Does Worry Make You Sick?


What robs us of our peace of mind? What steals away our joy? What diminishes our hope, will and faith? What jeopardizes our health? In short, what everyday habit limits our life?

WORRY.

We cannot seem to escape it. We worry about job and financial security. We worry about our health, and the high costs to treat disease and illness. We worry about a natural catastrophe that can wipe our homes and possessions away within minutes. We worry about getting older. We worry about crime and our safety. We worry about basic survival, maintaining a sense of dignity, and somehow getting our fair share. We even worry that our voice will not be heard, that no one is listening.

At its most basic, worry is simply a thought. Dr. Zacharty Bercovitz states, “Some patients I see are actually draining into their bodies the diseased thoughts of their minds.” In other words, worry can be characterized as a cycle of inefficient thought revolving about a pivot of fear. Such fear can keep us restless and filled with tension. “Worry, doubt, fear and despair,” said General Douglas MacArthur, “are the enemies that slowly bring us down to the ground and turn us to dust before we die.”

The Fog of Unfounded Worry

Most people worry well outside their means. This statement is not meant to belittle the reality of a health issue or injury, nor to insult our attempts to be healthy and to intervene on an injury or acute/chronic condition. It simply means that we give too many thoughts to worry.

Let’s put things into perspective.

According to the Bureau of Standards, a dense fog covering seven city blocks, to a depth of 100 feet, is composed of something less than one glass of water. Less than a glass of water! Now, this could be compared to our worries. If we could magically see into the future, and if we could see our problems in their true light, we might be surprised as to their true size and place in the overall scheme of our life. In short, if all the things we worried about were reduced to their true size, we could probably put them all into a drinking glass, too.

A study over 40 years ago is often cited by motivation speakers as a way to put worry into perspective. It was conducted by a Dr. Walter Calvert, and funded by the National Science Foundation. Thousands of people were interviewed about their perception of worry in their lives. The statistics are oft-quoted:

  • 30% of our worries are about events in the past. That’s right, all the worry in the world cannot change the past.
  • 40% of the things we worry about never happen. That’s right, they will never occur anyway because they are somewhere off into the nebulous future.
  • 12% of our worries are unfounded health concerns. Over 95% of health care is actually self-care, yet we manage to preoccupy ourselves with unrealistic health issues, even to the extent that we don’t trust our own intuition or knowledge about what is right and not right in personally healing ourselves.
  • 10% of our worries are over minor and trivial issues. Petty concerns drive us crazy, but are they so real that they steal from our precious optimism, faith and will?
  • Only 8% of our worries are real, legitimate issues.

That’s right, less than 10% of all our worries are worth concerning ourself with. Put another way, over 90% of our worries are pure fog with no substance at all!

When I say that you may be inclined to worry outside your means, it is to point out an elemental truth about worry. And over 40 years later, the above study still rings true in our chaotic society filled with endless uncertainties. Here is the truth about worry:

Don’t dwell on the past; it is over. Don’t agonize over the future. This alone can resolve over 80% of all our worries! The test is to live in the present and focus all of your energy, talent, commitment and compassion on the moment. If you can do this, then you have awakened to what I call Worrying Within Your Means.


Worry Within Your Means

The beloved cartoon character, Charlie Brown, gives us a glimpse at worrying within our means: I’ve developed a new philosophy: I only dread one day at a time. When you think about it, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. It all seems so natural to think, think, think about the past and future.

Some crazy scientists speculated that we have over 60,000 thoughts per day — about one thought per second! They further postulated that 95% of those thoughts are the exact same thoughts we had yesterday, and the day before that and the day before that. And to make it all seem even more dismal, 80% of those habitual thoughts are negative ones disguised as worry, doubt, fear, judgment and the like.

In some respects, all this is why most people discover in meditation or stillness that they are faced with an incessant chatter of thoughts inside their head — what Buddhism calls “monkey mind.” It is as if our thoughts play around in our mind like a never-ending loop.

When it comes to your personal healing of a health condition or injury, where is your frame of mind? Are you stuck in a continual loop of worry and concern? Or do you feel positive and hopeful that your interventions are working, even if you may not fully see results within a time frame of your expectations? Are you impatient for the future recovery to occur?

Of course, financial issues are perhaps the biggest worry in treating health concerns and injuries. However, money alone cannot heal you. You must use another type of wealth — the wellth of your intelligence, intuition, faith, perseverance, and will. The wellth of the support of family and/or friends, and caring health professionals.

When you put your health concern or injury into perspective, you realize that your greatest power for healing is in the present moment, focusing your thoughts on healing. This is the only way you can rein those wild horses of your thoughts — the only way you can worry within your means.

How to Break the Habit of Worry

If worry robs us of peace and joy, and keeps us living limited lives, our health — mental, emotional and physical — will ultimately suffer. Here are seven useful ways to practice worrying within your means, and potentially break the habit of worry.

  1. Ask yourself: What are the chances that what I am worrying about will ever happen?
    You need to believe in the miracle of your body and its ability to heal and regenerate itself. You cannot have unrealistic expectations, nor push the future too quickly into the present. You cannot worry yourself well. Wellness is not a magic bullet you can consume. It is something to which you must bring your attention and focus, commitment and compassion. Excessive worry will work against you. Moderated concern will keep you awake and aware to those signs of healing.
  2. Ask yourself: How much of the small stuff do I sweat about?
    Don’t make things bigger than they are. Don’t spend valuable time on inconsequential things and thoughts. Let your healing unfold naturally, not forcefully. In healing work, the first three months are critical for observation. This is when the body’s regenerative mechanisms are stimulated. You can undercut such healing by constantly picking at the “scabs” of your injury or health condition with petty worry — the kind of thoughts that wonder if something is working or not, that wonder if a particular intervention is a waste of time and money.
  3. Ask yourself: Can I accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference? (known as the Serenity Prayer)
    Your commitment to health and recovery of an injury asks for a healthy dose of acceptance and informed action. You must accept that recovery may not be 100%. However, you must commit to 100% effort, rallying your knowledge and will as leverage with any intervention, be that medication, exercise or proper convalescence.
  4. Ask yourself: Do I focus on solutions or problems?
    Most people spend 90% of their time on the problem and 10% on the solution. By problem, I mean spending great energy on treating symptoms, and not refined effort on getting to the root cause of a health condition or injury. Most health-care, unfortunately, treats symptomatic problems with ill-advised medications or procedures. Instead, devote 90% of your energy to analyzing your lifestyle, leisure-style, exercise-style, work-style, diet, stress, emotional and mental stability, sense of spirit, and relevant support systems like family and friends. These are often major actors in both your health and your wellness.
  5. Ask yourself: Where do I live in — the past or future?
    Don’t try to predict what MIGHT or CAN happen in the future. Don’t dwell on, or berate yourself about the past. Concentrate on what you want to happen NOW. Learn from the past, plan for the future, but live in the present. Only in the present is your true potential for successful healing, at the level your body is meant to heal.
  6. Ask yourself: Do I try to ignore my problems to make them go away?
    Problems don’t go away or get better because you ignore them. You must solve your problems as they arise. How? Look for the best possible solution, using knowledge and intuition, and then take positive action. Look at your overall life. You may discover that a change is necessary — you may need to limit certain assertive forms of activity, or alter certain foods and food cravings, or change your attitude about things, and so on. In any case, confront your life in the present moment, as things arise. Empower yourself with knowledge and will.
  7. Ask yourself: Do I live my life based on What if?
    We all know the mentally excruciating dilemma of What if. The problem is that you could spend your entire precious life worrying about nothing! The antidote is simple: Stay active and focused. Engage in activities that inspire and motivate you, that invest in your overall wellness and attitude about life. Stay focused on possibilities, not problems; opportunities, not barriers. For some people, a spiritual belief system is an important ally in healing. For others, a determined will and faith in oneself is key. The key is to work for healing in the present moment, not in the What if of yesterday or the future.

So, what would you rather have: peace of mind, or an ongoing looting of your soul by worry? Mark Twain reminds us how worry can dog us lifelong: “I am an old man and have known many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

For many people a day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work. Thankfully, we have a night to rest our aches and pains and woes. And for those who believe in a God, this is welcome grace from worry, as Mary Crowley points out:

Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He’s going to be up all night anyway.

If you would like to understand more about the power of peace and sanctuary in your life, please visit our beautiful website, www.onesanctuary.com.

For detailed information about the diverse healing benefits of the plant, Solomon’s Seal, read more articles in this blog, and/or visit our website, www.solomonsseal.net.

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2 thoughts on “Does Worry Make You Sick?

  1. This is great!

    People can become so consumed with worry, that they don’t even have the sense to worry about worrying!
    You’ve done a wonderful job addressing the key variables that influence a persons state of peace (or lack thereof). When broken down into such simple and poignant categories, the task at hand seems a lot more manageable. Thank you!

    Like

  2. Very inspiring article. Just think, if worrying weren’t so pandemic in our culture (and getting worse every day) it would be laughable. On second thought, maybe it is laughable. In fact, laughter and humor can dispel a LOT of worrying. I have a friend named Belle, who certainly would be justified in worrying, but she refuses to do so. When she thinks I’m worrying too much about something, she reminds me, “Stay in the moment.” “Okay, okay…,” I respond. Sometimes I have to remind her. But the best natural antidote is our one afternoon a week spent sharing and laughing together. Over the years of our friendship, we have literally laughed away many of our troubles (whether real or imagined).

    So thanks, Dr. Forrest, for the excellent advice about worrying within our means. I intend to do just that – when I get done laughing.

    Like

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