Never worry worry, until worry worries you

Worried sick

Worry is a misuse of imagination.

We can literally worry ourselves sick, as worry and the resulting stress and anxiety affect our health and impair our immune systems. Worry is mental distress or agitation from concern about something imagined in the future, and the majority of things we worry about never come to fruition. It’s wasted time that causes us to suffer needlessly.

Some lessons came to me later in life, but learning to break the habit of worry has been liberating. Better late than never.

I used to believe it was my job to worry, and that it kept me and my loved ones safe. I felt victim to my mind and the tendency to worry. If I found myself in a calm moment, I even worried if I wasn’t worried. There must be something I should have been worried about. I had a habit of worry.

I believed parents were supposed to worry and that reflected my love and care. But I was wrong. I did not realize I was sending the wrong message to my kids when I told them of my worries for them. Instead of trusting them to be strong and capable, my worry suggested they were incapable of managing life’s obstacles as I planted my concerns in their minds. That’s not what love does.

While some of the things we worry about support us in getting helpful things done, much worry is futile and a waste of time. For those with generalized anxiety disorder, 91.4% of worries never came true, according to a study by ScienceDirect.

Younger people tend to worry more than older people. According to a study by ScienceDirect. Sixty-three full days were lost to worry and stress for the average millennial in 2016. That is two whole months spent on worry. With the increase of anxiety in society since 2020, I’m betting the number is even higher today.

While some worry can motivate us and help us plan, most worry is unproductive, and can lead to paralysis and procrastination. We can feel frozen by worry.

Thankfully, we can change our tendencies of thought, and rewire our brains, due to their plastic or changeable nature. What we practice grows stronger, and we can practice something different from worry.

Not everything we think is true. Becoming aware of the tendency to worry and challenging those worrisome thoughts is essential.

There are several helpful things to do to break the habit of worry:

• Mindfulness: Learning to observe thoughts and realize many of them aren’t true is important. We have thoughts, but we are not our thoughts.

• Observe worrying thoughts without reacting to them or judging them.

• Acknowledge worries and make a list of them.

• Analyse the worries to see if they’re productive or not. There are some of life’s concerns we can do something about, and some not.

• Identify actions to be taken for productive worries, along with a time-line.

• Learn to accept uncertainty.

• Interrupt the worry cycle by finding productive activity to redirect thinking.

• Exercise: Merely going for a walk can help break the worry cycle.

I’ve found it powerful to reverse-imagine when I feel concern now, and instead of worry, I choose to send a blessing or prayer instead of worry. This practice has been empowering and offers me a feeling of peace instead of upset. In this I feel I’m adding to the good rather than laying my worry on others.

Life changes and becomes more pleasurable when we learn to stop worrying. Changing the wiring of our brain takes time and practice, and is best done with self-compassion and a good dose of gentle humour.

If we’re really stuck, a good therapist can help.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Opening up to others helps make connections

End 'veneer of perfection'

Navigating life and the human condition feels hard at times.

I often think that somehow, I missed out on a much-needed instruction manual to guide me. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I’ve made it as far as I have.There are so many things I wish I could tell the younger me. There are many things I’ve had to learn the hard way.

I used to wear a solid veneer of protection, never exposing vulnerabilities. I thought I was the only person who felt so uncertain and was just trying my best to make it through life, hopefully leaving people better than I found them.

I’ve learned to use my humanity and life experiences as ways to connect with others. Dropping the veneer of perfection, allowing others to see what goes on behind the scenes has taught me we all have much in common.

In sharing what is real, connections and relationships have deepened. As we connect and share our stories and experiences, we support one another on the human journey. In this, we can relax and go about any healing that’s required to allow us to actually enjoy our lives and not just survive them.

It’s easy to think we are the only ones who struggle, who feel like we’re not enough, making it all up as best we can. We’re so brutal with ourselves, our self-talk is often most unkind. We’d never speak to another person the way we speak to ourselves, in the privacy of our own minds.

If we are to be our best selves, kindness is imperative—both self-kindness and kindness with others. Kindness is not a soft-skill, but one requiring maturity, strength, and courage. I love the word “courage,” as it’s root, “cour” is French for heart.

Recently, my friend Ann shared a poem by John Roedel with me that speaks to my heart. I thought I’d share it with you.

John Roedel is the author of five books that are well worth checking out.

Being human
is hard work

but my love,
I need you

to be kind with me

I am you

we are both the same little bursts of energy
controlling these skin and bone suits
as best as we can while we ride
together on this same spinning spaceship

be soft with me

I am you

we are both still trying to remember
the last thing the voice of Love sang
to us while we were taken out of
the same cradle of time and into life

be careful with me

I am you

we both have been intentionally and unintentionally wounded by people who were frantically trying to win the same race that has no actual finish line or trophy to hoist

be merciful with me

I am you

we have both intentionally and unintentionally
wounded others while attempting to follow
the same script that was written centuries ago
by people who were afraid

be present with me

I am you
we are both being constantly seduced by
the relentless guilt and anxiety who want us
who want us to be rooted in the same toxic soil
or the unchangeable past or the uncertain future

be sweet with me

I am you

we are both floating down the same
narrow lazy river that is carrying
us to the same endless ocean where we
will relearn how to surf on the waves of eternity

be understanding with me

I am you

we are both going to someday
be connected to one another again like bulbs
on the same string of lights where one glow blends effortlessly into the next one

~be kind with me~
~be soft with me~
~be merciful with me~
~be present with me~
~be sweet with me~
~be compassionate with me~

oh, my love,
be so very human with me

because because because
because because because
I am you

Untitled - John Roedel

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Learning to leave the negativity behind

Rewiring your brain

Days spin out of control or go down the tubes pretty quickly if we let them.

Challenging situations, unexpected delays or a few irritating moments, especially early in the day, have a tendency to colour the rest of the day with challenge.

We love to swap war-stories, reciting all of the challenges of the day. It’s addictive. We often drag the feeling of challenges and irritations from one moment to the next, accumulating them, like a growing snowball of negativity, bracing for the next frustration to arise. Jaws and shoulders tense, brows furrow, and patience grows short as we mentally stockpile the day’s irritations.

I carried each challenging situation and offending person with me throughout the day, and then took them home with me in the evening to share with my loved ones. I had a habit of cherry-picking the negative stories from my day. Nice, eh? Honestly, I shopped my mind to find some gripe-worthy tidbit to share when I got home.

I wanted to share the love, but thought complaining was a great conversation starter. Really, Corinne?

This is where mindfulness came in. Awareness is curative.

I started to pay attention to how it felt in my mind and body when I was the recipient of others’ stories about every idiot on the road or what the guy at work did. It didn’t feel good inside me as I let myself get pulled into the drama, experiencing the irritations from another’s life. Gaining awareness into myself and my own personal tendencies was fascinating.

Paying attention to what was happening around me, I recognized I was not alone in my habit of reliving and reciting the negative. It’s a cultural tendency. We love to swap stories of the stupid and outrageous. Bad news is addictive.

It’s interesting to notice what we tend to focus on and which stories we feed. It was powerful to ask myself to get real. Was it really a bad day filled with challenge, or was it really a few minutes of irritation that I fed throughout the day?

What would it look like, and how would I feel, if I started to capture stories of the good stuff? Who on earth would be interested in hearing about the delights of my day? Well, it turns out most people are.

I had to change and uproot that old bias for negativity we’re born with, and had practiced so well.

I began keeping a mental list of all the good things that happened and the things that went well, and reporting on those when I arrived home.

My brain started to change and I found myself looking for, and paying attention to, all of the good in life. This is what I choose to feed and nurture.

I’m not pretending, or wearing rose-colored glasses. I’m just choosing which events I’m going to give my greatest attention and energy to. Why on earth would I cause myself to suffer all day because of another’s actions or a challenging situation? How far do I want to carry them? Challenges still happen but I don’t have to perpetuate my suffering by focusing on them.

I’ve found there’s much more positive in life than negative. There’re more kind and intelligent people than challenging ones. Good stories are the conversation starter when I arrive home.

I’ve upped the ante. Now, I not only speak about all the good, I write the good things down in my gratitude journal. I can hardly wait to reflect on my day and record the wonderful things.

The crazy thing is, I was the one whose mind, body, and emotions suffered as I fed the negative stories. And, I’m the one who benefits from my change of focus.

It’s a simple practice, but it’s benefitted my life greatly.

We all could use a little good news today.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Don’t believe everything you think

Editing movie in your mind

Sleep challenges are rampant these days, anxiety disorders are on the rise. For some, it’s no wonder, because of the horror stories they pay homage to in their minds.

The body doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and imagined, and many of our imaginings are horrendous. As we spend time reviewing the problems and challenges of the day, our body responds as though the events are happening in real time.

Bedtime stories are supposed to be the things sweet dreams are made of. Yet for many, our mental dialogue is more reminiscent of a horror story than a fairy tale. We’re often our own Brothers Grim. No wonder people are anxious and can’t sleep.

Paying attention to our mental hygiene is imperative. I avoid watching frightening movies and take care when choosing television programs.

I also take care with the movies of my mind. The importance of taking care of our mental diet is obvious when it comes to the television programs and movies we watch, but it may not be as apparent when it comes to the repeated thoughts we entertain in our mind.

People tell me they feel victim to their minds and they can’t seem to control the thoughts that pop into their heads. We don’t have to be victims to our minds. What we practice grows stronger. With awareness, we can rewire our brains and change the prevailing trend of our thoughts.

As I practiced anxious thoughts years ago, I suffered. My mind felt out of control and my body was constantly hit with jolts of adrenaline. My anxious thoughts frightened me. I developed anxiety about my anxiety. That only added more stress chemicals to the mix.

I felt helpless, but I was the only one who could change things. Mindfulness practices were so helpful.

I used to take my thoughts so seriously, believing everything that rolled through my mind, judging and criticizing myself for having anxious or unkind thoughts. I’d experience guilt or shame just because of a thought.

The thoughts, with the added guilt and shame, all activated the fight-or-flight response. It was most unpleasant, and I suffered. So did those around me.

Relief came as I understood I am not my thoughts, and I learned not to believe everything I think.

As I’ve learned to stand back from my thoughts and simply observe them, I realized how random and absurd they could be. I’ve learned to question my thoughts and recognize that many times I don’t even believe some of the stuff floating through my mind. Who knows how it got there? I sure don’t.

When it comes to which thoughts I choose to give power to, I recognize while many thoughts float through my consciousness, I have control over which ones I choose to follow.

For the most part, I let the crappy thoughts just float on by. I don’t give them any air time or feed them with emotions. Sometimes, I choose to just laugh at them.

I’ve created a habit of ensuring the last thoughts I hold in preparing for sleep are happy ones. I have a long-standing habit of writing in my gratitude journal before going to sleep. In reviewing the great things from the day, I am bathing my mind and body in neurochemicals and hormones supportive of health.

For added boost, I go beyond merely making a list of what I’m grateful for and deepen the experience by considering the reasons, or why, I am grateful. This allows me to experience a deeply felt-sense of gratitude that’s a balm to soothe me into sleep.

We don’t have to be victim to our thoughts, we can practice new ways of thinking. In doing so, we develop a tendency to pay greater attention to what supports our health, happiness and sleep.

Your mind will always believe what you tell it. Feed it good things, and your health will benefit.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

An assistant minister at the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, she is a retired nurse with a master’s degree in health science and is a hospice volunteer.  She is also an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan and currently spends her time teaching smartUBC, a unique mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. 

She is a speaker and presenter and from her diverse experience and knowledge, both personally and professionally, she has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people gain a new perspective, awaken and recognize we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts, stress or to life. We are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 44 years and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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