A Cure For The Pandemic of Worrying
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in America, affecting over 40 million adults age 18 and over. It’s the pandemic of worrying.
We worry about what we did, what we didn’t do, what we have to do, what we are about to do, what others are doing, what hasn’t happened yet, what might happen, what already happened, or what could happen.
On the drive home from a recent vacation in Colorado, I started looking ahead at my calendar. I discovered I have a four-week stretch coming up where I might sleep in my own bed only two or three nights. After the isolation and slow pace of Covid lockdown, I’m grateful for the pull of new business and the ability to travel. Mostly, though, I felt the anxiety creeping in.
How will I prepare for all this? When will I get all my other work done? What about family obligations? What about my routines of exercise and sleep?
Here is one of the most practical definitions of anxiety that I have heard:
Anxiety = Fear + Control
Stress turns into anxiety because we try to control things we are afraid of. It’s impossible, but we try anyways. I was anxious just thinking about all the things I wanted to control.
When I got home from vacation I pulled a packet of material out of my backpack that my mother had given me. It was a collection of journals, letters, and notes written by my father in the early 2000s when he was going through treatment for prostate cancer. Among these materials were his wellness goals, notes from doctor visits, and reflections on his condition.
As I was reading, I came across this, which really spoke to me and my anxiety:
“If I had my life to live over, and I do now, for the rest of my years, I would/I will:
- Worry, think about the future
- Eat fast
- Hope to change people
- Enjoy the present
- Slow down
- Enjoy family
- Look people in the eye
- Listen actively to people
- Go outside
- Accept and enjoy interruptions
- Breathe deeply, enjoy the air
- Have coffee with people.”
Cancer took my father’s life, but it also gave him perspective on worry that most of us never achieve while we are alive. Today, it was just what I needed to hear. Thanks, Mom, for sharing this with me.
What are you afraid of and trying to control today? What could you gain if you took my father’s advice while you are still alive?