I am worried, I have been all my life. I remember when I was a kid, my father would always tell me, “Reg, you’re going to worry to death!” I will worry about anything, whatever it is, and I have a deep concern about it. Once during a therapy session, my psychiatrist asked, “Reg, is there anything you don’t worry about?” I replied, “Well, I’m not worried about waking up tomorrow to find out I’m a woman, but everything else is fair game.”

Good news for me: I don’t think I passed my worry genes onto my children. (Of course this has also worried me). On my oldest daughter’s Facebook page, she notes, “Don’t worry about a thing. Philippians 4: 6-7.” Maybe my daughters will grow up to be well adjusted people despite my dear father.

The sad truth is that 1 in 4 Americans suffers from an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. As the old Chinese saying goes, “the mind is man’s best friend or his worst enemy.” And to add insult to injury, worrying is completely useless. We all know this. I remember a quote: “Worry is useless. It’s kind of like a rocking chair, although it keeps you busy, it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

The effects of worry can be debilitating. Excessive worrying can cause a host of health problems, including fatigue, nausea, headaches, muscle aches, and insomnia. At worst, it can lead to coronary artery disease and heart attacks. The Indian philosopher Krishnamurti put it beautifully: “If your eyes are blinded by your worries, you cannot see the beauty of the sunset.”

So if we all agree that worry is useless and debilitating, how can we stop it? Recent studies agree that there have been many advances in recent times in the treatment of anxiety and worry, even in the most serious cases. And some of the most effective treatments are simple things that anyone can do.

Regular exercise is a great stress reducer. Any exercise will help. I highly recommend yoga and walking / running. Meditation can also help train the mind and provide it with the tools to keep uncontrolled worry at bay. Prayer helps too. You may wish to offer your concerns in a prayer to God. (One of my favorite prayers is Matthew 11:28: “Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Sometimes it helps to remind myself to let go and let God take over.”

Another way to combat worry is to connect. Try to stay connected with family, friends, classmates, and colleagues. Being alone is a real danger for anyone who cares. With no one around to help keep your mind occupied, you are free to wander into negative and dangerous territory.

If these steps don’t help you, you may need professional help. Excessive worry (the kind that can regularly interfere with your ability to live your life) can be a symptom of a serious disorder, such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and it could also cause panic attacks. If this could be the case, consider consulting your doctor. All of these ailments can be treated, and there are many types of therapies available, ranging from simple talk therapy to a wide variety of medications and other treatments. You and your doctor / therapist may decide and work out the best course of treatment for you.

My friends, worry is useless and unnecessary. But it seems that it is becoming a bigger problem now more than ever. If you think you need help, you probably need it. And you can never focus on finding peace and happiness until you can control your mind. You just won’t have the energy to stay focused on the positive if you are stuck with the negative. Do not worry. Please take care of yourself and get the help you need.

(For more information, see “Fighting Life’s ‘What Ifs'” by Edward H. Hallowell, published November 1, 1997 in Psychology Today, and “How Worry Affects Your Body” published on WebMD).

Copyright 2011. True Self Enterprises, Inc.

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