The Magic of Worry

*NOTE:  This is from my April 15 Newsletter.  I’m working to merge the content that I send people on my list and my blog so that it’s memorialized.  Thanks for your patience while I do this!

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Boy oh boy.  It’s been a whirlwind as of late.  Why is it that whenever things seem to be at a low, then good things start happening?

Wait.
That’s not your experience?

Yeah.  It wasn’t always my experience either.  It used to be that when bad stuff happened I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I was constantly tensed and wondering when things would get worse.  And you know what?  They almost always did.  Get worse that is.

As a kid, I’d hear there was going to be a test.  I’d worry and freak and wring my hands.  “I’ll never do well.”  And guess what?  I didn’t.

As an adult, I’d stress over calling a client to tell them about a new litigation they’re involved in.  I’d fully have the conversation in my head before I even called the client on the phone.  It would go (in my head, remember) something like this:

Me:  Hi.  I’ve been hired by your insurance company to defend you in the lawsuit that’s come out of the car accident you were in one year ago.

Client:  WHAT?!  I can’t believe this.  My life is terrible.  I’m terrible.  I’m broke.  I can’t handle this.  I’m going to die!  I hate this.  I hate YOU!

Me:  *crickets*

Did the conversations EVER go that way once I finally had them?  No.  Of course not.  But I spent an inordinate amount of time getting myself worked up over nothing.  Mathematically, you could see it like this:

Event + Worry = Bad Things Happen

Worrying is part of our nature as humans.  And it sucks.  So, if you Google “why do we worry” or “how do I stop worrying” you’ll get all sorts of articles from the existential to the 3-steps-to-success variety with the goal being, to stop worrying.

Cancer has done a number on me and worrying.  If there was an Olympic event for worrying, I might have won.  I worried about the mundane, “what if I look weird bald?” to the extraordinary, “what if all the treatments don’t work?”  Me and Worry, we were BFFs.  Worry kept me up at night telling me long stories about how freaking horrible everything was going to be.  Worry convinced me that without her I wouldn’t be prepared for the inevitable horribleness that would ensure.  Worry told me she was going to protect me from harm.

A friend of mine recently called Worry a “thief.”

But, here’s a lesson I’d like to share with you….with the world:

Worry didn’t mean to hurt me.
Worry also didn’t save me from anything.
Worry just kept me from saving myself.

Huh? Well, let me explain:

Since we’re worriers by nature, it’s a natural response to evaluating threat in our lives.  That threat may be to our bodies or to our minds and souls.  Worrying is a key element to making sense of the world around us.  It helps us define what is important to us and can even be a great precursor to saving us from harm.  For example:

You’re walking down a dark street at night and you see 5 hooded figures blocking the path ahead of you, what goes through your mind?  What do you worry about?  These natural feelings — fear and worry — could protect you from walking into a very dangerous situation.

It could also be that your friends have arranged to surprise you and have chosen an unusual way to go about it.

But in either case, crossing the street to walk on the lighted sidewalk away from the hooded figures would probably be a pretty good decision, right?

And THIS step — the taking action — is where I think most of us get stopped up in our worry cycles.  Instead of taking action about our worry, we just keep on keepin’ on.  And in this case, the mathematics are quite sound:

Worry + Worry = MORE WORRY

When you introduce ACTION into the equation, things change:

Worry + Action = Something Else

The thing is, I can’t promise you that taking action on a worry won’t result in something bad happening.  In the example above, you might cross the street to get away from the hooded figures.  Then, they might cross the street to block you on the lighted path.  I’d say that’s not a good chain of events.

BUT, I can promise that taking action will stop that initial cycle of worry.  And that might just save you from Worry and all her good intentions.

I’m sure you want to know what actions are going to save you from worry. Unfortunately, this part is sort of a trial and error to see what works.  And the thing is, it might be different every time.

For example:  I just had surgery on April 9 (don’t worry, it was planned; part of the reconstruction process after breast cancer).  Before surgery, I found myself falling deep into a “what if” cycle of worry. So, I turned all the worrying into action by scheduling fun stuff to do AFTER surgery.  (For a preview, see the EXCITING THINGS ON THE HORIZON box below.)

Post-surgery came with a separate set of worries.  So this time I turned to writing. I sat down, analyzed what I was feeling and typed this out to you.  It helps me break my own cycle of worry if I can imagine helping even one other person do the same.

So, thanks for that.

Either way, it seems like magic, to me.  My kind of magic is the kind that you can create for yourself any time, any day.

So, tell me — what’s your magic?  What do you do to stop your worry cycle?  Or, what are you willing to try?  Click on the e-mail button at the very bottom of this e-mail and let me know!

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