Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Don't worry, be happy

What do you think would be the biggest regret of people over 65?  You might be surprised.   

Karl Pillemer, a professor at Cornell University launched the Legacy Project in 2004 and asked more than 1,500 Americans about the most important lessons they’d learned over the course of their lives. 

He was surprised at what he learned,  because over and over again he heard versions of “I would have spent less time worrying” and “I regret that I worried so much about everything.”

This started me thinking.  We have an expression in our family – “worry wart” or WW for short, which would be bandied about when one of us was fretting over something, usually something beyond our control.  What do you worry about?

As women the answer is likely everything and anything.   Case in point, my daughters and son-in-law went off on an exciting vacation, driving from Ontario out to Banff, BC and back.  While I envied them the trip, I worried the whole time – that they were safe; that they weren’t in an accident; that the truck wouldn’t break down, and even that they would still be speaking to each other when they got back.  They are.

What a waste of energy.  I was nervous the whole time they were gone, picturing in my mind’s eye something disastrous happening to my family.  Fortunately they kept us posted and it was clear from their photos on Facebook that they were having a great time, but I still had those niggling concerns while they were gone.

What else do you worry about?  When you are in business for yourself – often it’s getting enough customers so you can pay the bills, making ends meet and if you have staff – making payroll.  Being an entrepreneur is not a worry-free zone or calm work choice.  Being worried goes with the territory, right?  Or does it have to?  Certainly from a business perspective, there are concrete steps you can take to problem-solve and come up with a plan B, should business go awry.

But then there’s the personal stuff – definitely one more for the ladies.  Will they like me?  Do I look good in this outfit?  What if I don’t fit in?  Was that meal OK?  It’s endless what we worry about, and far better for our health if we just let these ones go.

Let’s face it, not everyone is going to like you.  (Hard to believe I know.)  As women we tend to be pleasers, always wanting to keep everyone happy.  Sometimes to the point that we forget what makes us happy, what we want to do. 

Maybe it is because I am a Pisces, a Blue, an ENFP, but I worry a lot about relationships, especially when they are not going well.  My tendency is to want to go in and fix them, make everything all right.  But then I hate confrontations.  So I am learning the hard way that sometimes that’s not possible.  It takes two to tango and sometimes the damage and hurt done needs to fade before the relationship can be fixed.

What I do know as a cancer survivor is that worrying is not good for your health. It doesn’t just eat away inside your head, it festers in your body.  Stress – and really that is what worrying ends up being – while sometimes good in moderation – can hurt you.

The seniors in the study offered some great advice:

·      Remember this too will pass.
·      Take it one day at a time.
·      Think short term instead of long term.
·      Instead of worrying, prepare.
·      Ask yourself, if I did that, then what?
·      Let it be. 
·      Let go and move on.

As Bobby McFerrin’s song goes  - in every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double. So don’t worry, be happy.  

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