One spring night in 2010 I woke to go to the bathroom. I started thinking about my husband at the time and my two sons. My life looked like it was all together on the outside, I think. But on the inside I was filled with worry. My mind was racing. I thought about all the things that keep anyone up at night. As I returned to bed, I couldn’t get these worries out of my head. I tried everything from counting sheep, counting the calories I ate that day, saying The Rosary (yes, I was raised Catholic and this is what we did to get us through times of worry). Nothing worked. I lay awake for most of the night and finally drifted off to sleep an hour or two before the sun came up.
If you’ve ever lain in bed worrying and woke with only a couple hours of sleep, you can imagine how I felt that day. Tired, sluggish and a bit aggravated with myself that I couldn’t get my shit together and stop the worry.
After this happened on several occasions. I was determined to figure out a way to beat the worry bug. We all know that worry can’t control anything. If anything, it can only make things worse by driving up our stress response. Worry doesn’t solve problems or keep loved ones safe and healthy. It only chips away at our own physical and mental health and wellness.
I started experimenting with breathwork and meditation. I bought a couple of self help books and realized something profound. I could engage in the practice of “detachment” which is something that changed my life. No longer did I let worry take hold of me. On the plus side I gained a sense of freedom, a strong, calm sense of freedom. One that I enjoy to this day. This is one of the greatest life lessons I’ve learned and I want to share it with you.
While on a walk or sitting in a quiet place, I would one-by-one think of loved ones in my life. I would think about the worst case scenario of what could happen to them. I would think of the best case scenario of what could happen to them. I’d think of the most likely scenario of what could happen. Then I’d say a prayer and let it go and give it up to God, the Universe–a greater power. Slowly I detached from a sense of control from every person I loved and cared about. Next, I went on to possessions. What's the worst case scenario? What would I do if I lost my job, house, car, etc…. How would I manage to continue with what I myself can practice, produce and contribute? Then my health. What would I do if I became sick? How can I do my part to avoid chronic illness? This was a freeing experience. Becoming detached from even your own existence is a very cool thing. This is not something that happened overnight, it’s a form of a practice I still continue to a small degree today.
I can’t remember what book or teacher I learned this from. Picture a large circle and then a smaller circle inside the large circle. The outer circle is a ring of things over which you have no control. Why waste your time and energy on things you can’t control? The inner circle includes things you can control– taking care of your health, both physical and mental, your contributions to others, your community and the world. Focusing on this inner circle also includes how you show up for yourself, your job, school, your family and friends. This is where I try to spend my time and energy now.
I feel healthier, happier and more productive and in control of my own life now than I did back in those days and nights of worry. I have a sense of contentment of just being. This is where I feel true health starts. Afterall, stress and worry can make us sick and take away our joy of living.
I’ve made it part of my daily routine to practice a morning and a nighttime ritual. In the morning, upon waking I look out the window and think of things for which I am grateful. Waiting for my coffee to brew I do a short meditation. I take a deep breath and set my intentions for the day. On my way to work, I pray for all the people in my life. I save the end of the day for my MELT and breath work. Sometimes this is five minutes, sometimes it's twenty.
As I drift off to sleep, I don’t think about people and responsibilities that need my attention the next day. Instead I focus on how grateful I am for my comfy pillows and blanket. If I wake in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom…. I repeat a mantra in my head, “I am asleep, I am asleep.”
This works for me 99% of the time. If you too struggle with worry, give yourself grace and space and practice detachment. Take stock of all the good in your life and then find something that helps you worry less and live in the moment more.
Sleep well friends.
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Share how this works for you. I love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org