Freedom from Worry

Now that we understand how dangerous it is to worry, readers are asking for answers on how to control it.

Physician, Heal Thyself is an ancient proverb appearing in Luke 4:23. How can a worried psychiatrist treat worried patients? My answer? Better than a psychiatrist that doesn’t know what worry feels like.

While most of us are wary of medication, it may be beneficial, even short-term. Chronic unrelenting anxiety is toxic. Medication may be needed if anxiety is so severe that it interferes with functioning. For 50% of people diagnosed with anxiety the benefit of medication outweighs the risk. Taking medication does not label you. It is you being self aware, educated and taking care of yourself.

What about us “worried well” that worry but not severely enough for conventional medicine?

This is when I take ideas from my readers. From readers’ comments from my very popular article on Worry , I gained insightful feedback I want to share.

10 MAGICAL WAYS TO FREEDOM FROM WORRYING

Write.

Get fresh air.

Talk with someone way older than you.

Love.

Make Art.

Meditate.

Plant something.

Breathe.

Play with a dog.

Get wet.

{Can anyone find a mnemonic here?}

WORRY

I come from a family of worriers. My mom and her twin sister were always “fretting.” Other family members are worriers. My friends are worriers too. I am surrounded by people who worry. They may call it by other names like insomnia, back pain, or fatigue.

I worry about health. I worry about my kids. I worry about my dad. I worry about my friends. Then I worry about my friends’ health, their kids and their dads. I worry about my patients.

I worry when I go to the doctor. I worry about going to the dentist. I worry about falling on ice, getting randomly shot, riding in elevators, car accidents and Corona virus. I worry about not finding a job.

Then there is worry on another level about this country, fires in Australia, Israel, the environment. I’m not going to go there.

I am not alone. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder. It affects more women than men. More than half of older patients with GAD say their symptoms started after age 50. Late-life anxiety is underdiagnosed and undertreated and will have a huge public health impact as the population ages.

Besides the time and energy lost worrying, chronic anxiety is toxic to our bodies. It can lead to depression, suicide, substance abuse and poor quality-of-life. Anxiety is a significant risk factor for death after bypass surgery, stroke, hypertension and coronary artery disease. It is also associated with a higher risk of memory problems.

When your body is in a constant state of “fight or flight” there is an increase in excitatory messages in the brain. Your body is stuck in overdrive. Scientists are trying to understand how this effects the body over time.

For most of us, worrying has become the new normal. We find ways to cope with insightful podcasts and books, self care, alcohol, meditation and yoga. Others benefit from psychotherapy and medications.

I’ve been working on allotting myself only a certain amount of time per day to worry. I sometimes use imagery and dump worries into a body of water, Being present and concentrating on my breath has helped. I try to focus on what is well and good at a particular moment. Does this stuff help? Meh.

By this age we have experienced traumatic events. We know life changes in an instant. We have a solid collection of peeps that we want around us for a long time. We may or may not be afraid of dying but one thing is for sure – we don’t want to miss out.

My goal is not to freak you out about freaking out. This is a reminder to all of us to be kinder to ourselves. We need to give our body what it needs – nourishing food, movement and above all, peace of mind.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of our sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo F. Buscaglia.

Have a peaceful weekend

MOMENTUM

Momentum is everything.

Most of my readers know how much I love football. During the recent playoffs, I don’t know how many times I said/texted/tweeted the word “momentum”, but it was a lot. That sense that the team with the momentum is unstoppable, fueled by the roars from the fans in the stands. With positive momentum, the magic happens.

Momentum is a term from physics. It refers to the quantity of motion that an object has. Objects at rest do not have momentum.

Momentum runs high at the start of a romantic relationship. It is fun, playful and carefree. Both of you are reflecting over-idealized versions of each other so powerful that instincts of hunger and thirst are ignored. You believe you could live with this person in a tent until the end of time. Spending glorious days in bed in a delirious state makes it easy to ignore the tedious responsibilities of reality.

While society prioritizes this phase, the challenges of long-term relationships leave us wondering: is that all there is? The little quirks you loved at the start are now the most annoying. The two of you need to make grown-up decisions, face health and financial concerns, and cope with the drudgery of everyday life. Staying in bed all day is no longer an option and, if given the choice, many would rather be in bed alone.

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Has longevity made long-term relationships a mathematical impossibility? Are relationships designed for planned obsolescence?

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Don’t think I’m down on long-term relationships. They have great value. We just need to learn how to make them more fun.

Think about it: What made it so compelling in the beginning?

The criteria that made you an attractive mate remain the same 20, 30, and 40 years later. We do not lose our desire for adventure, spontaneity and passion. Within the context of a decades-old relationship these seem impossible. So we either accept this as is, or blame our partner or complain.

Why bother with this challenge if you have a partner and no plans to leave?

Why bother? Because not only can it save a marriage, it can enhance your life journey and lead to happier aging.

For this to happen, focus needs to shift to ourselves. It’s not about fixing the relationship. Paradoxically, stronger individuality is the catalyst for momentum.

With a long term relationship, you have the basics down. Food, protection, sleep, sex, security. As a team you navigate the tasks of raising a family, aging parents, health scares and mortgages. It feels cosy, like an old shoe.

Once the basics are stable, humans have the remarkable adaptive ability to move beyond to create music, art and literature. The key to momentum is keeping things moving.

This means men and women must be comfortable with changing it up, even in mini ways. Try out a new exercise and talk about it. I find just listening to music changes me. Recognize culinary ruts. Spend time on your own. Talk to wise elders and share stories. Consider role playing in bed. Bring more to the table. Keep the focus on yourself, not your partner.

With positive momentum we are unstoppable. At any age.

Imagine all the benefits of the stable relationship with a sprinkling of fantasy dust!