I sucked at Maths. I hated that subject, did not understand why we were studying it and was pretty much dumb at it. My heart would come into my mouth every time I wrote a maths exam and expected its results. I still have nightmares, often getting up in the middle of the night thinking I failed the exam, even though it’s been 10 years that I successfully graduated. My fathers health was always in doldrums. I would jump off my seat every time the phone rang, always expecting the worst. I would worry every time my manager would ping, wondering what I might’ve messed up.
Worry is a part of everyone’s life. Some of it real, some imaginary. But, worrying too much just makes our life hell. There are days I didn’t want to get up from bed dreading what was in store for the day. Worry can immobilize us. As we grow, we learn different tips and tricks to combat worry. I learnt a few from the book – ‘how to stop worrying and start living’ by Dale Carnegie.
That was one of the best and the first self help book I ever read. One summer afternoon I opened the trunk under the bed in my grandparent’s apartment looking for some books to kill time. Of all the psychology books and academic texts in the suitcase, this was the only book I could make some sense of. So, I took it out, went to the terrace of the apartment, sat in a shady corner and opened it. It was fifteen years ago and I did not think then that I would come to internalize its principles so much. Some tips that became my default reactions:
What’s the worst that can happen? Can I build again from there? What would be the worst thing that would happen if I failed in Maths? I’ll miss a year. Can I survive that? Yes. It would be very shameful, sure, but is it life threatening? No. Can I bounce back? Yes, probably I’ll have to take extra classes or spend more time on it, but, I can work on it and it’s definitely not the end of the world. So, can I start from there? Yes. If push comes to shove, I’ll change my group. So, there is still a way to survive my worst nightmare. Realizing this did not eliminate the worry, but, it was not a unconquerable either.
One step at a time – When I was worrying incessantly about my father’s health, thoughts would swirl in my brain like a broken record: will he recover, how long will he be sick, will I have enough money to foot the medical expenses, what if he falls back into his habits, thoughts and thoughts and thoughts. I couldn’t take it. I went nuts. What then happened was after all this worry, something shifted in me and I gave up. I became indifferent. Let whatever has to happen, happen, I thought. I now just wanted to get through today first and take care of tomorrow when it comes. I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, it could be better or worse, but, since I do not know that, I wanted to forget it and concentrate on living today. This bite size of ‘today’ was easier to handle than looking at days filled with agony and getting crushed.
Law of averages – What is the probability that what I’m thinking will actually happen? In general, how many people suffer from or how often does what we are worrying about happen? We tend to think what we worry about, happened only to us, the path we are walking is lonely and no one knows our pain. But, trust me, I don’t think there’s anything in this world which is happening for the first time. So, how many times do you think your ‘this worry’ actually happened before? Does it even make sense then, to worry about it?
Make the best with what you have: We don’t control everything that happens in our life. We have no control on where we are born, to whom we are born or what happens to us (mostly). But, all these factors affect the quality of our life. But, would huffing and puffing help in altering these? No. But, we still do. Alochol Anonymous (AA) has this as their motto –
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Acceptance is the key. Accept you can’t change everything in your life, and concentrate on things you can change. As they say, when life hands you a lemon, make a lemonade.
I still worry a lot, even about silly stuff. But, I ask these questions every time. I know I can survive, that I can start from scratch if necessary, concentrate only on today, and by accepting that I cannot change everything. What do you do, dear reader?