The vast majority of your worries are unfounded- and the rest you can handle better than you thought you could. Anxiety will cause you more harm than would occur should your fears come to fruition! “85 Percent of What We Worry About Never Happens,” says Don Joseph Goewey, and this week I offer some of his research and wisdom as well.
Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
Goewey says there’s a study that proves what de Montaigne says is correct. This study looked into how many of our imagined calamities never materialize. Subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not happen. Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what respondents worried about never happened. Interestingly, of the 15 percent of the worries and concerns that did happen, 79 percent of these people discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning!
So, 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions!
Michel de Montaigne’s quote has made people laugh for five centuries, however, worry itself is no joke. The stress generated by worry causes serious problems. Stress hormones get pumped into your brain and are linked to:
- shrinking brain mass,
- lowering your IQ,
- being prone to heart disease,
- premature aging,
- predicting marital problems,
- family dysfunction and clinical depression,
- and making seniors more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s.
You can rewire your brain to quiet the worry circuit. It takes a decision, and it takes a particular kind of practice, but it’s simpler than you might imagine. In his book, The End of Stress, Don Joseph Goewey presents 20 proven tools and processes which are neuroplastic, meaning they represent a change of mind that can rewire the brain to extinguish knee-jerk fear reactions that set off constant worry. He says this can all take place in a matter of four to six weeks. One of the tools, “The Clear Button” is simple, and here’s how it works. You imagine a button at the center of your palm. You press it and count to three, thinking of each number as a color.
Breathe in, count 1, think red.
Breathe in, count 2, think blue.
Breathe in, count 3, think green.
On the exhale, completely let go of thinking anything for a moment.
Here is the neurological reason why the Clear Button works. The part of the brain that causes stress reactions literally has the intelligence of a toddler. And every parent knows you don’t stop a tantrum by appealing to a child’s logic. You distract the child. This tool distracts the terrible two-year-old in your brain from throwing you into the deep end. So, the better you “bust your stressful thinking” during the day, the more your brain will strengthen synapses and will that will put an end to worry.
Don Joseph Goewey suggests that you cut-and-paste the following statement and post it where you’ll see it at the close of your work day. He says, “If you allow Emerson’s words to release you completely from your day’s labor, your evening is guaranteed to be more enjoyable, more relaxing, and more restorative. You’ll also sleep better! Here is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s nightly sleep balm:
By “old nonsense,” Emerson is referring to our worries and woes. The two are synonymous. In the study I cited, nonsense and worry are the same thing — not once in a while — but nearly every single time.
PROMPT: Writing is so much more than writing.
Here’s a simple approach to dissolving worry which I call “Write It Off.” Writing facilitates the letting go of the day’s problems, so you don’t sink into the miasma of misery. This process comes from my work with clients and women’s writing circles.
On a fresh piece of paper, complete one, some or all of these cleansing sentence stems-
- I’ve done what I could with…
- I may have blundered but…
- It was so absurd when…
- By morning I will have forgiven/forgotten…
- One thing I want to do is…
- I let today go and picture myself…
- Tomorrow I hope…
- I know I am really good at…
By whichever method fits your lifestyle, it’s possible to choose to let go of worry and gradually move past it. May you write more and thrive!