I don’t want to go all Zen on you, but the simple fact is that when our lives are in balance, we just feel better, get more done, and enjoy the journey a lot more. That being said, keeping things in balance can be challenging for even a Zen master, so you are in good company.
There are many things that throw us off balance. Worry is one of them, and it can be quite uncomfortable. But you do have some control here and perhaps more than you think. By walking yourself through whatever issues you are dealing with, you will see that there is another side.
For example, imagine the outcome of the worry. Ask yourself, “Will this kill me? Will it change my lifestyle? Will someone get hurt? Or am I just upset because now I have to get off the elevator and take the stairs?” People usually find that their worry and the stress that comes with it amount to wasted time, but that’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of it. This is where balancing thoughts can enter.
By telling yourself that you can see things balance out, and visualize what that looks like in your mind’s eye, the worry will begin to dissipate. If the worry has gone into your body and you are shaking, then you need to get a little more intense about getting it out.
In this situation, you can focus on the part of your body that is feeling the worry (usually in your chest), rest your hands there, and just keep the focus there until you physically feel the worry go away. Your mind will wander, but just keep bringing your attention back to the place where you physically feel the worry.
The little exercise can be very helpful, but if it doesn’t work and the feelings become more intense, please call your doctor. Anxiety mimics a lot of things, including a heart attack, so don’t take any chances if you can’t get the feelings under control or you continue to have chest pain or a rapid heartbeat.
Learning how to calm yourself actually makes you a stronger person because you are no longer letting your worry control you, and you will enjoy your life more. Yes, there are medications available, and they can be a godsend, but if not really needed, they are best to avoid, as these medications can cause other problems (like a loss of libido and even depression), and people do become dependent and even addicted to some anti-anxiety medications.
Worrying about your health won’t make you sick. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be here. Many people with chronic worry issues live long and fruitful lives, but how much nicer would your days be if you didn’t wake up in a panic or fret about all your possible outcomes? A little mindfulness training and exercise can do wonders. Just give it a try.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.” Follow his daily insights on Twitter at @BartonGoldsmith