Be Empty of Worrying

February 2023

Do you feel like you never run out of things to worry about? Today alone I fretted about my class being well received. Then I was anxious about taking too long to return home. I regretted being too harsh when my college freshman text a photo of her new navel piercing. And I’m constantly checking the exercise rings on my watch to see how close I am to closing them.  

Sometimes it seems worrying is more justified. I recently had a health scare finding a growth on my thyroid. It had the potential to keep me from sleeping well. But I decided not to put energy into a negative outcome by worrying. Any time my thoughts started to creep toward anxiety about the results, I directed myself toward thinking or doing something more positive. 

There is no reward for worrying, yet we put a lot of energy into it. The National Institute of Health estimates a third of the population suffers from anxiety. The rest of us, probably just amateurs at it. 

Constant worrying, negative thinking, and expecting the worst can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. It can sap your emotional strength, leave you feeling restless and jumpy, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems and in severe cases lead to depression. 

I’ve found consistency with mindful practices has made me more aware of my thoughts and feelings.  Things like regularly turning my gaze inward. Checking in with my breathing. Feeling the sensations in my body. Being curious. It has helped ease anxiety especially while I waited months to learn my diagnosis. 

I was listening to a podcast with psychiatrist Dr Jud Brewer who says worrying gives the illusion of control and that’s why we do it. To over come excessive worrying he recommends mapping your behavior by noticing a  trigger, realizing the behavior and then observing the reward. You’ll most likely see no reward for worrying and this will help you to change your actions. 

Curiosity is a good replacement for worry. Instead of asking why is this happening or why am I feeling anxious, look at what you’re feeling. When you start to analyze the sensations you’ll most likely conclude it’s not helpful. Without a reward your brain is less eager to repeat the behavior.  

Worrying feels constricting, while curiosity feels expansive. It opens your mind into a more freeing perspective. 

The next time you feel a rise of anxiety, take a closer look at what is going on. You might find it more interesting to watch it unfold like a movie plot than to tense up and reluctantly go for the ride. 

Of course yoga helps develop self awareness by tuning into feelings through breath and movement.  Even without rolling out a mat you can make a regular practice of pausing for deep breathing and self observation. Then curiously watch the drama of your day roll out. 

It turns out my thyroid growth is benign. With gratitude, I’m turning my awareness toward more healthful living, eating, and listening to my body. It is something I have control over and can positively effect the rest of my story.

Be empty of worrying
Think of who created thought

Why do you stay in prison
When the door is wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
Widening rings of being.

by Rumi


A really fun person!

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