The past few days, I have been stuck in worry and fear. I’m not as much of a worrier as I used to be. About thirteen years ago, I was having panic attacks and diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, so I know worry. Now the panic attacks are gone and I don’t worry that much (meditation, yoga, writing, and my dogs all contributed to the “fix”)–and yet, every once in a while, for some reason, my mind gets hooked by something and I find myself trapped in discursive thought, like my brain is on this giant hamster wheel, running and running with no rest.
1. Truth: When we are stuck in worry, in fear, it’s hard to see our way out. These negative thoughts and emotions, this place where our mind anticipates and attempts to avoid potential threats is sticky and deep. The power of our imagination fueled by panic and anxiety and fear is able to generate monsters and situations we can almost touch they seem so real. Worry and fear manifest in our bodies, generate stress, can sometimes even take us from dis-ease to actual disease. Our limbic brain takes over and all it knows is fight, flight, or freeze. Sometimes all we can do is sit with it, stay with it, give it our full attention until it passes, dissolves, releases us from its grip.
2. Truth: Worry is wasted. It makes us experience awful things that may never actually happen. I read somewhere that worrying is like praying for the things you don’t want.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” ~Corrie ten Boom
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” ~Dalai Lama
3. Truth: The real source of all worry, all our fear, is the Big Bad. What’s the Big Bad? Everything changes, and we all are going to die. This worry, this anxiety, this truth is what’s underneath every worry we generate. If we can somehow accept, even make friends with the Big Bad, the other worries fade, dissolve, because when we accept the realities of change and death, we can embrace and embody our life, we can live. I know, I know: easier said than done, but we have to try, because the fear can keep us frozen or numb, or both–and that is not living.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” ~Siddhārtha Gautama
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” ~Steve Jobs
One wish: That we can all be kind and gentle with ourselves when we worry, when we are afraid, and then, quickly and with ease, be released from worry, let go of our anxiety, relax and return to joy and gratitude, to life in the present moment.
Mindfulness practices, such as yoga and meditation and art making, are very effective for making peace with the Big Bad, for coping with anxiety and fear and worry. Here are a few other things written about worry that you might find helpful: