I remember holding the tiny little dolls between my fingers and handing my worries over to them. No more than an inch tall, they were a piece of wire wrapped in thread and stored in a yellow painted bamboo box. I don’t remember why my grandmother had gifted them to me after a trip to the caribbean but I remember using them frequently as a child. I’d pull them out before bed and use them so that I could sleep.
The Old English origin of the word worry means to choke or strangle. We even used the word in the 16th century in the sense of a “verbal assault” on ourselves. Today, in some languages, it simply means preoccupied with thought and yet in ours, it connotes a fixation on troubles or stressors that can paralyze us or leave us depressed.
Worry is a natural reaction to stress. It actually is a excellent mechanism for assessing danger and making decisions for our survival. In fact, we are hard-wired to do it. Our cavemen ancestors who survived, were probably the ones who worried and planned for the dangers. But fast forward to today, and those threats are arguably not as abundant and great. It is when worry becomes excessive that it creates anxiety, which often times goes hand-in-hand with depression.
I think of the kid’s movie The Croods. In it, the man family is lead by a patriarch consumed with worry. In fact, it’s the reason they are the only family of cavemen remaining. That is until they meet one carefree wanderer who turned his anxiety into action. Ultimately, he helps lead the family to safety along with the father who breaks the strangle hold of worry to become the hero.
Unhealthy worry can leave you stuck in the mud, overbearing and overprotective of yourself and your loved ones. In a Psychology Today article, Jim Taylor, PhD. writes that worry comes from the following "emotional baggage you acquired as a child and a deep, often unconscious belief that you won’t be able to protect yourself”:
- Insecurity -- “I live in a threatening world.”
- Perfectionism -- “I am not good enough.”
- Control -- “If I lose control, I am in danger.”
- Social Comparison -- “People will think I am a loser.”
- Pessimism -- “The world is filled with dangers.”
- Low Tolerance for Stress -- “How can I protect myself if I’m all stressed out?”
So how to do we break the noose around our necks. How do we stop obsessing over the dangers and allowing the obsessing to become what kills us?
I believe that it is mindfulness and awareness building. In my work, teaching yoga and meditation, I’ve seen evidence that a combination of breath awareness, essential oils, meditation and journaling to be helpful in rerouting the messages of the brain and switching the nervous system to rest and ease.
If you would like to give it a try, find a @yogamedicine teacher in your area and ask them to help begin a meditation and yoga practice. I recommend if your anxiety is extreme, that you first see a therapist to help with the work. I love Jon Kabat-Zinn’s guided meditation videos on YouTube. Remember, the mind will be rampant at first. Be gentle with yourself and stick with it.