After getting up later than I should have, and hopping around like mad, I managed to get the tea made and breakfast prepared...just in the nick of time! Dharma arrived, right on time, and quickly sat himself down at the table. While I was pouring his favorite tea blend, he said to me, " A frog's worry won't help his troubles tomorrow, Irwin, but it will ruin his happiness today." I thought about what he said but I wasn't quite sure I really believed it. Frogs, like many humans, tend to be "worry warts"...no pun intended!
Dharma smiled. "Okay, Irwin. I get that you're having trouble grasping this concept, but let's look at the facts, shall we? Eight-five percent of the things we worry about never happen. And those things we worry about that DO actually happen? Well, most of the time the outcome is better than we expected! Irwin, once we learn to let go of our stresses and start to worry less, we become healthier and happier. When you begin to worry about something that might happen, ask yourself these simple questions, 'Is it something I can fix or change? If it is, then I should do it. If it isn't, then what good will worrying do me?' Just let things be." I gave this some thought, then replied, "Well, Sir, that sounds all well and good...but how do I learn to stop worrying? I mean, this is something I've done my whole life? Surely you, of all frogs, must have a few tips that can help me." He did, indeed, have some ways that we can all reduce our worry over the things we cannot control. Some of these things aren't easy to do, at first, but with practice anyone can learn to relax and simply go with the flow.
1. Accept uncertainty and learn to thrive in it. This may seem like a daunting task but, really, when you look at it, life is most beautiful in its uncertainty. Think about all the wonderful things that have happened to you, seemingly out of the blue? Never quite knowing what lies around the corner is exhilarating! Put your heart and soul into the things you care about. Work hard to achieve your dreams. That's all you can do. The rest is up to the world.
2. Phone a friend. Like in the game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" use your phone a friend option if you don't know what to do. Perhaps they'll have some helpful suggestions...two heads are better than one. And if they can't help, it's still helpful to have someone to talk to. Studies have shown that talking to friends and families about our troubles can actually help to alleviate some of the stress and worry.
3. Practice mindfulness. Learning to live in the present is one of the greatest lessons we can learn. Enjoying what we have, right here and right now, makes us grateful. We also see that the past is over and the future, well, that's not anything that's guaranteed for any of us. Living in the present is what life is all about. No past to weigh us down and no future to cause us worry. Breathe in and tell yourself, "Right here, right now, all is well and I am safe." Sitting quietly in a simple meditation has been shown to lower stress by as much as 39%! And who couldn't use 39% less stress?
4. Distract yourself with other activities. Getting your mind off your troubles and on to something else can help refocus your thoughts. What is it that you love to do? You know, the thing you derive so much pleasure in doing that you lose track of time? For me, it's writing and cooking. Totally immerse yourself in another activity; a hobby, reading, volunteering...there's a lot of activities that are calling to you. Find one and just do it.
5. Exercise! Yep. It's not my favorite thing to do either, but physical activity reduces stress hormones and releases "feel good" chemicals (endorphins) into your brain. If you have trouble getting your mind to focus on your workout (and off your troubles) try listening to your favorite music with headphones, an engrossing book-on-tape or, perhaps, try repeating a positive affirmation over and over.
6. Have a designated "worry time" and a "worry notebook." If these other suggestions don't work, then allow yourself a certain amount of time each day to worry. Set aside a little time, but not too much, to focus on your problems. Journal in your notebook about what's troubling you. Getting things down on paper often helps to put things into perspective. But once your allotted worry time is up, accept it and move on. And later, once the crisis is over, go back and reread what you've written. Nine times out of ten, your work-case scenarios won't have occurred. This will help train your brain to realize that things usually turn out better than you expect.
Dharma Frog reminded me that worrying is a completely normal emotion and that there's no need to beat yourself up over it. The key, he said, is to learn how to control it so that worrying doesn't end up controlling you! Worrying doesn't ever really fix your problems...but it will hamper your ability to be to be present and focus on all the good you have right now.
I think singer and musician, Bobby McFerrin was on to something when he sang, "Don't worry, be happy!"