Don’t Worry, Be Happy

v. wor·ried (wûrd, wr-), wor·ry·ing, wor·ries (wûrz, wr-)

1. To feel uneasy or concerned about something; be troubled.
2. To pull or tear at something with or as if with the teeth.
3. To proceed doggedly in the face of difficulty or hardship; struggle: worried along at the problem.

This morning I had a conversation with my husband where he was sharing his worry about the difficult coming week at his workplace. What if this happens? Or that? What if…it’s a conversation I have in my head all the time. Worry is becoming epidemic in my life and in his. Why is it that at our age, mid-50’s, we are seemingly so much more burdened with it?

It’s not as if I haven’t worried all my life;  of course I have.  I remember worrying on my first day of school, how would I know what to do and where to go?  I spent sleepless nights worrying about surviving on my own when I moved away from home at the age of 18.  And when I first had my babies, I worried if I could manage to keep them alive, not to mention what would happen to them when they went out into the world.

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.  ~Leo Buscaglia

When you think of it, worry is the most useless of feelings.  It accomplishes nothing other than stress and panic, horrid physical feelings and sleeplessness.  And yet, we seem to believe in some subliminal way that if we could only anticipate anything that might happen, somehow it will be less of a surprise or we will be able to handle it better.  Isn’t that what we think?  Isn’t that one reason why we worry?

So far to date, I can’t remember one time where my worrying made a positive difference to an outcome.  Many times I realized after the fact that I had “nothing to worry about”.  Then again, apparently we connect having solved a problem to the fact that we worried about it in the first place…so it felt “useful” to worry.  It becomes a habit.  And a vicious cycle.

For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.  ~Author Unknown

Another reason we worry is because we feel we aren’t “allowed” to be happy.  That until we solve all problems, everything and all things, we don’t deserve joy.  Even that trip to Maui, sitting on the beach, feeling that you deserve this vacation because you’ve worked and worried so hard, can be interrupted.  “Wait, did I remember to…?”

So what do we do about this nasty habit of worrying?

I did some research on the web to get some ideas.  One, very simple trick that I read about was creating a “worrying period”;  a time of day that you set aside to worry.  During the day, when something worrying pops into your mind, you write it down and tell yourself that you will worry about it during this “worrying period”.  I am going to try that one out right away!

That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.  ~Chinese Proverb

Another thing that I have already begun the practise of doing, is to become very aware of the moment I begin to worry, and then ask myself “Is there anything you can do about this at this very moment, Irene?”  Usually, there isn’t because it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I’m just lying there, wide awake and worrying.  A similar thing I’ve begun to do is to bring myself into the present…kind of a “be here now” reminder.  I ask myself “Where are you, Irene?” and answer “I’m right here.”  Sounds silly, but that small conversation with myself just re-focuses my attention into the present enough to let go of my worry for awhile.  Being in the present, or “mindful”, is something often discussed in Buddhist studies.

One of my guitar students, in a recent conversation, pointed out that he notices the things he worried about terribly or became very upset over in past, often meant nothing to him a short time later.   Another question you can ask yourself is, can you remember what you were worrying about exactly one year ago today?  Probably not.

You can never worry your way to enlightenment.  ~Terri Guillemets

Life can be hard.  Bad things happen.  As human beings, we spend a lot of time trying to predict the future although it is actually impossible to do.  This is why we love Tarot Card Readers and public polls predicting who is going to win a presidential election.  We figure there must be some way to anticipate everything that’s going to happen.  One thing that separates us from our friends in the animal world is our ability to know we are mortal, that one day we will die.  Which, to many, is their biggest fear of all.  Death is imminent.

Being able to accept that things will happen without attaching our thoughts and fears to those future events is the ultimate goal.  One minute spent not worrying about anything at all is Nirvana.  My goal is to spend a lot more time in that place!

If you have any other tips and tricks to overcoming worry, please share 🙂

Some of your hurts you have cured, 
And the sharpest you still have survived, 
But what torments of grief you endured 
From the evil which never arrived. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Useful online resources:
How To Stop Worrying:  Self-Help for Anxiety Relief
Quotes On Worrying

One thought on “Don’t Worry, Be Happy

  1. You're such a thoughtful, helpful writer, Irene, and always with a light touch, too. Thank you!

    I read that worrying is about our need to be safe, and for thousands of years it kept us alive. Probably from a sabre-tooth tiger! Now I need to temper my worries with discernment – what can 'safely'(and wisely) be let go.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *