Make sure chronic fretting doesn’t affect your well being. Worry can make you feel miserable, but did you know that it can also take a toll on your health?
Excessive concern or anxiety saps energy and hinders productivity. It also stimulates production of cortisol; this can lead to weight gain, depression and heart disease, all of which might make you worry even more. As tension mounts, you may find yourself turning to self-soothing habits—smoking, drinking, eating too much—and further compounding the damage that excess worry doe to your health.
“Reducing worry, much like losing unnecessary weight, is a way you can have a healthier life,” says Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., author of The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You. “By reducing anxiety, you reduce physical tension and aches and pains, improve sleep, and ease digestion.”
Almost 40 percent of us worry every day; women are twice as likely as men to do so. But, research shows that there are steps you can take to reduce worry, which you can begin right now.
- Worry is non-productive. Clearly, it seems as though some worry is unavoidable. Rather than worry, why not just acknowledge that there are things that need to be done, and go about doing them. Nothing is done better or faster due to worry. Set priorities, make to-do lists, and let it go. Preparation is fine, worry is useless. Metaphysicians say that “worry is a prayer for what you don’t want to happen.” What you focus on is more likely to occur in your life, because that is where your energy is spent.
- If you must worry, be selective about it. Reframe what you call it…being “concerned.” Involve yourself in things like asking yourself, “Do I have a car reserved? Do I have a map? Do I have a hotel reservation?” These thoughts prompt action; they are things you can address, do something about, and resolve. Taking action will help you relax, which makes it easier to let go of unproductive worry. Unproductive worry is concerned with things you can’t do anything about, which contributes to feelings of helplessness, anxiety and additional stress.
Remember, the brain cannot “worry” and “relax” at the same time. These are polar opposites of each other and cannot co-exist. That which we focus on expands, so look for distractions from your worries…things you appreciate, things you wish to experience more of in your life (the love of your mate, your children, your pet, the beauty of a sunrise, the cool peacefulness at the end of the day, a lovely garden, etc). The more often you look for things to be grateful for and appreciate, the easier it will become. Just like anything you wish to become a habit…you must be willing to cultivate and practice at it whenever possible.