My Number One Unique Life Lesson? Don't Worry
Don't Worry--Be Happy
It's easier said than done, of course, but looking back I have found that the things I worry about are almost never the things that happen. The real "bone crunchers " of life have always seemed to come out of left field. I've had my share like everyone else--but they have always been things that never crossed my mind to worry about,and they have always simply blindsided me.
I've done my share of tossing and turning and lying in bed at night obsessing and spinning out negative scenarios and I can tell you that it is totally unproductive and doesn't do a bit of good. In fact it can do a lot of harm both to your mind and your body.
Don't Look Back
Regret is a killer. Ditto guilt.I try not to look back with regret at any part of my past (should I have taken this or that job, could I have saved my marriage, Should I have married somebody else, had more/fewer children etc.) and I try not to worry about the future. I don't have a crystal ball. I just do the best I can, and I don't look back. My aim is to stay firmly grounded in the present moment.
When I can do that. which is far from 100% of the time, I have an almost indescribable sense of peace and happiness. I can intensely focus on and enjoy life's immediate gifts: a good cup of coffee, a laugh with friends ,or just the satisfaction of checking a task off my to do list. Staying in the moment makes each moment matter more. When the crunches hit I get through them by staying in the moment too. An old friend once said to me " take the action, let go of the result, and don't look back." It was good advice that has served me well.
The only thing I can really control is myself, so why worry? Worrying just makes me feel frightened angry and powerless so why do it--that's my life lesson and I pass it on for whatever it is worth.
How Worry Affects Your Body
Too much worry and anxiety over too long a time can take a terrible toll on your body. Your body doesn't distinguish between the stress of a long check out line at the supermarket and worry over the fact that you can't pay your bills. Your body's response to the fact that your doctor just found something wrong that could be serious and wants you to have tests, is the same as when you get caught in a traffic jam on the way home from work.
Your body's response to worry and stress was developed when we were still living in caves and needed all our wits about us to escape becoming dinner for a saber toothed tiger. Tense muscles, increased reflexes and a rise in heart rate and blood pressure all saved our ancestors lives, but can do our modern bodies a great deal of harm.
Things That Help
While I'd like to say that I glide through life, serenely living in the present moment at all times, I have to admit that it is just not true. i worry, fret, and get stressed out over family, money, health, work, neighbors and all manner of things just like most people. Here are a few specific tricks I've developed over the years to handle worry and I pass them on in the hope that they will prove helpful.
- Distract yourself. It sounds too simple but it really works. When you are fretting over a major life problem or crisis, make yourself think about something else by doing something. Even a small, rote task like re-arranging your desk,washing your car, or scrubbing pots and pans will do it if you can really focus on the task. Throw yourself into it and you will not be thinking about anything else.
- Talk to Someone You Trust It is said that a problem shared is a problem halved. I have found that to be true and if you try it you find it is so.
- Get Enough Exercise and Sleep This is tough, especially when you are filled with anxiety. When I'm stressed out,I make sure I walk a couple of miles a day--tires me out and improves my mood. I try to wind down at night--no going online or doing work before bed--just a hot bath and a cup of herb tea and then lights out.