying is always about the future. It is about something that has not and may not happen. Try to stay in the moment, the now.
- Worry can make us feel very disempowered and victimized. Our way to feel empowered and strong is again to say in the moment and stay away from feeling sorry for yourself.
- If you do have a problem, paint yourself the worst-case scenario and ask yourself if this were to happen would you be able to handle it and survive it. Invariably the answer is, yes. Humans are brilliantly adaptable. Now let the scenario go and stop feeding it energy.
- If you do have a problem, write about, talk about it, mediate on it and activate your own creativity. Creative solutions are best found when we are not in an internal crisis. Internal crisis only allows us to use historical problem solving. In other words, how you handled it in the past. This type of problem solving doesn't allow us to do new things and learn more about our self.
- Creative solutions may take a little while longer to arrive at compared to historical solutions, which are usually knee jerk reactions. Give your creativity time to work after you have taken in all the necessary data to make an informed choice, the solution will appear.
- Allow yourself to trust the universe and your self. All things happen for a reason and nothing happens that is not supposed to happen. Also nothing happens that we do not have the ability to get through, handle and learn from. Yes, this is a leap of faith.
- Recognize that control of people, places and things is the grand illusion. You have only control of yourself. Nothing more and nothing less. Not matter what you think you may be able to do problems will occur, people will leave or die, unexpected financial obligations will occur, health issues will surface. You can only deal with your self and you are not able to control outcomes of others' problems.
- No matter how much you plan, scheme, worry, and attempt to control things, big surprises will occur. They are designed to alter our thinking and our most rigid of defenses.
There is a big difference between planning for the future and worrying about. Planning and goal setting are pro-active and allow us to be a vital player in our own lives. Worry, on the other hand, can make us feel powerless and scared. It can be a lot of work to change this mode of thinking but that is all it is, thinking. We have thoughts come and go all day long that we do not act on, feed into and just ignore them. We need to learn to use the same technique when we realize we are scaring our self into a state of immobility. Live for today, plan for your future and don't let the worry stop you.