I have a close personal relationship with worry, and apparently we have been together for a long time. I don’t remember how old I was when my mother bought me a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It had a lot of good ideas but no real, long-term effect.
I’ve been worrying a lot lately. I have list of topics to worry about. After 9/11, I worried about how life as we know it can change on a dime. Then, I worried about the war in Iraq and the thousands of servicemen and woman who were killed or wounded beyond repair. I worried about politics nonstop. Of course, my current worry is the economy, which is helped along by an unending flow of news and commentary on how bad it is and how the world is slip sliding away into a depression. I worry about my family a lot. When something is bothering one of my daughters, I ruminate on her problem until I find myself skipping meals and waking up at night.
Of course, I know worry is as useless an emotion as guilt. It gets me nowhere and certainly doesn’t lead to doing anything constructive that might dispel it. According to Wikipedia (yes, I really did look it up):
“Worry is an emotion in which a person feels anxious or concerned about a real or imagined issue, ranging from personal issues such as health or finances to broader issues such as environmental pollution and social or technological change.” Well at least I'm worrying about the same things other people are.
“About one in four people, have chronic worry … which can cause heart attacks, high blood pressure, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems, muscular aches and pains, skin rashes, eczema, respiratory problems and asthma.” That is very scary.
So, what to do? Being a modern, savvy traveler in cyberspace, I Googled my topic and found Dr. Edward Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of Worry. He suggests the following:
- Don’t worry alone; talk to a friend.
- Find out more about the issue; check your facts.
- Make a plan and take action.
- Take "care of your brain" (sleep, exercise, eat healthy).
- Seek human contact (hugs are good).
- Let go of the problem.
As I wrote that line, I could just imagine myself shoving a little demon out the door, turning the key, and stacking tables and furniture against it to prevent him from getting back in. I’ll bet neither Dale Carnegie or Edward Howell ever thought of that.