I used to suffer from the “disease” of worry. As it turns out, worry is another one of those negative coping mechanisms. In other words, it started out as a solution, not a problem. Since there were so many things I couldn’t control as a child, my only recourse was to worry. It gave me the illusion of control, thinking about all the worst possible scenarios and hoping they wouldn’t happen. It was the only thing I could do as a child, and it helped me survive.
Eventually my thinking became dominated by worry and anxiety until I approached just about everything in life from a fear-filtered perspective. It kept me safe – I didn’t take risks – but it also kept me small and limited. In time, worry and anxiety became so overwhelming that I woke up every day with dread, even though my life was really good! I worried about things that had no basis in fact, like getting fired despite being well-respected at my job. I had to do something about it to improve my quality of life.
My journey through to the other side of anxiety took a long time and a lot of effort. Today I wake up happy and ready to take on the day, hopeful about my future, and excited about my relationships.
Here are some of tools I’m using to cure myself of worry:
- Identify the worry – Write about it, talk to someone, get it out in the open. It’s the first step to dealing with it.
- Determine what I actually have control over – Most of the time, I worry about things I have absolutely no power over. This keeps me stuck in an endless loop. If I can pinpoint the things that I can take action on, it helps me relieve the anxiety. For example, if I’m obsessing that my brother’s plane is going to crash, I can’t reach out and keep it airborne. However, I can call the airline for its time of arrival, or track the plane’s progress on the Web site. And I can call a friend, talk it out, and try to let it go.
- Stay present in the moment – This is the best antidote I’ve found to worry. When I realize I’m anxious about something, I refocus on what’s important at this moment – it could be washing the dishes, or focusing on my work, or taking care of the kids – so I turn to that task and focus my attention as fully as possible in the present.
- Take time in the morning to meditate – This helps me relax into trusting the universe and let go, at least a little bit, of the belief that I am in charge and responsible for making everything work out “the way it’s supposed to.” A daily practice of reflection and meditation keeps me connected to a calming energy.
- Remember these short messages – “Fear is often ‘False Evidence Appearing Real,” and “My best hope is every bit as likely to happen as my worst fear.”
Yesterday I was really worried about an interaction with a family member. It took me a couple of hours to realize what was making me so anxious. I called a friend to talk it out. I figured out what I could do to rectify the situation. I took that action. I told my family member; we talked it through. We let it go. I felt great at the end of the day.
Today I have a way to work through my anxiety. No longer are my worries vague, formless, and persistent. They appear for a reason, to clue me in to something I don’t quite feel good about. Then I can address the concerns and move on. What a relief!
How have you dealt with fear and anxiety?