worry wart

I had a ninety-minute full-body massage on Saturday. It was wonderful, but it took me a little while to fully relax. Until that happened (probably around the forty-five minute mark…) my mind wandered.

I thought about the lunch and drinks I’d have with my friend after the massage. I thought about the hair cut I had scheduled for the following day. I thought about my next date with a guy I’d met recently. I thought about an ex-friend who’d betrayed me. I thought about my novel in progress. I thought about the new Facebook ad I’d created for an existing book.

And then it occurred to me that with almost all of these thoughts came worry, stress, and fear. What if the menu didn’t have anything I could eat on my restricted diet? What if things didn’t go well with the guy? What if my new book wasn’t good? Why weren’t more readers buying my existing books? For as long as it took me to finally grasp mindfulness and give into the pleasurable pressure of the massage, I was as tense as senators at a U.S. congressional meeting.

Fear and worry have always been my Achilles heel. For the most part, I muddle through, but other times, it’s a small itch I scratch until it becomes a festering sore. Sometimes it keeps me up at night. Occasionally, it affects how I communicate with others, and causes me to do or not do things I regret later. Over the last week, I’ve been attacked by worry from more angles than I can handle. My stomach has been in constant knots and it’s making it hard to enjoy myself in the moment.

Before he passed away, my friend Alan hated when I’d get this way, and he’d talk me off the ledge. I have another friend who is pretty awesome at it too, but the truth is, no one can “heal” me except myself. When I mentally talk myself down, it helps temporarily, but then I forget what I said to myself.

As an experiment, I decided to talk myself down in writing so I could read it again as needed. I wrote down each issue currently worrying me followed by a list of arguments against it—why I was being irrational. I also wrote down the worst-case-scenario—if what I worried about came to fruition, what was the worst thing that would happen as a result? (This helped me put it into perspective) Finally, I jotted down a logical thought process for handling it in the moment—if this happens, don’t forget about this, that, and the other thing. I found it really helped for at least one fear I was stressing over!

Everyone has different ways of dealing with their demons. I’m a constant work-in-progress. For other worry warts out there, care to share your tricks?