Worrying Won’t Work
“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.” Andrew J. Bernstein
Watching clients, friends or family struggle with life’s challenges sometimes leaves me feeling impotent to help them.
They’ll wave away suggestions with “I know, I know, but…” Insert excuse here.
Excuse = their current apparent challenge/obstacle/source of anxiety. And they are very worried about it.
Worrying is delicious, yes? Your cells awash in adrenaline, feeling alive (read: scared), caught in a faux sense of engagement, your mind playing out all the potentially disastrous future scenarios if the current source of stress is not relieved.
All a waste of time and energy.
Not to minimize the myriad stressors with which we are bombarded daily, simply to underscore the futility of worry as a way to combat them—it solves nothing.
There’s an adage you’ve probably heard before: “Worrying doesn’t rob tomorrow of its troubles. It robs today of its strength.”
True. And easy to accept.
Worrying is lazy, self-indulgent, and indicative of a poorly trained mind.
Also true. But much harder to accept.
A short list of basics
There are simple things one can do to help alleviate anxiety; all affect our neurology.
- Get up from the couch/chair/bed and move your body. Talk a walk.
- Stop drinking sodas.
- Eat less red meat and more fish, vegetables and fruit.
- Take up yoga or tai chi or meditation.
- Begin/end your day with gratitude.
- Get a coach – or a therapist.
- Start a new hobby or creative project. Keep your hands busy.
I’ll stop there because you probably know all these things already.
And you’re probably beating yourself up for not doing enough of them, which doesn’t help, and which makes my point here: these activities will help, but to heal takes the mind.
And taming that beast, like a tiger in a circus ring, can take a whip and a chair.
The brain can help or hinder our efforts to counteract stress.
It’s up to us to train it.
A short list of books
A wise man once remarked that the only things standing between where you are and where you want to go, are the people you meet and the books you read.
The pandemic sort of reduced the former option, at least short term. So, here are some books that help train the brain. I’ve kept it short and sweet.
- Brain Rules
- The Brain that Changes Itself
- Your Brain Explained
- The Molecules of Emotion
- Man’s Search for Meaning
- A General Theory of Love
And I would be remiss if I didn’t also include Resilience: It’s Not About Bouncing Back, by Jennifer Eggers and myself, which includes a synthesis of a lot of our accumulated brain/heart knowledge.
If you don’t understand how your mind functions, you will probably have difficulty subduing it, and stress foments in the mind.
But you probably know that already.
It takes time, patience and consistency to train a tiger.
My hope is you won’t wave away with “I know, I know, but…”
“Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew.” ~Cicely Tyson