“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”
I have to confess, I am not a worrier.
Maybe it’s because I started meditating at age 5. Throughout my childhood, I had the privilege of hanging out with people like Tony Robbins, Baba Muktananda, Richard Bandler and Uncle George Na’ope.
They were not worriers.
Throughout most of my life, I’ve believed in Wayne Dyer’s attitude about worry:
“It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there’s nothing you can do about them, and why worry about things you do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized.”
I’ve never had to avoid the “temptation” to worry or pull myself out of a stream of sleepless nights filled with anxious thoughts. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what others think of me, whether the stock market will be up or down, or how my kids will turn out (They’re brilliant, beautiful and loved—how could they not turn out great?!?)
It’s not that I don’t have challenges. Like everyone else, I have my share. It’s just that I’m not prone to spending my precious time worrying about them.
But I know many people are plagued with worry.
Like author John Jay Chapman wrote:
“People get so in the habit of worry that if you save them from drowning and put them on a bank to dry in the sun with hot chocolate and muffins they wonder whether they are catching cold.”
Some folks might believe that worry keeps them safe, that if they worry about something, it helps them stay vigilant and avoid it. But research shows that anxiety does not help us be proactive or resourceful with it comes to problems.
In one study, scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine ran a series of brain scans of second- and third-grade students doing addition and subtraction. The children who felt “panicky about doing math had increased activity in brain regions associated with fear, which caused decreased activity in parts of the brain involved in problem-solving.”
Another study from Ohio State University used college students who were anxious about upcoming final exams. They found that “Participants had an easier time recalling a list of memorized items . . . but stress interfered with the students’ ability to transfer what they have learned to different, even unique, situations or solve problems.”
Research has also connected constant worry with health issues such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, migraines and gastrointestinal problems. Honestly, it’s hard to find anything to love about worry!
With all of its downsides, maybe it’s time to get serious about eradicating worry from your emotional diet!.
Researchers have found that things like a regular mindfulness or meditation practice, journaling about worries, scheduling specific times to address your worries positively, and even getting some good aerobic exercise can reduce worry and anxiety.
In my Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) trainings for practitioners, I teach a technique called anchoring. Basically, an anchor allows you to shift from an unwanted state (such as worry) to a more empowered state (such as confidence or calm). To try this technique out for yourself, follow these steps:
1. Choose a “trigger.” A trigger can be a movement or touch. You could touch the side of your nose, stroke your chin or cross your fingers. Just make sure that the movement is not something you do all the time unconsciously.
2. Choose the state you want to feel instead. You might want to replace your worry with a sense of calm and in control. You may want to replace it with feeling strong and confident. Choose a new state that feels meaningful to you.
3. Recall feeling your new state. Say, you’ve chosen strong and confident. Think back to a specific time in your life when you felt that way. Keep thinking about that event until you actually feel strength and confidence throughout your emotions and your body. (If you can’t recall a specific time, think of someone who expresses strength and confidence. Imagine being that person and let the feelings come up in your emotions and body.)
4. Touch your trigger. As you feel stronger and more confident, “activate” your trigger (touch your nose, stroke your chin, or whatever you’ve chosen). Let go of your trigger as soon as you feel the feelings of strength and confidence fade.
5. Repeat steps #3 and #4 a few times. Think about another specific time when you felt totally strong and confident. Allow the feelings to come up in your body and emotions. Activate your trigger. Release and repeat.
6. Test your new anchor. After a few repetitions to get your anchor, clear your mind. Now think about something that normally brings up worry and anxiety. Activate your trigger. Notice the new feelings of confidence and strength that surge up in your emotions and body instead of worry.
As you go through your day, pay attention to the beginnings of any worry and nip it in the bud using your anchor. Worry isn’t just a “fact of life” or something you have to put up with. As Leo Buscaglia said:
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
To your TOTAL empowerment!