How to Stop Worrying…Reflections on a Life-Long Practice

This is my signature worry grimace.

This is my signature worry grimace.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a worrying problem. When I was 10, I suffered from stomachaches and nausea every morning, so my parents took me to the doctor, thinking maybe I had a tumor or an ulcer. After putting a mini camera down my throat and into my stomach, the doctor concluded there was nothing physically wrong with me—just stress. I worried too much. As a teenager, I was prescribed anti-anxiety meds, but I found the side effects worse than the worrying. I stopped taking them. When I was 21, I ended up in the emergency room because of excruciating back pain. I could barely lift myself off the couch, let alone drive or dress myself. Was I dying? Nope, it was just stress, which caused debilitating muscle spasms that ripped throughout the length of my back.

I’ve gotten a lot better since then. I found yoga. I take a daily cocktail of vitamin supplements to improve my sense of wellbeing. I’ve tried chakra balancing, Reiki, Neuro Emotional Technique, acupressure, sound therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy. I’ve read countless books on philosophy, mindfulness, kindness, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, meditation and relaxation techniques. And all of these things—cumulatively, over the years—have helped. But sometimes I still catch myself in that worrying cycle: If I don’t get this job, then I’m going to run out of money, then people will think less of me, then this will happen, then THIS will happen—and before I know it, I’m stressed about something that isn’t even actually happening.

You see, worrying is sneaky. You might think it’s helping you—that perhaps you’ll be more prepared for unforeseen events if you worry and think and plan and deliberate over them. But the truth is simply this: you can’t predict the future. (And despite my best efforts, neither can I). Excessively worrying about improbable events is only robbing you of the present—and ultimately, your life.

So I like to play a game called “Where am I now.” I wish I could remember which book I picked it up from, because I certainly didn’t come up with it on my own, but I find it helps the most. Basically, it’s a way to halt my worrying cycle and focus on the present.

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