Coping with worry

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Learning to sit quietly in your own company is an important skill.  Photo by Sage Friedman on Unsplash

We are addicted to it.  We can’t help worrying about things.  Every time we wake up, we survey the world and ourselves, and decide that there is something to worry about.  If we haven’t lost something yet, then we worry about whether we might lose it.  If we haven’t found a mistake yet, we wonder if a mistake will be found.  If it is neither of these things, then it might be a general worry that things are not as they should be.

A HEALTHY INSTINCT TURNED UNHEALTHY

Worry, in a way, is based on a healthy set of instincts.  Go outside and look at birds.  You will see that they are perpetually on the alert for danger, always anticipating where it might strike.  If they did not have those acutely felt concerns, then fewer of them would survive.

We humans, however, often have our most basic needs met.  Frequently, (but not always,) we have food for the day, clothes to wear, a roof over our head, and some companionship.  Our worrying nature does not know where to go, and so it tries to lock onto other things, which are not essential to our wellbeing.  A rich man worries that they might lose one of their businesses.  A person blessed with a family worries that their partner might be losing interest in them.

I don’t mean to disparage those worries.  Each of us have such concerns in our own worlds.  But it is worth examining whether the level of worry is proportional with the thing worried about.  Probably not.

REVERSING THE TREND

It is easier for us to find things to worry about, than it is to find things to rest our minds on.  This is why we often rely on television series, social media, excess food, drink and drugs.  Our attention is a promiscuous system, and tends to glue itself to the most engaging thing in our environment.  By surrounding ourselves with entertainment of one sort or another, we draw ourselves temporarily away from our tendency to worry.

To reverse the trend, we have a couple of good tactics at our disposal:

  1. Learn to meditate.  I know I go on about it, but training the mind to be patient is an important thing we can do to maintain our mental health.  A big advantage of being human, is that you have a lot of cerebral cortex to soak up learning with.  If you are able to master your own mental focus, then you will be able to reduce the impact of your mind’s worrying instincts.
  2. Experiment, and learn.  If you fear that talking to others is going to end in tears, then maybe test out your theory.  If it doesn’t end in tears, then you have shown yourself that you can ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.  This is the basis for much CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), where clients are often encouraged to test our their negative assumptions with positive action.
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SUMMARY

Humans can have a bit of a worry habit.  Much of it  developed when we were animals, but now many of us have safer, quieter environments.

If you find yourself stuck with a worry habit, then two things you can do are:

  1. Learn the art of sitting quietly with yourself – meditation.  Make it your special project.
  2. If you fear particular things that are not that dangerous, then give yourself small tests, until you can face them with greater confidence.
You can undertake these things alone, with friends, or with a counsellor or therapist.  They are really good ways to reduce worry.

Good luck.

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