S TO P CO P I N G A N D S TA RT L I V I N GPreviously published as Anxiety Rescue, now revised and expanded.
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why worry?Why Worry? is just what the doctor ordered for all those who suffer from the devastating effects of constant fear and anxiety. Written by a compassionate scientist who has overcome the problem herself, Why Worry? offers instantly accessible solutions that really work!CHRISTIANE NORTHRUP, MD, author of Mother-Daughter Wisdom, The Wisdom of Menopause, and Womens Bodies, Womens Wisdom
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why worry?Previously published as Anxiety Rescue, now revised and expanded.
S TO P C O P I N G A N D S TA R T L I V I N G
K AT H Y R N T R I S TA N
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1 Understanding Why We Worry
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. Thats why we call it the present. Babatunde Olatunji
f you are spending more time worrying and less time enjoying life, this book can help you. Worry is a natural part of our biology, designed to serve a useful purpose. We run amok when, instead of allowing it to provide guidance, we focus on dire calamities in the future rather than realistic solutions in the present. Unproductive worrying harms more than it helps. The goal of this book is to provide you with (a) fresh, new ways of dealing with the stresses that may seed your worries, (b) key strategies for transforming worry into a positive force, and (c) tools to tap into your inner sources of wisdom. There is a growing body of scienti c evidence that helps explain how the brain works and how we can retrain it to overcome unproductive habits. We will explore some of those new, exciting concepts.1
But we are so much more than our brain and anatomy. The sublime interconnectedness of our mind, body, and spirit provides a powerful way to tune into inner guidanceonce we quiet the thunder of our worry. When you overcome the worry habit, life emerges as a wonderful experience, regardless of your troubles, problems, and challenges. In this space you nd greater joy, personal empowerment, and access to a more ful lling and life.
Why We WorryLife can challenge us in many ways. A natural response is to worry, because the true purpose of worry is to alert us to the need to respond to these challenges. Worry is a dual-edged sword: a positive force that provides a helpful alert or a negative force that keeps us stuck. Here are some examples of both. Is your story like one of these? Sarah has a presentation to make before her colleagues in a week. Shes worried that it isnt good enough. She decides to do more research on the topic and keep polishing it until she is satis ed. Sarah is an example of how to productively worry. Chriss son is deployed overseas and worries most days about his safety. Feeling unsettled was beginning to feel normal. She decided to volunteer at her local USO, welcoming home returning soldiers and assisting their families. Chris shows that while we cannot eliminate worry, we can learn to channel our concerns and focus on something that helps rather than hurts. Tim is unemployed and cant nd a job. He worries that hell never nd work or be able to pay off his mounting debts. Hes miserable, and he sends that energy to everyone around him.2
Tim isnt using worry to solve his problems; instead, he is creating more problems because of his unproductive reactions. Maria is a stay-at-home mother of three. She feels trapped in an unhappy marriage but is afraid to leave. Maria provides an example of how we can fail to seek solutions because we are worried we cannot handle our challenges. Doris likes to wonder what could go wrong with anything. She constantly frets and warns her friends and family members to watch out for this and that, and seldom feels safe doing anything new. Doris is an example of how our personality (high strung) and learning (my parents were this way too) can wire our brains into circuits of unproductive behavior. Pat cares for an aging mother and aunt, and one of her children has just moved back home. Caught in the middle between the two generations, Pat never seems to have enough time for herself and constantly mulls over her situation. Pat shows us what can happen if we let our worries translate into feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. By giving away her power to her worries, they now run her life. Amy, an overworked elementary-school teacher, awakens in the middle of the night for no apparent reason with a pounding heart and shortness of breath. Amy dreads going to bed and is becoming depressed. The doctor found nothing physically wrong with her and prescribed an antidepressant. Amy provides an example of how our stresses can mount from overwork and our inner worries quickly amplify without our conscious awareness. Elizabeths anc cheated on her, so she broke off their engagement. Shes says she is now over it, but she recently began to feel anxious when riding elevators and lightheaded while shopping,3
and now some of these disturbing sensations are coming out of the blue. She was given a clean bill of health but has begun taking sedatives to relax. Elizabeth does not quite realize just how hurt and angry she remains. These powerful buried emotions are severing her connection to her inner sense of safety and spurting out as anxiety. What these examples show is that we worry in many different ways and with different levels of intensity. Many of us who suffer from over or unhealthy worry are unaware that we are worrying at all, as it has become a normal part of our days, but we may actually feel on edge much of the time. Some cope by using drugs or alcohol, or by keeping super busy. Unfortunately, none of those strategies solves problems. What this book teaches is that managing our worry is an inside job. Many of us want to work from the outside in, as in some of the coping mechanisms discussed above. But overcoming chronic worry requires us to change from the inside out. What we learn is that we can balance the messages of worry with our reactions to it. We rst need to recognize how the rapid- re response of worry can quickly get out of control. Snaring those initial, overly worried thoughts can provide the key to better managing how we worry and what we worry about. It is not so much a matter of not having those thoughts, for they are automatic. The key is to become aware of them and consciously respond to them. Our strength to change lies in our ability to choose how we perceive and react, which is empowered by our own conscious intentions. Here is one of my favorite verses that Ive adapted: Watch your thoughts, for thoughts become words.4
Watch your words, for words become attitudes. Watch your attitudes, for attitudes become actions. Watch your actions, for actions become habits.