Worry versus Anxiety

I have a best friend who is a worrier. She worries to the point that she loses sleep from worrying. I’ve been thinking about ways I could help her with that, and since she reads my blog, I thought maybe I’d share an exercise here that I use on myself. Because, as I’m fond of saying, “Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” So here is what I do in my head, using a real-life example:

Question: What is the worst thing that could happen if you get the vaccine? Answer: I could die from it.

Question: Is that a realistic worry? Answer: No.

Question: What is the worst thing realistically that could happen if you get the vaccine? Answer: I could have the same thing that happens when I get an intramuscular shot and my arm will not only be sore but be swollen and reddened and hot.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you arm reacts like that? Answer: I will be in moderate pain for up to three days with very limited use of my arm.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you are in that kind of pain for that amount of time? Answer: I will not be able to do anything but lay down and feel sorry for myself.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you lay down and feel sorry for yourself? Answer: I will waste time that I could be using to do other things.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you waste time you could spend doing other things? Answer: Things won’t get done, plus I’ll get behind on my reading goal.

Question: What is the worst thing that will happen if you don’t get things done or fall behind on your reading goal? Answer: To be honest, it will be like those days when my energy level is depleted to the level that I just lay around.

Question: So what is it that are you worried about… again?

See how that works? I’m still anxious about the shot and the effects of it, because I know what that pain is like and would rather not experience it, but in the scheme of things, it’s not really something I need to be worked up about so much than it consumes my thoughts and keeps me from getting rest! And as a result of this exercise, I will be at an appointment in 5 hours’ time for the first shot. Now, I’m much more anxious about the second shot because I’ve heard a myriad of different experiences from people after receiving it, but even if it puts me down for a couple of days, I already know that in the big picture, it’s not something to worry about. I don’t like being down (I had bronchitis about 7 years ago that had me in bed for two weeks) but this isn’t anything that’s going to affect my life long-term. And the pride I will feel having faced the anxiety and fear and having conquered it will bring its own reward.

So, next time you are feeling worried (especially you, bestie!), work it out this way and let go of the worry that something drastic will happen. All of your worry isn’t going to change the fact that what will be, will be!

Balancing Worry and Preparedness

There is still news now and again about a “second wave” of COVID-19 headed our way this fall. With the general election for President of the United States looming in the near future, it seems that news is taking precedent, with less than 30 days before election day. Once that is over, no matter the outcome, the pandemic is likely to become the forefront of the news again.

Having survived the initial onset of COVID-19, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is still numb to much of the information being presented about it. I do worry about it, not so much for myself but for how it affects the many people living in our country, as well as the world. And yes, sometimes I wonder if I should be stocking up on toilet paper while there is still some available.

It’s the time of year now where I start ‘nesting’, making sure the pantry is full in case of bad winter weather, so I don’t quarrel with myself about whether I’m stock-piling canned goods in case of a second wave. But it is in the back of my mind that I need to be prepared for its possibility nonetheless. My bestie and I are going to do an abbreviated girls’ day out next week. It will be our first one since last fall, and we’ve not been out for our monthly lunches since the one we had in February. I’ve been to her home a couple of times – and the clan will be gathering to order delivery from our favorite Italian place on Saturday in ‘celebration’ of Labor Day. I haven’t been there since July. I tend to see her by meeting her in the parking lot where and when she gets to work, exchanging food goodies and books.

I have friends who are still exhibiting anxiety from the original COVID-19 pandemic. If I’m a little bit worried about a second wave, I can’t help but wonder what they are feeling! One friend in particular is still mourning and bemoaning all of the things her family couldn’t do this summer and even triggered memories of times past on her social media only incites that moaning even more. I struggle dealing with that; a part of me wants to remind her that a.) she’s not the only one and b.) she’s got a lot of wonderful memories of annual vacations and time spent doing what she loved that many of us don’t have. I struggle with the inability to look at any kind of positive and constantly nose-diving into the moans of negativity.

COVID-19 changed the world for all of us! None of us has, and we will never have, that “back to normal” possibility. We need to face that there is only a “new normal” for us in store. When (I refuse to believe “if”) this pandemic has finally left its mark on all of us and our world’s history and has finally released us from being hostages to it, nothing we knew before will be the same again. Most of us will take some of the healthiness about social distancing and shaking hands, etc., with us. As a hugger by nature, this will be difficult for me, especially when seeing someone I haven’t seen in (what seems like) forever due to it.

I start physical therapy for my shoulder/arm next week. Knowing my low tolerance for pain, I’m concerned about how badly it may hurt, and I’ve done my searching online to know what the worst case scenario might be. It’s my nature to expect the worst, knowing that I won’t be disappointed if the worst doesn’t happen. I’m most worried about the recuperation time if I need to have some outpatient surgery done. Research says that could be 4 to 6 months, some time spent in a sling. It’s my right side, and I’m right-handed. There are so many things I can’t do now because of the pain that arises, and I’ve been dealing with this for 4 months. I don’t like feeling helpless!

Anyhow, I digress…. Humanity suffers from many catastrophes. Tornados, hurricanes, flooding, fire, war. Somehow, survivors manage to pick up the pieces and put themselves back together again. And I realize that they don’t get to go “back to normal” either, but must build a “new normal” for the rest of their lives. I am worried – we all should be to some extent – but I am doing my best to be prepared as well. I can choose to moan and focus on the negative, but none of that energy spent will change a single thing. I think it’s okay for me to have some sense of worry, because it keeps me alert. But if I do my best to be prepared and follow the guidelines and focus on what stands ahead in the future, I think I’m gonna be okay…