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.
Oh how I can relate. I recently had a legitimate health scare. Fortunately I am in good health and this was all just a scare but what I learned was that worrying about the mundane things that I previously had let enter my mind, was just not worth the time. It was really freeing and every time my mind wanders now I try to reset my thoughts to the fact that nearly everything (that matters) is not in my control. Not sure if I stated this as eloquently as you write but I hope my point comes across nonetheless. Thank you for sharing your lesson! Love your blog.
I am relieved that your health scare wasn’t anything serious.
It is difficult to concede control, but when we do, it makes it a little easier waiting for outcomes.
Thanks so much for your kind words. I appreciate it.
That’s a good point. I can’t imagine one day regretting all the things I did. It would be more that I let worry stop me from DOING.
I do tend to worry a lot, and talking with my mom helps tremendously. And my kids.
I know worry is a waste of time yet sometimes I can’t help myself. It’s all in baby steps.
I agree. One day at a time. That’s all we can hope to do.
Peas in a pod, we two. I haven’t forgotten about your email…perhaps no surprise that it’s worrying me that I still need to respond. 😉 But I admit I am surprised by the answer most given. I really need to start thinking about this because I do feel like I waste a lot of my time worrying (internally) about things that never come to pass. Makes me feel like I’m talking out both sides of my mouth when I tell my daughter (also a worrier, it seems) not to do this. Thanks, Rudri. And I’m sorry if I was one of the ones who slighted you in any way.
Oh, Kristen. I am so sorry I am coming late to this comment. You didn’t do anything at all to slight me.
The worrying answer also surprised me, but served as a much needed wake up call on working toward trying to really reevaluate what steps I need to take to redefine how I want to approach periods of uncertainty. Worrying isn’t the solution.
I experience this everyday, I’ve improved a touch but it is a daily battle. It’s hard not to worry about all the things I worry about. Esp during the winter time, when the days are shorter, it becomes easier to worry and become fear-stricken. It’s good to be mindful of triggers and become aware of them before they trigger anxious thoughts. Hope it gets easier for you Rudri.. Take Care -Iva
Honing in on the triggers is a great idea. By doing so, you can identify ways to alleviate anxious thoughts before they start to interfere with living. Thanks, Iva.
Ugh, I can SO relate to this. In the past couple of years I’ve started to jokingly refer to myself as a hypochondriac – except – it’s not really a joke, and it’s not fun, and I hate that my brain works this way. It didn’t used to. I’m hoping it’s a habit – and one I can break. Right now I am trying hard to just breathe through my panicked moments and try to think logically of what I could do to alleviate my worry – but sometimes that’s easier said than done.
I understand the hypochondriac preoccupation. I’ve experienced it too and it is no fun for your brain to automatically think of the worst case scenario with every symptom that surfaces. Breathing certainly helps, but when you are in those panicked moments, it is hard to see the light. No words of wisdom, but know that you aren’t alone, Dakota.