Worry is an action that occupies our thoughts, eats our time, and taints our present with anxiety about the future. It’s not, as many believe, an inescapable extension of love or empathy. Nor is it a demonstration of awareness and planning. It is not a byproduct of anything. Worry is an action. And that makes it a choice.
Easy to say. Hard to put in practice. Especially when the jeopardy is immediate.
When the object of our anxiety is distant or long in developing—the approval or rejection of a submission, for example—it’s easier to shove worry out of our heads. Every time the niggling thought creeps back in, we can remind ourselves that it’s out of our control and get back to work.
Worry about the health or wellbeing of a loved one in crisis is a fierce berserker that eviscerates logic.
We don’t just go to the bad place, we set up camp and plant a flag!
Oh, I can hear the naysayers yelling from the turrets as they rain down their anxiety: “Worry is a sign of love! How can you be so callous? No one chooses worry!”
Concern stimulates problem solving, investigation, and action. Anxiety floods our mind with horrifying, heartbreaking possibilities until we can’t think of anything else.
Worry isn’t a measure of our love: Worry is a cancer of the mind.
Recently, I had two family members in the hospital on three different occasions for life threatening conditions, and a third erroneously given weeks to live. These simultaneous events gave me the unfortunate opportunity to test the concept of choice and worry.
I chose concern.
During the midnight calls and the emergency dashes to other cities, I kept my mind on what I could do and what I could learn. I focused on helping the people I loved rather than how I might be feeling. As a result, I didn’t feed anxiety or worry about a future where any—or God forbid all—of them might not exist. I focused on healing and supporting, and in one case, helping to make the departure as loving as possible. I didn’t cripple my mind and heart by turning in on my own emotions.
Choosing not to worry is a powerful demonstration of love.
My choice not to worry, did not keep me from feeling sad or concerned. It did not keep the tears from falling or my heart from clenching. What it did was to create a self-perpetuating cycle of positive thought.
Choosing not to worry kept me focused on positive action, which in turn, helped me not to worry.
Obsessing on what might or will happen and how we or others will suffer as a result, sets up negatively perpetuating and escalating thought cycles that serves no one.
So how do we choose not to worry?
- Replace anxious thoughts about the future with practical actions in the present.
- Remind yourself that worry does not affect outcome.
- Stop measuring love with suffering.
- Stay in the present.
When I feel worry seeping into my mind, I remind myself that I will have ample time to suffer if the worst should happen, but I will never get back this moment to love, support, or effect change.
PS: Everyone in my family is thriving and out of immediate danger. This has been a month of precious moments, bonding, and joy.