WORRY: “It never was worthwhile” The old War One song, “Pack Up Your Troubles,” had it right: “What’s the sense of worrying, it never was worthwhile.” Let’s hope you’re not going off to war, but even if you just have worries about going off to work or have worries at home, the song’s message is just as good. We all worry. I’m sure Presidents and movie stars worry and so does the Pope. We worry about a lot of things from weighing too much to making too little money, or if an asteroid is going to fall on us, or a chicken may worry if the sky is going to fall on it. Your worrying may be only 5 or less on a scale of 10. If it’s closer to ten or higher, it may be something to really look into. Worry, as we know even if we don’t know Dr. Sarno’s TMS theory that worry can be one of the main causes of pain, can be a pain in the neck, or where we sit. A lot of worrying can lead to not only physical but emotional problems such as panic disorders, which are high on the scale of 1 to 10. Worrying and how to stop worrying are topics of special interest to many people from doctors to psychiatrists, including Katharina Star, a Ph.D specializing in worry that may lead to panic disorders. Even if you don’t worry over a scale of 5 or up closer to 10, this post may be of help. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve lived with worries for a lot of my 83 years and have found many ways to control them. They’ve never reached the stage of being a disorder, thank heaven. If you have an anxiety disorder, says Ms. Star, you may be all too familiar with the feelings of constant worry. You find yourself worrying about the future, even though it has yet to come. You also worry about the past, even though it has already come and gone (and probably what you worried about never actually happened). Worry can drag you down, causing you to feel more stress than necessary. “Chronic worry is linked to higher levels of anxiety,” says Ms. Star, “making it a potentially troublesome issue for people with panic disorder.” Panic sufferers are prone to greater amounts of worry. It is not uncommon for a person with panic disorder to worry about when their next panic attack will occur or if they can keep their anxiety in check. Or their worries may keep them awake nights. There are ways to stop worry in its tracks. That involves safe care, learning relaxation skills, finding support if necessary. TMWiki.org/forum is a good place for that as those with worry problems share each other’s healing techniques. Ms. Star offers a step-by-step guide that outlines ways to help you stop worrying, along with an action plan to get you started. Step 1: Change Your Focus If your thoughts are consumed with worry, try focusing your attention on other activities. They can range from things that can nourish and enhance your physical, creative, spiritual, or other aspects of your life. It is good to have a wide-range of activities to choose from that will be appropriate in different situations, such as while at work or during the weekends. Keeping these activities diverse will also help prevent you from getting bored with them. Physical Activities – Engaging in physical activities can be a quick and easy way to distract yourself from worrying. Think about some physical activities that you enjoy or would like to try. Have you always wanted to take a yoga or Pilates class? Do you want to get back into hiking? Make a list of physical activities that can distract you from worrying and determine ways you can incorporate them into your lifestyle. These can include walking, ballroom dancing, gardening. It may not be realistic for you to go for a hike or take a yoga class every time you feel worrisome thoughts coming on. Your list should include some activities that you can do in brief spurts that wouldn’t require you to completely stop what you are doing. For example, you may decide to do jumping jacks, stretch, or take a short stroll whenever worry becomes overwhelming. I find deep-breathing to be one of the best ways to stop a worry, and also to laugh, whether there’s anything funny going on or not. Your unconscious mind doesn’t know you’re laughing about nothing, but positive endorphins will still be released in your body to help drive away the worry. Creative Activities – Participating in creative activities can be a fun and positive way to take your mind off your worries. You don’t need to consider yourself artistic in order to enjoy creative endeavors. All you really need is a willingness to let go and explore through the creative process. There are countless creative activities that you can engage in on your own or through the instruction of a class. Some of them are drawing, flower arranging, sewing, painting, making a collage, crafting. A friend’s father, a very masculine man, relaxes and drives worries away by crocheting, making chair and couch arm and back rests he gives as presents. I have found that if worrying keeps me awake, I get out of bed and find socks or pajamas to mend. My concentration on sewing quickly relaxes and puts me to sleep. Other Self-Care Activities - There are many others types of activities that you can engage in to deflect from worry. Take a walk and see and feel nature around you, watch a favorite movie or television show, read a good book, work a crossword or picture puzzle, listen to music you like, do some house cleaning or organize a desk or closet. Play with your child or dog or cat or clean the gold fish tank. These activities can take your mind off of worry. You also can drive worry away by religious reading or meditating to improve your spiritual well-bring. (More on this below). Step 2: Learn How to Relax It’s hard to keep worrying when you feel calm and relaxed. Learning how to relax can be just what you need to stop worrying. Relaxation techniques are any type of practice that helps you clear your mind and unwind. Some common relaxation exercises include deep breathing, yoga, tai-chi, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation. At times, just closing your eyes for a moment while taking a few deep breaths can be just what you need to relax and let go. The next time worrying has you feeling down, try a relaxation technique to lift your spirit and your worries. Step 3: Get Support You don’t have to tackle your worrying on your own. The next time this issue comes up, try enlisting the help of some of your closest friends and/or family members. A loved once can offer an alternative perspective that may help you view your worries in a different way. With some friends or family members, you don’t even need to talk about you worries. A positive or uplifting loved one can help you focus on the good and have you forgetting all about your worries. If loved ones are not available, you can always find solace in a support group. TMSWiki.org/forum is just such a place to find others who from experience are learning to manage stress, and live with an anxiety disorder. You can learn new skills from posts on the forum including ways to stop worrying. Step 4: Write Out Your Action Plan Having ideas about what you can do to overcome worry is great, but writing out an action plan can really help you to solidify your ideas. Plus, having your action plan with you at all times can help you to remember your ideas whenever worry disrupts your life. Below is a template Ms. Star suggests you can use in creating your action plan to stop worrying. Fill in each blank with you own thoughts, trying to list at least three options for each question. The more you can come up with, the better prepared you will be to stop worrying as soon as it begins. Over the next week, whenever I notice myself worrying, I am going to ____________, ____________, and ____________ (e.g.,take a deep breath, count to 10, call my friend, watch my favorite television show). Within the next month, I am going to practice the self-care activities of ____________, _________, and _________ (e.g., exercising, listening to music, specific hobby). To avoid excess stress over the next week, I am going to relax by ____________, ____________, and _________ (e.g., trying a breathing technique, practicing yoga, meditating). When worrisome thoughts seem to take over, I have people I can talk to, including ____________, ____________, and ____________ (e.g., names of friends, family members, support groups). Put your action plan in a place where it will be readily available, such as in your calendar. By regularly following your plan, you will begin to develop the skills needed to deal with worrying. Through practicing your coping skills over time, you may notice that you have a better grip on your worry. If you’re not spiritual or believe that a close relationship with God can help relieve your worrying, feel free to skip the rest of this posting. But I believe the suggestions below can be of help to anyone of any faith or even of none at all. Surfing the Internet looking for ways to stop worrying, I found some advice from Mary Fairchild, a guide on About.com. I think we can all relate to her thoughts and find comfort and release from worry in them. “I've spent an awful lot of time in my life worrying,” she says. “I’ve worried about grades in school, job interviews, approaching deadlines and shrinking budgets. I've worried about bills and expenses, rising gas prices, insurance costs, and endless taxes. I've even worried about having my home in perfect condition for "company," and within seconds of their arrival, the house is turned upside down and no one even notices. I call those the “white glove” worries. Fill a house with people and a drink in their glass and they’ll never notice the floor or if your wine glasses are a little cloudy. Ms. Fairchild goes on: “I've worried about first impressions, political correctness, identity theft and contagious infections. In spite of all the worrying, I'm still alive and well, and all my bills are paid.” Walt: Mine aren’t all paid, but I’m keeping up with at least the minimum payment each month. I called each of my creditors and they all agreed to that, and one even reduced my total bill by more than half. If financial matters are worrying you, give your creditors a call and as I’ve found, they’re ready to help. It’s helped reduce my worrying and my back pain. Ms. Fairchild says over the span of her lifetime, worrying accounts for hours and hours of invaluable time that she’ll never get back. So, she decided that she’d prefer to spend her time more wisely and more enjoyably. She says that if you're not convinced yet to give up your worrying, here are four biblical reasons not to worry. Worrying Accomplishes Absolutely Nothing. I don't know about you, but I don't have any time to waste these days. And worrying is a waste of very precious time. Worrying won't help you solve a problem or bring about a solution, so why waste your time and energy on it? Matthew 6:27-29 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. Worrying is Not Good for You. Worrying is destructive to us in many ways. It becomes a mental burden that can even cause us to grow physically sick. Proverbs 12:25 Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Worrying is the Opposite of Trusting God. The energy that we spend worrying can be put to much better use in prayer. Here's a little formula to remember: Worry replaced by Prayer equals Trust. Matthew 6:30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? Philippians 4:6-7 Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Worrying Puts Your Focus in the Wrong Direction. When we keep our eyes focused on God, we remember his love for us and we realize we truly have nothing to worry about. God has a wonderful plan for our lives, and part of that plan includes taking care of us. Even in the difficult times, when it seems like God doesn't care, we can put our trust in the Lord and focus on his kingdom. God will take care of our every need. Matthew 6:25 That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Matthew 6:31-33 So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 1 Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Walt: I know a priest who says he has worries and doubts about his church, not his faith, so he pictures his worries as a basketball, “And I toss it to the Lord, who is really the only one who can solve them.” Rev. David Roth also suggests letting God handle our worries. “During stressful times, when unpaid taxes still lie on the table, the children argue upstairs, and images of war flash across the news, hope and patience seem hard to come by. Worry seems inevitable. But how much can we really gain from our furrowed brow?” He says, consider this quote: “Worry is like a good rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Another way to think of the futility of worry is to imagine someone carrying around a suitcase of old junk that he doesn’t use. If he complained to you about his aching back, wouldn’t you suggest he drop the suitcase? But we tend to do the same thing, feeling troubled, tired, and pulled off-balance. We hang on to our burden because (we think) something bad might happen if we let it go. But the answer is so easy. If we simply let go—if we trust in the Lord—we suddenly feel lighter. We hear this same message from the Lord’s own mouth when He says to His disciples, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.... Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:22–24). Rev. David Roth, pastor of the New Church of Boulder Valley in Colorado says if we try to take the Lord’s command seriously, and avoid the habit of worrying, we can make a distinct difference in our inner nature. Emanuel Swedenborg’s the book Secrets of Heaven describes the type of people who worry about the future: “They are not content with their lot, do not trust in God but in themselves, and have solely worldly and earthly things in view, not heavenly ones. These people are ruled completely by anxiety for the future....” The passage goes on to describe, on the other hand, the kind of people who trust in the Lord: “Those who trust in the Divine are altogether different...in that they are not anxious, let alone worried, when they give thought to the morrow... They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things are moving toward an everlasting state of happiness....” Whenever worry enters our minds, another emotion tends to tag along with it: impatience. Often we grow impatient by worrying that life won’t turn out the way we think it should. We may unconsciously say to ourselves, “The Lord can’t handle it, so I’m going to worry for Him.” Consider the following Biblical story, where King Saul becomes impatient with the Lord’s command, and relies on his own judgment instead. The setting is this: the Philistines have accumulated a huge army, and Saul is waiting for Samuel to offer sacrifices so he can go into battle with the Lord as his ally. “[Saul] waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’” As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came” (I Samuel 13:8–11). When Samuel shows up, he’s not happy with Saul. He says, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. . . .now your kingdom shall not continue” (I Samuel 13:8–11, 13–14). Just as Saul—when facing his enemies—worries about the risk of patiently following the Lord’s orders, we tend to feel the same way when we’re under pressure. We worry that if we follow the Lord’s way, it won’t turn out the way we want it to. Because of this impatience, worry, and lack of trust, Saul lost his kingdom. We also may lose out when we become impatient. Specifically, we lose: Enjoyment of the situation. We think about being somewhere else or being with someone else, so we lose the delight of that moment. Infidelity thrives on this notion. Consider this quote: “A happy marriage is not about finding the right person. It’s about being the right person in the relationship.” Forward spiritual progress. If we aren’t thinking about the present, we’re either worrying about the past or the future. We get concerned with time, and this skews our perception. We think physical, lower thoughts, and we forget higher matters. Worry can’t change our past or future, but it can ruin the present. When we dwell on the past or future, we lack motivation to make progress now. Trust in the Lord. We begin to think the Lord isn’t managing the universe very well. Just as Saul lost the kingdom because he trusted his own agenda, when we trust in our own ideas, we make poor decisions. Scholar Christopher Syn wrote, “Anxiety springs from the desire that things should happen as we wish rather than as God wills.” This causes us to lose the kingdom—the happiness—the Lord wants us all to have. So how can we achieve real patience, and gain back these things we’ve lost? First, we can make an effort to find contentment with what we have, and focus on being that person who is kind and loving rather than looking for that person elsewhere. Second, we can strive to make the best of our present situation, looking for opportunities to use our talents and reach out to others. And, finally, we can trust the Lord to bring good out of every situation, believing that what He says in His Word is true. In his work, Secrets of Heaven, Swedenborg explains how we can rise above impatience to an angelic state of love and acceptance, where time no longer matters: “When you are in a state of love...you are in an angelic state, that is to say, as if not in time.... For impatience is a bodily affection, and insofar as you are in it, so far you are in time.... By the affection of genuine love, we are withdrawn from bodily and worldly things, for our mind is elevated toward heaven and thus is withdrawn from things of time.” Rev. Roth says if we focus on the fact that we’re not enjoying something, it becomes tedious. A student squirming in a class believes there’s somewhere else he needs to be. As soon as that bell rings, his whole world seems to change. But has it? We live in the world of our mind, our heart, our thoughts. A bell doesn’t change that world, but what we attach to that bell—our attitude—can change. Patience comes from being withdrawn from worldly things. When we learn to love and accept the situation we’re in, we find the power to change—not the situation—but our perspective. Because when we love something, we’re not paying attention to time. “Life is often compared to a journey,” says Rev. Roth. “We can shuffle our feet and mope about the path we’re taking, but anxiety and impatience don’t change our speed or route. Instead, we can enjoy the scenery, confident that the direction of the stream of Divine Providence will steer us toward a more beautiful vista. So don’t waste today worrying. Cast your burden on the Lord. Take a glance at the flowers, or listen to the birds, and remember that the Lord is taking perfect care of each one of us, in every single moment.” On the lighter side, we can follow the advice of the fictitious mascot of Mad magazine, Alfred E. Neuman, who helped millions of people to stop worrying when he first appeared on the cover in 1956. His face was said to not have a care in the world. Mad’s editor Al Feldstein assigned an artist to paint this kind of face: “I want a definitive portrait of this kid. I don't want him to look like an idiot—I want him to be loveable and have an intelligence behind his eyes. But I want him to have this devil-may-care attitude, someone who can maintain a sense of humor while the world is collapsing around him.” To conclude this essay on worrying, here is a portrait of Alfred E. Neuman. Say hi to him, and don’t worry.