LIFE WITHOUT: Worry
By SARAH ELLIOTT
JULY 18, 2014- It’s been a challenging year. The crises have been varied in intensity but constant.
Is this a test?
Both of our wonderful pets, a dog and cat who had been with us almost as long as our children, died within months of each other. There was a home project that went on longer than estimated causing our displacement from a major part of our home and a medical emergency within the family with ongoing hospitalization.
And I wish someone would have forewarned us that when the 20-year anniversary of living in our home rolled around, every major appliance and fixture would require repair and/or upgrade. So far, it’s been a refrigerator, shower, clothes dryer, and well pump in rapid succession. And the propane repairman just pulled out of the driveway after fixing a leak at our tank. Sigh.
Last week, my desktop computer’s hard drive failed. This is the computer that is used for the layout of the newspaper. It’s an Apple, so had to be driven 70 miles to Fresno for repair. As I type this, it’s been five days and the computer is still in-shop.
(Do you back up your computer data? I highly recommend it. I do, but have never needed it for the past 19 years... until this week. Having a backup downgraded a full-blown crisis to a major annoyance.)
Our son, who has Type 1 diabetes, came home for a visit this week. As if on cue, his insulin pump quit working.
Are these stressful situations? Yes. Am I allowing worry to seep from my pores, permeate my every cell, and keep me awake at night? No!
The two situations that have always caused panic to rise to heart-pounding, head-splitting levels — diabetes and computer glitches that could potentially force a missed newspaper deadline — happened concurrently for the first time. There has to be a message in all of this.
Letting go of worry
What I’ve found is that worry comes with an on-off switch. Worry is a choice. It doesn’t add anything positive to a looming situation nor does the cause of the worry resolve itself because someone is worrying about it.
Worry is a trigger to let us know that attention needs to be paid to some aspect in our lives. And from this, action toward a solution may begin, which is one way to mitigate worry.
We all suffer. Every day. Worry, procrastination, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, stress, irritation, anger, frustration, offensiveness, defensiveness, aggression, loneliness, fear of failure, indecisiveness, uncertainty. We spend time wishing things were different, comparing ourselves to others, feeling we’re missing out, dwelling on body image, concerned about finances, despising our jobs, annoyed at our life partner or some other relationship, being unforgiving or plotting revenge due to mistreatment or deceit, wondering what people think of us.
Should we be doing more? Doing less? And there are bills and taxes and appointments and errands and obligations and commitments. There is so much at any given moment that could trigger distress.
What happens in our lives is the most unstable thing in the universe. It changes constantly. We look upon the present moment as either marred by something that has happened and shouldn’t have or as deficient because of something that has not happened but should have.
And, yet, how we deal with these problems is self-created. They’re real, but it’s our mind that is trying to control how to handle them. They are created by some ideal, or expectation, or fantasy of how we wished the world would be — or how our own world should be.
Breathe • Run • Be grateful
A simple but highly effective way of rearranging the thought process is through breath. Sometimes I will take a conscious deep breath only realize that my breathing was previously shallow. Becoming so distracted by thoughts, so caught up by the voices in our heads, can cause breathing to falter. Paying attention to the subtle flow of air in and out of the body creates awareness of the inner body and mind, causing relaxation and aliveness.
My go-to exercise has always been running. And running has always diminished worry. When I run, I think about and sort out pressing problems, but worry can’t break through the mind-body connection I have with running. Whatever your preferred method of fitness, notice how it keeps you in shape both physically and mentally. And make the time spent working out a worry-free zone.
I replace worry with gratitude. It helps me let go. It’s a beautiful, liberating action. It’s easy. It’s free. And it works.
Instead of assuming I know a future outcome of a situation – which is how egotistical worry is — I accept the moment I am in. I cherish it. I pay attention to what is around me right now.
I determine that this is where I need to be. I don’t judge what this moment should be; I accept it for what it actually is.
We can lose jobs, be attacked, in an accident, or get sick. Even in these most terrifying of situations, the greatest threat is in our memory or imagination. We can prolong the trauma, inhibit the healing, and wear ourselves out with worry.
Processing a life experience through a grateful lens does not mean denying negativity. There are still stages of grief and healing. Instead, it means realizing the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity. It’s about reframing a loss into a potential gain, recasting negativity into positive channels for gratitude.
When our son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1999 at the age of eight, it was a shock and basically a life sentence for him. I didn’t like the situation, and I was frightened, but recall being grateful for the diagnosis, thinking of so many other young children and their families, and saying, “At least it’s not cancer.”
Because of recent incidents in my life, I’ve been thinking about death and loss. This sounds like the perfect opportunity to worry, but instead it makes me grateful for this one life that I do have. I don’t ever want to take it or my loved ones for granted. I want to always make forward motion, stay positive, be grateful, self-improve, and choose happiness as the prevailing emotion. In dealing with others, kindness, honesty, and empathy are the feel-good traits that help relationships be worry-free.
If you’re reading this in the Commonwealth’s July 11 issue, that means I retrieved my computer in time to publish the newspaper. See, there was no reason to worry about that at all.