I sigh loud and jolt awake in the middle of the night. Although it feels like I’ve slept for most of the night, I glance over at my clock and see the bright white numbers turning to 2:00 a.m. For the next ten minutes, I do everything they tell you to do – count sheep, take deep breaths and focus on relaxing my body. In a desperate attempt, I reach for my Bath and Body lavender lotion which is titled “sleep,” for any little nudge to sink into a slumber.
But my eyes are wide awake. And then it happens. The worries start to crawl on me like little invisible bed bugs. Despite all my efforts, I start to worry about the mundane and the philosophical. My intellect recognizes this truth – seventy-five percent of those worries never materialize, yet I’ve allowed worry to slither between most moments of my life. When I am enjoying a quiet evening with my daughter, watching her laugh, her long limbs racing across the tennis court, I worry about when this goodness will end. In the middle of a run, thoughts criss-cross in my mind as my feet move across the pavement. A sense of restlessness accompanies these runs, worries about health, my mom, whether I am enough in any of the roles I’ve carved for myself. While writing this piece, I’ve tried to recall a time when I haven’t caved into thoughts of worst-case scenarios – unfortunately, I cannot identify a period where worry hasn’t taken a foothold in my life.
Recently I ran across this article where a certain pool of people over sixty-five were asked “What do you regret when you look back on your life?” The answers might surprise you. Most people did not cite items like bad business deals, betrayals or addiction on their list. Repeatedly, the researcher heard these sentences, “I would have spent less time worrying” and “I regret that I worried so much about everything.” The piece suggests we often create a dome of worries, even when there is nothing warranting our fears. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve saddled myself with worries which never came to fruition. I am embarrassed to admit how much energy and emotion I’ve spent ruminating over issues and reactions – and the irony – it always fails to soothe my mind. It only heightens my anxious nature.
Since reading this piece and letting it percolate, I’ve attempted to curb my natural inclination to worry. I’ve acknowledged certain situations and people will never change. The article suggests to actively allow acceptance in your life. A few times in the last month, I’ve felt slighted or experienced hurt feelings – in the past I might of obsessed on a list of all the things I’ve done wrong and worried about how to address these negative and restless emotions – but now, I’ve come to terms with letting things and people be. Most of the time the conflict isn’t about me, but some insecurity the other person harbors. Worrying about what I don’t know means trapping myself in a maze where there is no exit. I’ve commited to allow acceptance to trump worrying.
There are certain places where worrying is legitimate. The article suggests to plan and prepare for what you know to be true. Empowering yourself with answers will not necessarily guarantee a positive outcome, but at least it will channel your frustrations in a more productive way.
I know a few pointers on how to curb my worry isn’t going to solve my need to worry. But at least it’s a start. And a much-needed wake-up call to honor the goodness in the moments as they unravel. It’s a call to pay attention to what is in front of me – in the truest way – without the menace of worry.
What are your tips to curb worry? I’d love to hear your suggestions.
Image: 2010 10 31 Autumn leaves 4 by Mark Srobl via Flickr.