Tag Archives: worry

“Tomorrow is another day,” Scarlett O’Hara

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

I recently went through the grueling process of purchasing a home. This is actually the fourth time in my life I’ve been lucky enough to be able to purchase a home. But this time was very different from the last.

I don’t know if the challenges this time were due to the size of the loan, the new parameters since the mortgage housing scandals that led to tighter and more rigorous standards, or the fact that there were multiple people applying for the loan. But I think Rumpelstiltskin had it easier when he changed straw into gold.

At two different times during this process the deal was declared officially dead.  The first time we were told we needed to bring more money to the table. Amazingly each of us who were involved in the deal were able to “find” more money. The deal was revived!

Miraculous! Phew, we were alive again.

Weeks later when we were just yards from the finish line the whole thing fell apart again!

Devastation.

canstockphoto13026221Dreams were dashed again only this time it felt worse. We had come so far, had overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, pushed, persevered, and worked really hard. And in one moment it all vanished!

But this second time I waited before I fell into the depths of despair.

This roller coaster ride had taught me some new lessons.  I was determined to put these new strategies into practice.

I had already used my time-tested and well used strategy of crossing and uncrossing my fingers. In fact I had used this so often I was beginning to develop callouses on my fingers.

This time I tried something I had only used a very few times in my life.

I gathered facts. I left out all emotional information surrounding the facts. I simply wanted the facts.

What I learned was that there was a chance that the deal could be completed. In six days we would have a definitive answer. In six days we would know if the deal was alive or dead.

This was the information I held onto. I did not wish or hope, worry, barter or demand. I simply repeated the factual information. Holding onto and repeatedly reviewing the facts kept me from soaring into wild hopes or falling into depths of despair. We would know the outcome, the results and the answers to what was presently unanswerable in six days or less.

Every time I found myself wondering, worrying, hoping or wishing, I went back and simply repeated the facts.

I also made a conscious choice to think about the whole deal less. I repeated the facts, and knew there were five more days, four more days, and so forth until I would have the final answer. And any time I found my mind wondering, worrying, or hoping I reminded myself to change my thinking to some other subject, topic or question.

I made a conscious decision to postpone my celebratory dance of joy, or my upset, anger and disappointment until I had facts to verify either reaction.

In the end we were able to celebrate, sing and dance with joy and offer prayers of thanks.

In addition, I learned a very important lesson for my Mental Health & Happiness. Gathering factual information rather than relying on my emotionally tainted information was a new, very helpful strategy. Using facts and data rather than impression, instincts and intuition alone keeps my well being intact as I experience my life’s speed bumps that upset my balance.

With this new strategy added to my other coping skills I believe I will handle the next of my life’s challenges with greater personal strength, wisdom and grace.

Take one colored square position at a time

By Dr. Nancy Buck

It’s a bad break. Something has gone wrong in your life, not what you wanted. And if that isn’t bad enough, what too many of us do making things even worse is imagine all the additional bad things that might follow:

  • You bounced a check. This will probably be followed by even more bounced checks. Now not only are you going to have to pay more bank fees, but now your credit rating is going to suffer and your ability to make your planned future big purchase will be in jeopardy! (Please note, these thoughts written in italics are only the story you’re making up in your head.)
  • Your child has received a bad grade in school. Oh no, if she isn’t doing well in this class now, what will happen when she moves onto the next higher grade level? Is she always going to be an underperformer? Maybe it’s even worse. Maybe she just can’t learn this subject. (See above for thoughts in italics.)
  • You’ve missed the bus home. Just great. Now you will probably miss your train connection so you may not even make it home. Okay, you can call your spouse to come pick you up. But what if s/he’s gone to a meeting and you can’t reach him/her? Will you be stranded and stuck for hours? Maybe you should call him/her now. But you really don’t want to hear the complaining and nagging about your being late again, blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes bad and inconvenient things happen in our lives. But do you make it worse by imagining all the next bad things that will happen? And who says these things will happen? They might happen!

Here’s my solution for improving mental health and happiness when you find yourself imagining the worst:

See yourself on the Candy Land board of your life. Ask yourself:

What color square am I presently on? The red? Am I worrying about what might happen on the gold square? Too soon. If I’m on the red square, I only need to know about the red square and the purple one to come. Once I’m on the purple square I get to learn all about the troubles and details of the purple square and some about the yellow square that’s next.

Get the idea? If life isn’t great in the moment, try to avoid making it worse by worrying about something that might or might not happen two or three squares from now.

Who knows, you might just land on a green and go up the rainbow trail avoiding all the potential perils you’re presently worrying about!

Happy Trails.

Why Worry – Be Happy

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles – by the ears, by the heels, or any other way, so you manage it. —  Mark Twain

Most of what we worry about doesn’t ever happen. One joke exclaims: “Worrying works. 90% of what I worry about never happens.”

The problem is that worrying robs you of your present moments, your current life, the joy or sorrow of ordinary moments that are your current life.

Worrying keeps you from being mentally healthy and happy.

You are not to blame. Our brain is wired to pay attention to the scary things. Our brain needed to inform our ancestors that the pretty kitty just out the cave was a lion, not a potential house pet. Thus we began worrying about potential dangers. Worrying is a way to anticipate possible dangers so we can problem-solve our way around or through the problems.

But worrying can become a bad habit. Just like your tongue seems to go to the new broken tooth in your mouth involuntarily, worrying is a thought your mind keeps going back to, over and over and over again.

The great news is that we have control over what we think about. No one can make you think of anything that you do not want to. Victor Fankl gave us the most profound example of this reality in his book Mans Search for Meaning. As a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp he realized that his captors could never control his mind or his thoughts.

If this was true for Frankl in the most severe circumstances, it can be true for you as well. But it will take vigilant practice on your part.

Step 1. Pay attention to what you are thinking about. You need to catch yourself thinking the worrying thought as it is happening:

  •             What will my future be with this diagnosis? Will I live? Will I be in constant pain?
  •             She doesn’t love me anymore. What will I do? She doesn’t love me anymore.
  •             How can we find the money to meet our obligations? Will we lose our home?

If you don’t know what your repeated worry is, start listening to your thoughts. It might help to write your worries down so you will recognize them when they chime into other thoughts taking over all the room in your head.

Step 2. Decide ahead of time what you are going to “switch to” when you find yourself going back over and over again to your worry. For some this can be a meditative image, seeing the scene with great detail in vivid colors. Or you might sing a song, especially one with up-beat lyrics. Or you might repeat a favorite affirmation, or prayer. Practice this alternative thinking now, while you are not worrying. Practice, practice and practice this some more.

Step 3. When you catch yourself worrying, “switch to” your alternative thought.

Step 4. Repeat as often and frequently as necessary.

With practice you will decrease your worrying time allowing room for other, brighter and better thoughts. You can develop a different and better mental health and happiness thinking habit.

However, for you champion worriers, you will need to keep up this practice as new worries will replace old worries that you are letting go of. You need to practice, practice, practice switching your thinking until it becomes a new habit, replacing your habit of worrying thoughts as your new touch stone.

Don’t worry. Be happy.