Can Anxiety do Harm?

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

- Mark Twain

Have you ever been distracted by a persistent thought? Have you ever noticed that it takes concerted effort to let go of distractions, concerns, or worry? 

I once knew a man who kept playing the same thoughts over and over. He lived in the fear of past and future. He was incapable of seeing the now – today. It didn’t matter if his thoughts were true or not, healthy or unhealthy, accurate or inaccurate. His constant rumination was so intense that it ended up destroying his marriage. 

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone worries occasionally. But here’s the thing, if you identify problems and use effective problem-solving strategies, that’s productive worry. If you dwell on your thoughts incessantly, if you create a storyline as a means of coping, if you can’t let go of the past or the future, or if you can’t see past a situation you can’t change, that’s unproductive worry.

So, make it a part of every day to bring into notice the automatic stream of “thoughts.” When your mind is pulled into worry, or full of crazy thoughts, notice them but pull back. If you don’t, thoughts turn into worries and those ruminations become the soundtrack of your life . 

To avoid being swept away in one of these thoughts, put the brakes on it, observe it calmly and objectively. Ask yourself, “Are my worst fears really going to happen? Do these thoughts I’m worrying about have other possible outcomes? Am I putting thoughts in my own mind that may inflict harm in my body? How are these thoughts benefiting me?” These are healthy thoughts, and as you answer these questions, find a way to breathe. 

Each time you notice you’re caught up in negative thought, notice them and then let it go. Think of it as a cloud and name it. Say to yourself, “Ahhhh, there’s ____ again.” Now, let it go, as though it was a cloud passing by. Notice your breathing: flowing in/flowing out; flowing in/flowing out; flowing in and flowing out. Gently, let it go…

So much of life is uncertain, for good mental health hygiene pull yourself back to the present and break the string of unhealthy thoughts. It takes practice to notice the patterns of your mind and to catch yourself in unproductive, and often destructive, worry.

There’s no way to be sure of your future. All you have is today, this moment, now. As illustrated so sweetly in this conversation between Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. 

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”

“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought. 

Piglet was comforted by this.  

Dr. Tiger Describes steps you can take today to reduce stress in your life.

Watch Captain O's exclusive interview with Dr. Robyn Tiger, of the "Stress Free MD Podcast."

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