What, Me Worry?
Conquering the Conundrum of Modern Life
You may have heard about the woman who, for years, had been suffering from sleeplessness because she was so anxious about the possibility of a burglar breaking into her house. One night she woke her husband, this time certain she heard a noise downstairs. So, he lumbered out of bed and went down to investigate. To his chagrin, he did find a burglar. “Good evening. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see you,” he said to the startled intruder. “Please, come upstairs and say hello to my wife. She has been waiting 15 years to meet you.”
We look this month at some of the incredible breakthroughs happening in healthcare, yet there is one healthcare dilemma most of us can do something about — worry.
Health experts estimate over 40 million Americans suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. True, there are many that have valid reasons for this malady, for example, veterans returning from combat and others whose domestic situation could be described as a combat zone.
For most, however, myself included, the cause of our anxiety can be traced to the source the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne cited: “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” Like Montaigne, our anxiety is not rooted in something we have actually faced; it is borrowing fretfulness from tomorrow.
Here’s the Breakdown
One study showed that the average person’s anxiety is focused: 40 Percent — on things that will never happen. As Leonardo “Leo” Buscaglia, PhD, put it, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its joy.”
30 Percent — on things about the past that can not be changed. Connie Mack was one of the greatest managers in baseball history. He once said, “I discovered that worry was threatening to wreck my career. I saw how foolish it was, and I forced myself to get so busy preparing to win games that I had no time left to worry over the ones that were already lost.” Adding, “You can’t grind grain with water that has already gone down the creek.”
12 Percent — on criticisms by others, mostly untrue. A Duke University study on “peace of mind” found certain factors contributing to emotional and mental stability. Number one on its list was: “The absence of suspicion and resentment.” Nursing a grudge was the principle factor in unhappiness. In all likelihood, the person leveling the criticism at you is not a gold medalist in that field, so why would you want to drink the poison cocktail their diet is based on?
10 Percent — about health, which, according to the latest research, gets worse with stress. In the insightful and entertaining book: “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” the author Robert Sapolsky explains that we, like zebras, have a fight or flight survival response. Zebras, however, do not get ulcers because when threatened they run; we humans, on the other hand, wring our hands and worry.
Dealing With the 8 Percent
8 Percent of our stress is because of real problems that must be faced. So…
Do not procrastinate till tomorrow on something you can handle today. We are all familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix of dividing priorities into four quadrants of varying levels of Urgency and Importance. So, do not worry about it, just get-r-done!
Second, break the big tasks into achievable steps. Don’t sit down to write a book, sit down to write a chapter or a page. In 480 B.C., the outmanned army of Sparta’s King Leonidas held off the Persian hordes by fighting them one at a time at a narrow mountain pass. Had the Spartans taken on Xerxes’ forces in a wide-open plain, they would have been slaughtered immediately, no matter how courageously they fought.