Sunday, November 9, 2014

You can’t laugh and worry at the same time

In his three-part article about “Seniors: Coping with Top Ten Worries” Dr. Jerry D. Elrod’s list includes immobility, loss of memory, life threatening illness, death, sexual concerns, loss of energy, loss of social acquaintances, loss of spouse or partner; major financial loss and resuming employment.

Worry takes two forms: the one that gets you to take care of something that is important, the other is anxiety about “what if’s”.  The former can be eliminated by dealing with the legitimate concern.  The latter is nothing but a way to shorten your life.

You can tell the difference if you ask one question about the worrying issue: Is there anything I can DO about this now?  If there is, DO IT!  If not, it is best if you can try to forget it.  In some cases you may not be able to do anything now; in this case write it on your calendar on a date when you feel there will be something that can be done and then let it go for now.  Setting aside a time to think about it can also cause one to focus more on the reality of the concern, and create a mindset of finding answers that will alleviate the worry or at least lessen it.

Another way to stop chronic worrying is to ask: Is this true?  Many times our worries stem from beliefs we have been taught or picked up on our own.  Many of these beliefs are just that, unsubstantiated emotions and thoughts.  It’s better to have faith in the good things in and of life, not the fearful and self-destructive beliefs in the unknown future.

Then there is the long embraced practice of mindfulness.  Outside of the time you have set aside for worrying, live in the present.  Make it a habit to take note of each day in ways that mean the most to you.  If you are a gardener, find all the fauna and foliage you can throughout the day.  Make an effort to connect with someone, old or new, each day.  Today is a great day if you allow it to be.
Then there is the altruistic distraction method of helping others.  And this can be done all the time regardless of the physical condition you find yourself in.  You can get involved in online chat rooms and forums.  You can help someone fix their … well actually almost anything… what are your skills and expertise?  You can even set time aside to pray or visit or teach or etc.  And this not only makes you more mindful, but studies show that giving can help lengthen your life.
If nothing else face the fact that worrying can shorten your life.  According to WebMD, “Chronic worry and emotional stress can trigger a host of health problems.”  Their list of physical responses to worry includes: fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate, muscle aches, nausea, and rapid breathing to name a few.  But this doesn’t include the serious physical consequences like: suppression of the immune system, digestive disorders, short-term memory loss, and even heart attacks.

“Don’t worry, be happy” by Bobby McFerrin is one final way to get in the right frame of mind.  I mean who can’t find something fun in his YouTube video?  Originally it seemed a bit cheeky to me, but then I noticed his toes… funny!  If this isn't your style, read a joke book, watch a comedian, etc.  You can’t laugh and worry at the same time.

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