Life-sucking disease sucks

Life-sucking What If disease is proliferating in the shadows of the pandemic.

What If disease, commonly known as worry, keeps us up at night, causes us to be tense and edgy during the day, and it robs us of life’s joys.

It affects our mental and physical health, and negatively impacts our relationships. It grows in the shadows of our minds, and is a boogey-man who often blows things out of proportion.

There’s truth to the Swedish proverb, “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”

I used to believe it was my job to worry, and that it kept me safe. If I found myself in a calm moment, I even worried that I wasn’t worried; there must be something I should have been worried about.

I believed parents were supposed to worry, and that it reflected my love and care, but I was wrong.

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. The typical millennial was worried and stressed for an average 63 full days in a year in 2016; two months lost to worry.

As I’ve aged, my tendency to worry has diminished. I awakened to the destructive nature of worry when I realized life wasn’t the problem, worrying was the problem, and it didn’t solve anything.

Most of the things I worried about never came to pass, and in the mean time, I’d missed out on life and a whole lot of sleep.

In retrospection, older adult’s biggest regret is the time they spent worrying.

With worry, we can feel a victim to our tendencies of mind. While some worry is helpful and can be productive, too much worry can paralyze us and cause us to procrastinate.

Productive worry helps us plan and take action, but unproductive worry can find us perseverating on concerns unlikely to materialize, or things beyond our control.

Whether productive or unproductive, worry has the same effect on our bodies; it activates the stress response and can even affect our decision-making.

Thankfully, we can change our tendencies of thought, and rewire our brains, due to their plastic or changeable nature. What we practise grows stronger, and we can practise 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 worry habit:

  • 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 worry-thoughts without reacting to them or judging them.
  • Acknowledge worries and make a list of them.
  • Analyze the worries to see if they’re productive. Some of life’s concerns we can do something about, and some not.
  • Identify actions to be taken for productive worries, along with a timeline.
  • Learn to accept uncertainty.
  • Interrupt the worry cycle by finding productive activity to redirect thinking.

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

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

As we navigate these uncertain times, we can support our health and happiness when we take the helm of our minds, and let unproductive worry become a thing of the past.

As the song goes, “Don’t worry, be happy.”


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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.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts 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 41 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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