A Lesson On Worry – In The Words of Mark Twain
Yesterday I listened to a podcast and the woman brought up a quote from Mark Twain. “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” Boy can I relate to this. Does this reflect your thought patterns as well?
Why do we worry? Well we have it in our DNA. Our ancestors survived because they were always on the look out for threats. Because of their vigilance, they avoided death and disaster. Those that were happy-go-lucky and unaware, didn’t make it. Worry is something that comes naturally to us. And some of us have more threat sensitivity than others – either because of the environment we grew up in or having the familial tendency towards that trait.
I was one of the best worriers around! I fretted. I stressed. I didn’t feel I was ever enough. And when you do that for a long time, you actually change your physiology. You “turn on” genes that don’t serve you. This is why some people get cancer. This is why some people get an autoimmune disease. This is why some people have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and even heart attacks! Hello!?! This was me.
So if you’re a chronic worrier, you are in good company. But do you want to stay there? Trust me. Getting out of the cycle of worry and stress and into HOPE and BELIEF that things are getting better is a much better place to be.
I’ve been working on how to break free of the cycle of perpetual worry and stress since I realized this behavior was largely responsible for my own heart attack. And I want to share some tips on what I’ve learned.
Pick one of your senses – seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling – whatever you want and immerse yourself in it. In other words, choose to be mindful of what’s going on around you. Your brain is negatively biased. But is that reality? For example, this morning I woke up and got into worrying about all my to-do’s. Then I became aware of what was happening and decided to focus on the sense of hearing.
I listened to the chirping of the birds. All the different calls. The responses to the initial chirps, and the eventual bird chatter as the sun was beginning to rise. I reflected on how beautiful it was, that I could sleep with the windows open and have such a variety of bird calls to listen to. This caused me to feel grateful.
I sometimes go for a run and like to immerse myself into how I am feeling. I feel my feet hitting the pavement, I feel the wind going through my hair, I feel the different temperatures as I move into and out of shade and sun. And I reflect on how wonderful it is to be able to move that way and experience this. Because not everyone can. And I come back to feeling grateful.
Another favorite is a visual immersion. If you follow me on Facebook, you know I am an avid gardener. I focus on the beauty of my garden. The exquisiteness of a particular blossom and how wonderful it is that I can create my own little masterpiece. And I come back to feeling grateful.
As you wake up, set your intention to find the good in your day. We have to work at it because we are biologically wired to be 5 times more aware of danger, threats, or negativity than positivity. Find the good, feel grateful, and cultivate that habit. Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions and will help you to emotionally “cement” that new habit into place.
When you are in a peak state – at the top of the proverbial mountain – savor it. Recall every detail. Even write it down. Because some day you will be in the valley and will need to remember how it felt when you were on top of the world. And you can take the small steps of finding things to love and be grateful for. To acknowledge the good things you have. To choose to focus on the good in your life.
But I have to admit, sometimes we really are in a “shitty” place. We can’t find the good because our circumstances are really bad. I have been there. In those cases, I focus on my breath. Breathing in a particular way can really calm down your nervous system and bring you into the present moment.
I’d like to offer you a free breath work tool I created to help you come back to your center. It is a 10 day breathing challenge. When you sign up you will receive a 5 min audio every morning for 10 days. The breath work progressively builds upon itself. You can get that right now if you click here. You will calm down, relax and feel a whole lot better in a matter of minutes.
If you like receiving these types of tips on how to reduce stress, get out of the stress habit loop, and appreciate more of what you have, I will be launching a podcast in the fall. You can be the first to know when it airs by signing up here. I will share what I’ve been learning and invite other experts to join in and share their wisdom as well.