Is the glass half-full or half-empty? How about “is the glass cracked?”?
Yes, I have probably taken worrying to a new level and, as I age, it’s getting worse, so I finally decided to approach this trait of mine head on.
First, the definition of ‘worry’ is to “give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles,” as defined by the Oxford dictionary.
Excessive worrying can have both mental and physical effects and no doubt adds to your everyday stress levels. So, if controlling stress is on most people’s minds these days, with a focus on a middle-aged women, couldn’t it be said that it all starts with worrying?
Sometimes you have to take a step back to go forward, so, when we think about it, by the time we have reached middle age, we have both experienced a lot and have seen a lot, good and bad.
We know what could happen, what is likely to happen and, in some cases, what will happen – or at least we think we do. Or, as my husband says to me quite often, “you think you know everything”, and yes, I probably do act as if I do, but haven’t we been trained to be like that?
From the moment my kids were born you could say I took control. Instinctively, I knew what was best for my daughter and son. As toddlers, I knew how to keep them safe. If there was a question, I usually had the answer.
My family and my husband would usually defer to me because I knew things. I knew where my husband’s glasses were, my son’s homework assignment, the dog’s leash, which doctor to call, when to challenge a diagnosis, which of my daughter’s friends just broke up with her boyfriend and how that would affect her friend group.
Wouldn’t that mean I knew things? And, if I know things, then I guess I can predict the future, which must be why I worry.
Even I can see what a ridiculous argument this is, but I can also see how it can contribute to such unnecessary worrying.
People have depended on me to get it right, so what happens if I don’t? As women, the worry isn’t always about us, it’s also about the people who rely on us. The what-ifs haunt us, and we lose time thinking about scenarios that usually never happen.
And, as a parent of one in college and the other one leaving in the fall, don’t even get me started on the amount of worrying that has gone into that. All you have to do is turn the news on in the morning and if you weren’t already thinking about what could happen, you are now!
We’ve made it to this point – wherever you are right now as you read this, where I am as I write this. We have made conscious decisions to bring us here. We must have got something right in spite of all the sleepless nights and unnecessary worrying we have done.
One of my favorite songs in the 80s was by Pat Benatar, The Warrior. There’s a line in the song, “Who’s the hunter…who’s the game?”. Well, if we spend so much time worrying, doesn’t that make us the game?
We become vulnerable, a bit more cautious. To what end? There will always be unanswered questions because none of us can predict the future, so shouldn’t we enjoy the moment? We have allowed ourselves to become worriers instead of the warrior we started out to be.
When I sit back and ask myself how much of it actually happened, the answer is not a lot. What a waste of time!
It’s enough now.
So, how to overcome in real time? A few things that are working for me that I wanted to share – and please note, this is not easy. I’m a work in progress, but I’m trying to enjoy the moments and not predict the outcomes.
Get out!!! Walk, exercise, focus on your body. No, it’s not about losing weight; it’s about feeling your body, listening, breathing, getting fresh air even if just for 10 minutes. Change the thought process and take control back. I would go into the whole endorphin thing, but my sister has told me she doesn’t have any, so while that could be another discussion, she has acknowledged walking takes her out of her own head. I think that’s a great way to put it!
Write it down! This for me has become one of the best things I have done for myself. I keep a journal, several actually, for different things. As an example, I keep a health and wellness journal. If I see a doctor or have a specific complaint or worry, I write it down, how I feel, what’s bothering me. I reference back on it: is it still there? Has it changed at all? I will sometimes make a list of questions for a doctor if I decide to see one. I have found that sometimes the questions are more important than the answers, because you’re pinpointing the actual problem. I find it gives me some control back when I document a situation.
I keep a journal by my bed and, if something’s bothering me, I write it down, like a brain dump. It can help me sleep. It’s written down, recorded and I can move on.
There’s an app for that! I use Headspace, which is my preference, but I also like Calm. There are guided meditations as well as short lessons that I find work well. Even if I’m just doing things around my house, I’ll put my headset on and my perspective changes, it gives me clarity when I can’t find it for myself. There are even short animations that are worth watching, and the best part is you can do this while you are waiting on line for something, and no one has any idea what you are doing.
Stop asking the question. Easier said than done, but worth a try. When you start to think “what if?”, catch yourself, and make a statement instead.
What if it rains for the outdoor party I have planned this weekend? Instead, how about…if it does rain this weekend, I’ll move it inside, or I’ll rent a tent. What if the doctor calls with bad news? Instead, how about…when the doctor calls I’ll now have the knowledge to deal with the problem. Knowledge is power. You have to be able to hear it and say it before you can deal with it. It gives you back the control!
As the song says, we are the warriors, and every once in a while, we need to remember that.
I would love to hear what works for you. When it comes to this subject, I think we can all learn from each other!