How I Put Chronic Worry Behind Me

“Worry is a misuse of the imagination.”  – Dan Zadra

I’m a worrywart, or should I say a recovering worrywart. The thing that started me on my path to recovery is the very thing that I tended to worry about the most – my health. The slightest illness would send me to the internet to look up possible causes. A pain in my lower back could easily become kidney failure. A simple headache was obviously a brain aneurysm.

Possible solutions where never my concern when it came to my worries. I was much too busy thinking about the problem to try to come up with a reasonable solution.

My husband and I had been trying to have a baby ever since we got married. That wasn’t working out very well and after many years of trying, my husband insisted that we make an appointment with the doctor to figure out what was going on. I didn’t feel like it was necessary because I’d already done plenty of research and had concluded that I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, also known as PCOS. I reluctantly made what was in my mind a totally unnecessary visit to the doctor where she did a series of totally unnecessary blood tests. Once my blood tests came back the doctor told me that she wanted me to get an MRI. “There is a slight possibility that you have a tumor on your pituitary gland,” she told me.

Even though I thought this was a ridiculous request because I obviously had PCOS, I went along with her and got the MRI. She was right. I wasn’t. I guess that’s why reading WebMD for a few hours isn’t considered enough training to become a doctor.

The doctor told me that I’d be fine. I’d have to take some medication to get my hormone levels back to normal and may need an operation in the future to remove the tumor. “Most of the time we are able to keep the tumor under control with medication alone,” my doctor said, but all I heard was tumor … tumor … tumor over and over again.

When I got home from the doctor’s office I read everything I could about pituitary tumors. Words like infertility, blindness, headaches, osteoporosis, and stroke stuck in my brain. Now I had something real to worry about, and worry I did.

Cortisol is a hormone that is completely necessary for normal function, but when you are stressed or anxious or worried your body produces more. It turned out that the cortisol spikes I got from worry were actually giving  me headaches. Apparently, bathing my tumor in cortisol would make it swell. The frequency and intensity of my headaches started to increase. Now I found myself in a situation where I needed to stop worrying if I wanted to be able to get through the day without a headache.

Lessening my worry took lots of time and energy, but eventually I was able to get it under control.

For all my fellow worriers out there I thought I’d share some tips with you to let you know how I was able to dramatically reduce my worrying. Don’t wait to discover that your chronic worry has affected your health to decide to make a change.

Distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries.

If you are worrying about something that is solvable do something to solve it.

Most of the things chronic worriers worry about aren’t solvable though. If you’re worrying about a terrible hurricane destroying your hometown or someone you love dying suddenly, there’s not much you can do about that. Those are worries you need to acknowledge and let go. Don’t dwell on these ideas because they don’t improve the quality of your life and you have no way of doing anything about them.

Be present.

Worry is all about the future. You’re imagining terrible events that haven’t happened and probably never will. All this living in the future makes it hard to notice what’s going on around you today. When you find worry creeping into your thoughts acknowledge it and let it pass. Then focus on something positive that is happening in the moment.

Exercise regularly.

You might be tired of hearing that exercise is the solution to everything, but keeping your body physically healthy sure as heck makes a big difference in a lot of things. I found that I was able to cut down on my worry considerably when I started a regular yoga practice. You don’t have to do yoga. You could run, go for a brisk walk, play soccer, or go salsa dancing. Find a physical activity you enjoy and start doing it. Your body and your mind will thank you.

Meditate.

Meditation helps calm the mind and get rid of stress. It can also help you be more mindful in your daily life. Taking a few minutes to meditate daily helped me tremendously. I used to think of meditation as some really difficult activity that only people who were spiritually enlightened did. That’s not true. Meditation is much easier than we trick ourselves into thinking it will be.

It’s best not to try to make all of these changes at once. I’ve found that when I try to change too many things at one time I’m less likely to stick to any of them. Choose one change and implement it for thirty days. That’s long enough to make that new way of being a habit that you can stick too. Once you’ve successfully done one of these suggestions add another for thirty days. Before you know it, you’ll be relaxed and mostly worry free.

What techniques have you used to overcome worry?

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