How to combat massive anxiety

be-not-anxious

There is a cottage industry that thrives when people are anxious and even scared. It seems to be working overtime these days, feeding away at our fear.

I peeked at social media Monday morning, and tucked away among the puppy pictures and kitten videos and political arguments was a tweet that musician Rosanne Cash had posted in the early morning:

“If you were up at 3 am with massive anxiety @ the world, you needn’t have bothered. I had it covered. Put this tweet on automatic redial.”

Yep, it’s a scary world we live in. Lots of stuff that could wake you from a deep sleep and keep you from getting back to la-la land. No matter who you are or where you live or what you believe, there’s plenty to worry about.

Times like this, I keep coming back to what another musician, Tom Petty, said about times like this:

“Most things I worry about never happen anyway.”

Ever since Tom woke me out of a comfortable bout of worry-wartism a couple of decades ago when he sang those words in the middle of “Crawling Back to You,” I’ve been noticing how true they are.

Though the world may be racked with political upheaval, natural and manmade disasters, war and rumors of war, threats of worldwide epidemic and death and destruction – through it all, life goes on, and in the immortal words of Samwise Gamgee, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

Bad things? Scary things? Oh yes, bad things happen, and scary things too. However, it’s also true that most things we worry about never happen anyway. But when they do, the thing that shines brightest is the love and resiliency of the human spirit.

That cottage industry I mentioned above, though, does its best to stoke the fire of hate and despair, fanning the flames of fear and anger. And so many people fall for it.

I’m currently reading a book that my good friend Wally Conger recommended, A Simple Act of Gratitude. At the darkest moment of his life, depressed and filled with melancholy, author John Kralik started to look not at what he had lost but at the blessings he still possessed. He resolved to write a thank you note every day to someone who had helped him or inspired him.

What he found was that despite the bad things and scary things, his life was still filled with good things and hopeful things. The act of searching for reasons to be grateful empowered him to recover his sense of hope and balance.

Sure, there are plenty of reasons to have massive anxiety about the world. What else is new? There are many more reasons to believe it’s going to be all right. Tap the energy that ties your stomach in knots and use it to set your heart and head on an optimistic course.

I keep coming back to the famous Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s easy to be overcome by fear of the things you cannot change. You can get so wrapped up in that fear that you don’t realize how many things you do have the power to change. Changing your focus away from the thing you cannot, and toward the things you can, is not only the beginning of wisdom but the beginning of the end of your fear.

I’ve compiled a small pile of thoughts about harnessing your anxiety into a little book called Refuse to be Afraid. I’d love you to check it out (shameless self-promotion: The revised book is available exclusively on Amazon for ebook and Lulu for print), but rest assured you’ll find free words of encouragement on this website on a regular basis, too.

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WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith, journalist and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, and a couple of cats.

2 thoughts on “How to combat massive anxiety”

  1. Thanks Warren for your past leadership in the print media field. You always showed a lot of class and a steady hand in your work. We wish you the best in your future endeavors.

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