“Don’t worry; be happy.”
I love that little song, but I suspect Bobby McFerrin was stoned when he wrote it. As much as we want to just stop worrying, IT’S NOT THAT EASY! We live in a culture of fear! Commercials hawking everything from ED drugs to deodorant; the 6-o’clock news detailing the most lurid and horrific crimes; politicians who want to win, win, WIN…..they are all using FEAR as a tool to get us to buy what they are selling. OF COURSE WE ARE AFRAID. We have been raised on fear, dipped and branded with fear so it’s not very likely that we can just flip a switch and stop. Fortunately for you, dear reader, I happen to be an expert on the topic of fear (Please insert a massive dose of hysterical/maniacal laughter!) and I have some practical tips on dislodging this very unwelcome guest from your heart and mind. 🙂
All kidding aside, fear robs us of our happiness.
The first step to solving any problem is to identify it. Think about this: the opposite of love is not hate, IT IS FEAR. If you notice you are afraid, ask yourself who is hating on you! Yes, it could be people who you think of as your loved ones. That was certainly the case in my life for many years. My (now ex-) husband would come into the room I was in and my stomach would clench. I never knew what he was going to explode over and as the years rolled by, all he had to do was show up and I would instantly get an adrenaline rush of fear. Gah! It could be your job. I vividly remember a job where I went to work every single day with a stomach-ache. Leaving that job terrified me as I didn’t have another, but the fear of staying was so much worse! I can still remember the relief that washed over me as I drove away on that last day. It could be your Parental Unit. Did you get raised on a critical diet laced with constant suggestions for “your improvement” instead of appreciation for you as a person? Or, it could be YOU! Do you catch yourself berating yourself? Would you *ever* talk to a friend the same way you talk to yourself? Do you absolutely hate pictures of yourself? Wish you were thinner, prettier, younger, richer, wittier, faster, smarter? Do you find yourself ruminating over things people said to you? Or wish you had said to them? Yeah, you are hating on yourself. Bottom line is FEAR comes at us from many directions and identifying the source is the first step to eliminating it.
Since LOVE is the opposite of fear, the most elegant solution is to bathe ourselves in love! Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of practice in loving ourselves. Here is where the practical suggestions come into play.
Out of Love, start filtering your exposure to people and things which bring you fear. Turn off the tv- or at the very least, quit watching the news before you go to sleep. Whenever I suggest this someone always says ,”But how will I know when something important is happening in the world?!” Don’t worry! Thousands of other people are watching the news and are going to be more than ready to share about the mother who was murdered in her sleep, the politician who stole from the treasury, the earthquake in California/Southeast Asia/wherever. No, you are not sticking your head in the sand; you are choosing to expose yourself to things over which you have a reasonable chance of having a positive effect. Seriously, how does your knowing about the mother murdered in her sleep going to help you OR HER in any way? It isn’t. The news is a product and they are selling you their story. Don’t believe me? Media admits their mantra is “If it bleeds, it leads.” You can choose not to buy.
Limit your time with friends who criticize, compare or complain. I am NOT saying they are bad people but you have got to take care of you! You can still love them but don’t marinate with them. You know that old saying “You become like the company you keep”? Do you WANT to be miserable? Or do you want to be happy? Find people who are solution-oriented and are supportive of you as a person. And don’t just trust what they say; look at what they DO. Are they happily engaged with the world? Are they making a contribution (hopefully with joy) or are they complaining? Not sure how to find these folks? Ask yourself what you like and go find others who like that too! (dogs, pottery, cooking, Geo-caching, belly dance, biking, fishing, hiking, photography, gardening, reading…..) Don’t have any money? There are always ways to do what you love, even if you are flat broke! Volunteer, go to the library, find a Meet-Up group, start your own group! Keep looking and asking until you find your tribe.
Out of Love, quiet the hamster running frantically on your internal hamster wheel. Heh. It’s pretty hard to hear your own truth when the voices inside your head won’t SHUT UP. Easier said than done, right? Here are some things that work for me.
It really (really, really) helps me to get outside. I breathe in the fresh air and try to feel the air as it enters my body. I just stop and listen to the birds and squirrels talking to each other. I water my garden and listen to the bees wings beating against the air as they bobble from flower to flower. I go for a walk. Research has shown that repetitive motions help soothe and calm and walking is a perfect way to soothe and get in a little exercise. That’s why some people knit. Or pray the rosary. Or rock in a rocking chair. Or meditate and listen to their breath. BTW, on the rosary thing, you don’t have to be a Catholic. Just breathe in and breathe out for each bead. That’s all; just breathe. (That’s how I pray the rosary! lol) Yoga is good because it forces me to focus so much on what I’m doing that I don’t have space in my brain for anything else. I always joke about being a clean-freak, but when I vacuum or mop the kitchen floor, it’s really not about wanting things clean as much as the repetitive motions calm me down, and as a bonus, I get a clean house. Find a couple of things that work for you- and here’s the important part- DO IT REGULARLY, as in every day, preferably at the same time. Why? Worry is a habit and it’s going to take work to unravel it. If you start a practice of doing something soothing every day, you will get traction a lot faster and feel better sooner.
Surround yourself with positive mantras. No, you aren’t being silly or Polly-Anna-ish. Remember, we are surrounded by negativity already. Putting positive signs/saying in your pocket, purse, desk, kitchen, whatever, is simply making an attempt at a more balanced perspective. You aren’t being weak; you are being smart! Find the saying that speak to you and move them around frequently. Why? Once again, research shows that we become habituated to our environments and quit “seeing” things that are in plain site. That’s why Costco is constantly moving their merchandise around. Pretty clever, yes? So make this work for you and keep your favorite sayings in motion. I like to do a screen capture and rotate them through on my desktop computer. I am never sure which one is going to be on the screen at any given time and it always gives me a “happy” whenever I see one I “forgot”! These are some of my favorites. Please feel free to steal for yourself and please, share your favorites with us!
“All will be well.” Julian of Norwich
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me beside restful waters, He gives me rest for my soul.” OT
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Unknown
Keep a gratitude journal. Some folks suggest that at the end of each day, you write down 5 things for which you are grateful. And I know some people who actually do this and love what it does for their peace of mind. However, I HATE adding more “shoulds” into my life because I have a freaking boatload already! Here is my more gentle suggestion: Keep a little book in your purse or bag and every time something little joy enters into your life unbidden, WRITE IT DOWN. Sometimes you will find these joys in hindsight- like the time I found the perfect job, only it took about 6 months before I saw how perfectly everything came together to create this job for me! Win! Went into the book. Over time you will find you have a pretty cool list of miracles/blessings/serendipity! The next time a wave of fear threatens to engulf you and drag you under, get out your book and start reading! Why does this work? It reassures you that you are not alone. Really. Criss-cross applesauce!
This is a lot for one post so in the next I will tackle re-wring our brains! Meanwhile, please, feel free to share your tricks and tips for beating down the Worry Monster! Namaste!