Choosing Our Worries

worries can spiral…

In our house we remind ourselves and each other to — “Choose Your Worries”

We ask ourselves: is whatever it is we’re worrying about worth worrying about?

And will our worry lead to a solution?

We know that it’s natural and normal for all of us to worry from time to time, but worries can too easily take over and smother clear thinking. What good is that?  It’s best and much more enjoyable to figure out how to deal with the feelings that lead to worry, so that we can get on with living.

One of my favorite passages about worry is from Alice Steinbach’s travel memoir Without Reservations. She writes, “Having fun isn’t really what most of us do best. What most of us do best is work and worry…. I found myself trying to figure out how much of my life had been consumed by worrying. If totaled up in years, what would it amount to? One year? Five? Ten? Whatever the figure, it was too high.”

I’ve tried to tell my father this!  He has spent a large portion of his 95 years worrying. He’d probably be the first to admit that his worrying hasn’t prevented any tragedy, and it definitely hasn’t helped solve any tragedy. Then again, maybe I should be thankful that his chronic worrying has made me determined not to live a life of worry.

Dr. Tamar E. Chansky, a psychologist and author of Freeing Yourself From Anxiety, points out that worry can be life-crippling and can even prevent us from dealing with real calamities. “Extraneous catastrophes” (another word for worries) are those that don’t really deserve so much of our emotional capital. Moreover, they can get in the way of what we really need to address. “The best decisions are not made when your mind is spinning out of control, racing ahead with predictions about how things are never going to get any better. Precious energy is wasted when you’re always thinking about the worst-case scenarios.”

She suggests:

GOOD ADVICE ALERT #1:  Stay in the present – it doesn’t help to be in the future.

GOOD ADVICE ALERT #2:  When feeling pressured, “walk away for a few minutes, but promise to come back.”

GOOD ADVICE #3:  Breathe. “The more you practice calm breathing, the more it will be there for you when you need it.”

GOOD ADVICE #4:  Move. “Movement shifts the moment.”

One of the reasons I take a yoga class twice a week is that it helps me practice the art of breathing. I know that if I practice yoga at least twice a week, I will automatically take a cleansing breath when I need it.  Indeed, it has helped dissipate my worry many times.  And I know for sure that movement is one of the best coping tools for stress. Movement can shift all kinds of moments, including but not limited to worry, fear, anger, and frustration. For me, movement is the best lubricant for one specific kind of moment: stuck thinking.  My bicycle is one of my best friends when I am in the middle of a big writing project.

Nevertheless, at least once a day, I find I have to ask myself:

Do I want this worry?

Do I need this worry?

Will worry help?


And for those inevitable worrying moments, have some fresh or dry lavender around (lavender oil works too).  Rub it in your hands, sniff, take a breath…

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