Dear Dr. Norquist:
My mother and grandmother were always worrying about something. My grandmother worried out loud, whereas my mother kept her worries inside, and eventually developed cancer. I used to think it was silly for them to worry so much but over the past few years, I’ve noticed myself in the mirror looking serious and worrisome, and I even find myself expressing my worries to my kids. I certainly don’t want to burden them with my worries. They deserve as carefree of a childhood as I can give them. What can I do to stop worrying.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Worrying is a mental habit. Doesn’t it seem to be born of some kind of magical belief that if we worry about something, maybe it won’t happen or maybe we’ll be prepared? Worrying is a kind of mental reflex we engage in in an attempt to have some control over our lives. This mental habit is like an addiction; we engage in it in an attempt to feel better and only end up digging a hole for ourselves. After awhile it becomes a part of our usual experience of being in the world. We can even start to feel like something is amiss or something could go wrong if we are not worrying.
To change a habit, you must first become conscious of it. Practice catching yourself engaging in this habit. Find a mental stance where you can observe your thoughts and recognize that this is all only the dance of the mind. From this detached, observing-of-your-thoughts place, consciously choose to let these thoughts go. You could see the thoughts as clouds passing by, or you could see a gust of wind coming and blowing them away. If it feels right to you, you could surrender your worries to God, or to the universe.
The point is to practice letting go. Be patient with yourself during this process. You’ve probably exercised this worry habit at least a million times. It is not going to disappear overnight. Consistent practice is the key. If you are not able to let go of the worries, then give yourself a prescribed period of time each day (30 minutes or so) that you can devote to your worrying habit. When your worries come up write them down, and then mentally move on, knowing you will have a set time period later in which to worry to your hearts delight.
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at email@example.com. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2019 Chaitanya Counseling Services