Stop Stress and Worry from Killing you

I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of spending a good portion of my life worrying about things that haven’t happened yet and probably will never happen. I am working to stop this bad habit because it is not only unproductive, but it is unhealthy. It’s not the situations that cause us stress. It’s what we think about and tell ourselves about these situations that cause us stress and worry. Some of us may even be addicted to worrying because we think that we can somehow control the outcomes of situations if we worry about them and prepare ourselves. But in reality, worrying doesn’t result in positive outcomes. Instead it results in many negative symptoms and health problems such as:

• Headaches
• Fatigue
• Sleeplessness
• Sinus issues
• Neck & Backaches
• Digestive issues/stomachaches
• Suppressed immune system
• Memory loss and destroyed brain cells
• Weight gain
• Hypertension/heart disease
• Other disease such as cancer

So how do we stop this self-defeating behavior? First, we must become aware of when we are worrying about something. Once we realize that we are worrying, we need to ask ourselves if we have some control or influence over the situation. If we do, then we should take action to do something about it. Action reduces fear and worry because it shifts our focus away from our thoughts to what we are doing in the moment. If we have no control or influence over the situation, then we must recognize that the situation is out of our hands, and there is really nothing we can do about it. When this is the case, we must tell ourselves that worrying will not do any good. Then we need to make a conscious choice to put our thoughts on something that brings us positive feelings. It could be something we are grateful for, a person that we love, our favorite vacation memory – anything that makes us feel good in this moment – and focus on that feeling for 15-20 seconds. This will counter the negative effects of stress and worry and put us in a better state of mind.

If we continue to practice this whenever we catch ourselves worrying needlessly, it will soon become a positive habit. It will not only prevent harmful stress symptoms, but we will become much happier. Most of our unhappiness comes from thinking about our regrets from the past and our worries about the future. These both rob us of our present moment. We spend so much time thinking about what went wrong during the day or what we have to do next that we don’t pay much attention to what we are doing in the present moment. We go through much of our lives on auto-pilot. How can we possible be happy now when we aren’t even present to enjoy it?

Practicing mindfulness is another great way to reduce stress and worry. If we are focused on what we are doing in the present moment instead of letting our minds wander to our worries of the future, we will be much better off. So what does this mean? It means that if we are going for a jog outside, instead of being in our heads with our thoughts, we choose to be in our bodies and notice what it feels like when our feet hit the ground and our hearts beat faster. It means that we take in and notice the sights and sounds of the blue sky, the flowers blooming, and the birds chirping. Right now is the only time that we have, so right now is the time to experience life rather than just thinking about it.

“Your unhappiness ultimately arises not from the circumstances of your life but from the conditioning of your mind.” – Eckhart Tolle – Stillness Speaks

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