Worry seems to have become a favorite pastime with many of us

            Worry seems to have become a favorite pastime with many of us, We worry there may be a war; global warming may be destroying our earth; pollutants threaten to destroy our health.  The list goes on and on.

            Could it be the worry we experience is more destructive than any of the perceived threats?  Studies show that we may indeed be “worried to death” or at least, “worried sick”. 

            Of course, we want to make wise choices in an effort to live healthfully so that we may be able to enjoy our old age with family and friends.  We care about our health, our lives, ourselves, and our loved ones, but how much concern is too much?  Where should we draw the line?  When does healthy attention become unhealthy obsession?

            A Harvard University study, which is thought to be the most thorough of its type, found strong links between anxiety (worry) and heart health:  the sunniest, most optimistic people examined in this study were 50 percent less likely to have heart attacks or strokes than their worrywart counterparts.

            Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that people who worry about losing their job have higher rates of anxiety and panic attacks and describe themselves as being in poor health.  I wonder if people who are inclined to worry about one area of life also perceive themselves as unhealthy and worry about that.  A minister said worry, in Hebrew, means strangulation.  Research confirms the fact that worry spins a sticky, ever-widening web over lives. 

            Wayne Dyer, author of many books and a frequent speaker on PBS, says of worry that it is a useless and harmful activity.  He says if you can do something about a problem, do it.  If there is nothing you can do, then let it go.  In either case, worry serves no useful purpose. 

            Spiritual leader, Eckhart Tolle, explains in one of his books, The Power of Now, that worry yanks us violently out of the present moment and separates us from our own real lives.  Worry takes one of two forms: fear or regret.  Fear is fantasizing about an imaginary future.  Regret imprisons us in an unchangeable, unfixable past.  Both keep us from experiencing life, which can only be lived in the present.  Worry is the practice of anti-serenity.   Tolle suggests using breath to help us focus on the present.  You cannot worry when you put your awareness on your breath.  Any creative activity tends to keep us in the present.

            Some of us are taught by our parents to worry—I was one of those people.  My dad was a professional worrier and he actually thought if you did not worry, you were a pretty irresponsible person.  Worry meant you cared!  So, as a child, I worried.   Regretfully, I continued that habit into adulthood and child raising.  In my forties, when life really begins, I started to read and hear speakers talk about the effects of worry and that it could actually be controlled or even eliminated from my life. 

            I learned that concern and worry are different.  Worry is something that gets into your mind and can haunt you night and day.  It keeps you awake at night and drains you of energy.  It can cause you actual pain because of the tension it creates in the body and can lead to serious illness and disease. 

That began a journey that I call waking up to life—a life lived in the present.  None of us knows what the future holds but when we project the misery that “might happen” we live it over and over.  We live it in our mind and our imagination, and worry won’t keep it from happening.

One of the greatest worries I had in those extremely immature days was worrying about what other people thought of me.   I strived to please.   How foolish!  Spiritual leaders taught that it is important what you think of yourself.  Are you at peace with yourself, and using your God given talents?  Fear of death will vanish when you learn to live the life you are meant to live, and you will make the world better, they said. 

There are many books and some are on CDs that will help you give up worry and learn to live in the present, if you are ready to do that.  I must have listened to The Power of Now at least 100 times.  I believe worry is stinking thinking and getting rid of it may take time.  It is an exciting adventure that anyone can begin; anyone who is willing. 

I like a new version of the Serenity Prayer:  God grant me the serenity to accept those people I cannot change; the courage to change the one I can; and the wisdom to know that it is me.

You can give up worry-if you really want to.  You may be one of those who enjoy worrying and you may not like to be around people who do not worry.   That’s okay.  I won’t worry about it.

(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, and wrote a weekly column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at janicenorris34@yahoo.com)