There is a question I will ask of people. When was the last time you worried so much, so much the worry settled the situation? If you answered never, at least you’re honest. Worry has never solved anything, but has added a great deal, none of which positive. Rather than going into the entire chapter, I have outlined 10 great ways to help you manage the worry you experience. Some you may already be familiar with, others may be fresh, either way they’ll work.
1. Be careful what you reach for- For many of us when under stress and anxiety, we’ll reach for whatever provides relief, this often comes in the form of alcohol or narcotic. The belief that alcohol consumption provides relief, or helps you think clearer is just not true. Remember, alcohol is a depressant. When you say to yourself I am going to have one, you may in fact just be planning that, just one, but when is it just one? If in fact an alcoholic drink does help you think better or provide you with some relief, I would guess the window is small. You’ll find yourself drinking alone which is not good in terms of portion control, or you find yourself sitting in familiar company where it’s encouraged to have more than a couple, we have our reasons. Consuming alcohol impairs judgment, lends a hand in making poor decisions, and will have you doing things normally out of character for you, taking dangerous risks for example. You may get your mind off the current situation that’s troubling you, but something else in terms of doom will take it’s place. Serenity cannot be found in a troubled mind. To make sound decisions when stressed, you need to leave the gang on the shelf.
2. Reframe your thoughts- Focusing attention on situations that produce worry and stress will deliver more of the same. Reframing thoughts is a cognitive approach by taking a situation, changing how you interpret that situation, putting a more favorable view on it. An example of this would be say a friend or co-worker is short or abrupt with you during a conversation. Often times we’ll take it personal. Say to ourselves, what an asshole, what did I do to piss him off? A reframed thought response would be; he’s got other things on his mind, best leave him alone for now. By reframing the response, you remove the negative way you presented it to yourself as well as how you internalized it. When we are stressed or worried, we tend to take things personal or think the worst. This technique can take some time before it’s a conditioned response, because we’re used to doing the opposite, we need to replace the response. You can reframe any situation you’re confronted with. Practice this until it becomes natural, I am telling you this works.
3. Physical Exercise- Just as we consider thought reframing a mental exercise, physical exercise is a terrific method for stress reduction. Our bodies need in physical activity, but have the opposite desire for worry and stress, but many give our bodies exactly what it wishes to only dispel. Activities such as jogging, weight training and aerobics are what we need to flush the body so to speak from the stress and worry. What the negative patterns do to us are reversed through vigorous exercise, 30 minutes everyday is recommended for a minimal workout. Not interested in working out? There is a wonderful far east practice called Tai Chi. Identified by their slow and deliberate movements, Tai Chi has been practiced routinely for centuries. Yoga has become another practice that seems to be very effective in stress reduction. I have to use the word seems because I am not very familiar with it’s benefits, but certainly worth checking into. Exercise is an adult word, children call it playing. Although more children today substitute playing in the running and jumping form for a joystick or keyboard. As we age our metabolism slows. Eating habits are on the run variety, and working more means less time to give the body what it craves. We internally stockpile the effects of worry and stress without giving much thought as to how and why we need release it, maybe the thought is there, but the action is missing. We are a society of procrastinators who will wait for the fuel light to appear before stopping for gas, writhe in pain for days before making the Dental apppointment, or in my case wait until christmas eve to purchase gifts…and never figure out why the best items are gone, or rain checked. It is that crossing the bridge when we get there mentally when it comes to stress reduction, get into the habit now or there may not be a bridge to worry about crossing when you decide to. Once you get into the habit, the feeling of movement, once you experience added strength and stamina, the reduction of worry, this action of exercise quickly becomes a part of your daily routine.
4. Put into your mouth only what you can chew- There seems to be plenty to worry about. People are worried about the economy, their jobs and incomes, how well they’re received by others, appearance, the banking system you name it, someone’s worried about it. So with all we have to be concerned with, makes a lot of sense to limit what you take on, right? We can become overwhelmed before we know it with obligations, commitments, committees that will take up more time, but can often raise stress and cause worry. Many have enough of that going on just with situations out of our control, so be careful what you invite in, because you’re adding more of what you want to rid yourself of.
5. Reframe your focus- If anyone were to ask me; Paul, of the 10 points you’ve written about here in this chapter, if you had to select only one in terms of importance, which would you select? I believe all the points are key components to managing stress and worry, but if forced to choose one, it would be reframe your focus. I believe we’re all connected, every single one of us, all the same nationality. Connected by a God that did so in his image, his likeness, at some level we’re all related, this is just truth. Then we come along with our thoughts and our ideas, and take on a belief system promoting separation and difference, and we tell each other why were different and how were different we call it our belief system or our culture, our way of life. Some construct buildings, and inside these buildings encourage like minded thinkers to congregate on Sundays. Inside these buildings other things are constructed as well, like the belief of who God is, what he wants from us and for us, who God will love and who God will not love. All are welcome here in this house of God they will say, being welcomed means we will like you just the way you are as long as you’re just like us. Once determined that another does not agree with everything said, or choosing the free will promised by God himself over the demand for conformity, you’re deemed an outsider or “one of them” as I have heard it said. So it then becomes a determination of who is loved and who is not loved by God. If you are going to be a bible literalist, then you’re taking it word for word. There’s no rifling through the bin taking what sounds or feels goos and discarding the rest, there’s no write in vote here. When Jesus was asked of the highest ranking commandment, there were a number of responses he could have offered, he did not. Christ answered the question with this response; Love God with all your heart, and love as I have loved you. Division is something to be avoided at all costs. I believe when God speaks of division, he speaks in terms of disliking division among his people, well who are the people he’s referring to? Who are God’s people? Do they live in Russia? Are they living on the upper east side? Are God’s people hockey fans? Of course not, were all God’s people regardless of what culture or beliefs may tell you. I don’t believe we show God we love him by how much scripture we can recite, how often we sit in church or the number of Christian bumper stickers on the car. We show God, we honor God, we follow God by how we love and care for each other, and there’s no better way of ridding your mind of what worries you like taking up the worries of another. In all my lectures, presentations or talks whatever you wish to call them, I speak of the ego, and the importance of harnessing this false idea of self. Three questions I receive with the greatest frequency are How do I get what I want, how do I get blessed. Help others get what they want, you’ll get what you want. Put others first, you’ll get what you desire next. Dr.Thomas Graves, a Physician from the Detroit area gets this. Long before he was Dr.Graves, he was just Tommy to me. Friends sice high school, we shared a passion for football, weekends and Rod Stewart. A highly successful Physician, a beautiful family residing in the best neighborhood in the area, lots of wonderful friendships and few worries. I was talking with him recently following a trip he went on, probably one of the many vacations I assumed he and his family go on. this trip was not shared with his nuclear family, and the destination was not one most of us would choose when planning a getaway. Tommy’s travel companions were medical students from Wayne State University, there well earned vacation destination Port Au Prince, Haiti. Tommy and his medical students chose a humanitarian expedition to a country torn apart by an earthquake back in January. During our conversation he told me, Paulie, this is the poorest country, the average hatian earns about 10.00 US a year. The area is an abomination because there is no money to rebuild what was lost, it was a horrible sight to see. People living in the worst of conditions, far worse than before if you could imagine. I got more from this trip than if I went to Hawaii. I feel so blessed and fortunate. When we were talking about my book, this is what Tommy added- This is a great message Paulie, one I share daily with my patients, I call it the Ebeneezer Scrooge phenomenon. When it’s all about me I am depressed and wary. When it’s all about others, in Scrooges words, I am so happy I don’t know what to do. Dr.Thomas Graves inspires me. Not only does he understand this principal of reframing your focus, he practices it as well. Tommy knows that placing you’re focus and energy into the worries of others is one of the best ways to evaporate what has you worried. What could a highly successful Physician have to worry about? Means and resources do not absolve you from worry and stress. Living from this perspective gives you a better way to manage worry regardless of your financial condition, this comes simply deciding to do so.
6. Talk to a trusted friend- I think when we are troubled over something or someone, the tendency is to carry it alone, deal with it alone. We do the best we can with what we have available to us. If our mind is troubled and worried, the decisions we make reflect that state of mind. I believe talking with a trusted friend, associate confidante is a positive step in gaining perspectiveby listening how another sees it, as well as finding a resolution. I would caution however in who exactly you seek out discussing the situation with, some will cause you more upset, more confusion than prior speaking with them. If for example your relationship is giving you some cause to worry you believe, be careful who you share this with. There is the personality that after hearing what you have to say about your concerns will be the first to tell you “If you’d have listened to me in the first place, we wouldn’t be having this conversation now would we.” This type of response baffles me. Whatever the situation is, something has happened that requires attention, how or why it happened is inconsequential at this point, what’s needed is to fix it. So seek out a trusted ear, but also be careful in who you confide so to avoid collide.
7. Do what you plan to do- To often plans and activities get placed on hold or cancelled all together because of the situation that is causing our worries or stress. Allowing situations to control us rather than us controlling the situation is yet another way we keep the worry and stress in the forefront of our lives. I’ve had people tell me of weekends cancelled because they felt they wouldn’t be very good company, or just felt to guilty given the situation. We need a break from our jobs, children, routines whatever the case may be, so why not give yourself a break from something that will eventually break you? I say maintain and hold to the plans you’ve made, even if it’s just lunch with friends. I am a firm believer in conversation, laughter and joking around as a good way to release worry and stress that’s running your day. You’ll find the diversion to be well needed and therapeutic.
8. Keep you’re worries to yourself- Now I am not going to suggest you worry in silence! What I am strongly suggesting is to restrict the worry to what you can control, what you have to correct by yourself. What I hear from others and worry are things completely out of their hands, which is probably why the worry becomes intensified. Worries about the economic climate, what their significant other may be doing, children and drug use to who’ll buy the house next door, these are out of your control. The idea here is to take old habits and substitute them for new more effective means, through repetition, you’ll break the old. One thing here, don’t go creating situations to worry about that are a possibility. You may be so far off base about what you perceive to be true, only to discover you were wrong. I am trying to take all the fun out of worry folks. It must be fun, why else would we do it so much?!
9. Horizontal Helps- Worry and stress reek havoc on the system, including the desire to have sex. I say find the mood, and have sex. Intercourse is one of the best total body relaxers as well as increasing endorphins, those mood boosting chemicals in the brain. I know for me, if sex is going to occur soon, if the basement was ablaze it’s just going to have to wait! Sex before going to sleep is a wonderful way to really get some good rest, and when well rested, our problem solving capabilities are increased.
10. Prayer or Meditation-Prayer or meditation, meditation or prayer. Call it what you want folks, the meanings and desired outcomes are the same. We get so up in arms over this and I cannot for the life of me understand why, don’t you have enough to worry about? You may at times feel alone, but never you are, and those with a strong faith understand this and pray often. You don’t need send dollars to the fellas and gals on the television who in exchange for cash will offer a prayer for you, and probably throw in a coffee mug and fridge magnet as well. Prayer works! I don’t personally believe there’s only one way to pray that God will recognize, I think God hears us just as clear weather we’re on our knees, or just saying a prayer walking through the store. You have probably been told you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, well you can walk and pray at the same time, I know I have done it and still do. Make time for prayer, God likes hearing from you. We often make the mistake of praying when we’re down and in a state of need, desperate for the intervention of the hand that can do all, and if willing, can you answer that prayer overnight, please? Go to him in the best times also, a prayer of thank you is welcomed I am sure. So pray often, pray from the heart.