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.