The Habit of Worry

When I was 12 years old I discovered a tiny cyst on my chest. It wasn’t painful, it didn’t grow any larger but it took all my attention and I got sleepless worrying about the “what if”. I confided to my best friend and secretly took an appointment with the best gynecologist I knew. The authority in the white coat came in, took one glance at it and said, “You don’t have cancer! Use this ointment for 5 days and it’ll be fine!” And it was! All that worry, nail-biting and sleepless nights for a hard, pea-sized growth!
Another of my childhood fears was the constant worry I had about my father’s death. I would wake up in the night, creep into his bedroom to check if he was breathing! This too was a continual, dormant preoccupation for several years until his death. The realization came later that there was nothing I could do to change our fate.
That was my first lesson in the power and futility of excessive worrying. But could I stop it? Only in my dreams!
Some psychologists have estimated that we have approximately 90,000 thoughts a day and at least 60,000 of them are worrisome. Of course there are some reasons where worry is rational like job security, cost of living, a failing relationship etc. but there are many more occasions when we all fret for no rational reason. Quite often worry takes a grip in the early hours when we toss and turn, ruminating over the “what ifs”.
So why do we worry? And is it possible to stop?
Worry, in any form, is a reaction to a threat. We all leap into a fight or flight reaction when faced with a threat. Whether it is real or imagined it is how we perceive it that starts the, “something terrible is going to happen or I’ll never be able to pay my bills or…” reactions. But many of us end up neither fleeing nor fighting but stuck in the middle, feeling helpless and powerless as we chew over a horror show!
Worries have an unpleasant habit of entering our heads and not leaving…these thoughts go round and round in circles and in the end make mountains out of molehills.
At the root of all worry is a fear of uncertainty. Worriers agonize over matters that rarely actually occurred. In other words, worriers operate under the misperception that their fretting allows them to control the future. So worrying becomes like a coping mechanism. It’s a kind of tortuous and illogical form of self-protection. The justification is that “the more I worry the safer I will be”.
At the bottom of it all is that worrying, like any other excessive, negative habit, is destructive. Every time we have a worrisome thought it’s a stress reaction, which starts the adrenaline pumping through our body and over a period of time it becomes addictive…the body can’t do without it!
So how do we break this unpleasant and undesirable habit?
Through conscious awareness, of course.

My suggestions are:

1.     Focus on the world around you, trees, clouds, colours, people or sounds. When worry raises its ugly head watch it and literally let it go.
  1. Involve yourself in distracting activities_walk, take a shower, talk to someone about their issues and concerns which take’s the focus away from yours and play at a puzzle or a game.
  2. Watch your words…change the “I have to do this” to “I want to do this”.
  3. Give the worry a time frame…like 15 minutes and no more. After the time is up, do any of the above.
  4. Visualize the worry as a small part of you, not the all consuming form it tends to take. With the power of imagination you can now see the problem in a different form, like a rabbit that hops away, or a balloon that flies far up into the clouds.
  5. Breathe long and deep for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Learn to lighten up and laugh at the power you’ve given this worry. Laughter is certainly the best medicine.
We are here on this earth for a short while and to me our goal is to experience our lightness of being and then to share it with our loved ones. Worry is a polarity that makes this task really burdensome.
A good way to begin is to repeat the new age mantra,”I don’t do that anymore; I’m feeling good”.