21 Jun Can We Stop Worrying?
I do not remember meeting anyone who did not worry. Worrying seems to be a pervasive characteristic of being human. Think for a moment and ask yourself “What are my biggest worries?”
Do your worries center around money, health issues, getting shot or attacked, getting along with someone, work, being successful enough, what you eat, putting some task off or just being good enough? Perhaps your worrying takes a more subtle form like ongoing unease about the future and a sense that something bad is going to happen soon.
From an evolutionary perspective, worrying, unease and apprehension make sense. There was a time that humans were in real danger. Our genetic wiring goes back hundreds of thousands of years, maybe millions, to a time when larger and dangerous predators would stalk and eat us as food. Also, just getting injured or bitten by a snake could put our lives in jeopardy. In the case of injury, we would have found it hard to protect ourselves or to find enough food to stay alive.
The ancestors who survived passed their successful survival instincts down to succeeding generations. Eventually these qualities became a permanent part of being human. Worrying allowed us to stay alert, avoid danger, and not die.
In the distant past, fear of dying or getting hurt were very real concerns. People did not live very long, often only into their twenties or thirties when a virus, an infectious disease or an attack would terminate their lives. In 1900 a newborn could expect to live to about 40 years. In 2000 the average lifespan increased to almost 80 years. If this trend continues, humans will probably be living in good health until age 160 by 2100. But they will probably continue to worry anyway. Longevity does seem to be correlated with living a life of ease, joy and satisfaction.
Is there anything we can actually do to reduce or eliminate worrying and shift into a more relaxed state of living? This has been a perplexing question that we have struggled with over the generations. The fantasy seems to center around a hope that life will improve in the future, i.e., when I get a better job, get married, launch the children, retire, etcetera. Unfortunately, things usually do not get better. They may change, but not always for the better. There just become different things to worry about.
In my new book, “I Didn’t Come To Say Goodbye,” soon to be published this year, I write about three essential areas of life we worry about, as well as what a person can do to live a life of greater happiness and self-control. These three key areas of life satisfaction are: Safety, Power and Connection.
Safety means you can trust yourself and others. Safety also means you move with a sense of well-being and ease. If a problem surfaces, you just deal with it without obsessing or making more out of it than it really is.
Power has to do with a sense of competence, a “can do” attitude that makes you effective in starting a project and seeing it through. It also involves resilience, being able to bounce back from an upset and get back into action.
Connection is essential for a human to thrive and navigate life. You are able to give and receive love, feel empathy toward others and to appreciate another point of view other than your own. Connection opens you up to compassion and generosity.
Check in with yourself and score yourself in these three key navigational, anti-worry qualities. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being very high, how do you rate yourself on Safety, Power and Connection?
A score of 8-10 puts you on the Life Navigator level where you are managing your worries and loving your life. 5-7 score puts you in the Survivor range where you probably are in a pretty constant war with your worries. Any score below 5 suggests you may be slipping into a Victim state where you are overwhelmed with apprehensions and worry; you are most likely not in control of your life.
Here are several basic things you can do to reduce your worry level and up your navigational capacity.
Find a quiet time every day to do a short breathing and visualization exercise. You can do this in just 10 minutes. Close your eyes and take in 15 flow deep breaths. Check in with your body and rate your physical tension between 1-10. Breathe into the part of your body where you feel most tension. Then imagine a time you felt safe and secure. Let your imagination take you deep into the experience: see it, feel it and enjoy it. Breath into the experience, savor it and let it sink into your body. Repeat at least 3-4 times a week.
Recite five things you are grateful for each morning before you get up.
Every day think of someone you have not spoken to for a while and give that person a call or send a personal note.
Give 5 people a warm hug each day.
Think of something that is important to you and imagine yourself being successful doing it.
Decide on three actions you can take to make what you want happen
Each day take specific action designed to move your goal forward
Successful living requires vision, focus and action. We all need to enhance our experiences of Safety, Connection and Power. I hope this short perspective on worrying will help you along the pathway of living life as a Navigator.