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About this blog: I developed a special interest in helping seniors with their challenges and transitions when my dad had a stroke and I helped him through all the various stages of downsizing, packing, moving and finding an assisted living communi...  (More)

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Worrying: Would it help?

Uploaded: Jun 15, 2016
There’s a scene in the Tom Hanks movie “Bridge of Spies” where Hanks is talking with the captured Russian spy who is to be exchanged for a captured American spy. Hanks is the go-between. The Russian doesn’t know if he will be given a hero’s welcome when he returns to Mother Russia, or if he’ll be facing the firing squad as a traitor. Hanks seems very concerned with the spy’s welfare and state of mind and asks him why he doesn’t seem worried to death at the prospect of possibly facing the firing squad. The Russian answers by asking Hanks “Would it help?”

Worrying. Does it help, will it help, has it helped? There are so many things to worry about these days:
Which bathroom people should use
Will Donald Trump become President
Where will the next mass murder take place
Will the Warriors blow a 3-1 Finals series lead (It’s 3-2, and the answer is no.)
When will they discover at work that I am not qualified for my job
Is my spouse cheating
Should I sell my house now or wait a while and watch its value grow
Will there finally be a real downturn in the Palo Alto housing market
If I sold my house I’m going to make $2 million but I'm so worried that I'll have to pay capital gains taxes (there are some strategies to avoid or minimize them)
Will my kid get into a top tier college or make me feel like a failure as a parent (sheesh)
Will my stock go up or should I sell now

Now, that’s not to say that we can’t pay attention to things that affect us, be prepared, do some research, have a plan. But that’s a far cry from constantly allowing ourselves to be bombarded by media of all kinds that thrive off of covering the worst of humankind and stoking our fear and worry quadrants of the brain. Of all the media, I would say local Bay Area news is probably the worst. Access to virtually all newspapers on line is a close second. Being informed about our world is one thing but walking around with the accumulated negative thoughts and images of the universe is quite something else.

We also don’t need outside media to set us off on the path of constant worry. Working in senior retirement communities I see every day the difference between the quality of life the folks with a positive mental attitude have towards their new life in the community, and those that fret and worry about everything that could possibly go wrong or, according to their “high standards” is not quite right. They are all eating the same food, walking down the same halls, swimming in the same pools. The one group sees the positive, the other always worrying and looking for the negative. And I’ve noticed that the “negative” group can often be seen devouring the local papers. Coincidence, causation?

Darrin Hardy in his book The Compound Effect has some useful downloadable forms you can use to chart your media exposure and become aware of what you are spending your time listening to and looking at and filling you mind up with. Especially before bed-time. That’s probably the worst time to feed and stimulate your mind with negative images.

I also love what the late, great Lou Tice says in his book Smart Talk: “Worrying is negative goal-setting.”

So we have a real choice we can exercise every day: to worry or not to worry. And if you have “always been a worrier”, you know the three little words that you can say to yourself to change that: “Up until now.”

Have a worry-free day.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Massechusetts, a resident of another community,
on Jun 15, 2016 at 5:31 pm

What has helped me is getting up in the morning and writing a gratitude list. This starts my day with positive thoughts instead of the worrying thoughts.
Also, talking to people about issues also helps you feel supported.

Posted by Max Greenberg, a resident of another community,
on Jun 17, 2016 at 12:35 pm

BrandonCole: thanks for your comment. Worrying can also be paralyzing, all-consuming and self-defeating. There's a big difference between what you described and what I am talking about. And maybe a matter of degree. Sure, we use our imaginations to anticipate potential dangers and develop ways to avoid them, as you say. But if we worry about those dangers and multiply them in our minds, imagined or otherwise, that's when their burden can be overwhelming and not productive.

Posted by SEA_SEELAM REDDY, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 18, 2016 at 4:57 am

SEA_SEELAM REDDY is a registered user.

I learned at work to use 80/20 rule at Aerojet in 1977.

It said 80 percent of things we do have 20% value
20% of things we do have 80% value.

Based on it I prioritize my life.

It sort of works. I think more about the 80% value items and rest is somewhat noise.


Posted by Type A, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Jun 19, 2016 at 9:56 am

@Max: Thanks so much for the quote, “Would it help?” As a worrier, these are three easy words to remember.

Another thing I try to remember is that time doesn't stop. I was planning an event for 200+ people and it was going to be a success. Just the fact that I got 200+ to attend was amazing. As the date approached, I was immobilized by my fear of the event actually occurring (I had planned for 10 months, working on it daily). There was one last item that I just couldn't finish. I think my subconscious was thinking that if I didn't finish it, the event wouldn't occur?! Because I was not worried! I finished it haphazardly up to the start time of the event and the event was a success. But my mantra now, besides "Time doesn't stop", is also, "Would it help?"

Posted by Kazu, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 19, 2016 at 8:56 pm

While media might be one source of worry, aren't there other factors that can cause people to worry? Could it be that the newspapers are merely appealing to those with a negative attitude rather than causing it? Multitudes watch the evening news and read the newspaper, both in print or online. Most people don't seem to be overly affected by the experience. Comments sections can be particularly tumultuous, to the point that some online publications have discontinued their use. It might be that worriers tend to take things a little too seriously.

My own observations are that worry is more often caused by emotional trauma, fear of change, or wanting to live up to the expectations of others, or a combination thereof. Instead of being concerned about things, they constantly fret, panic and think disaster is imminent. Others shut down and don't do much of anything, including routine tasks most of us perform every day. Both responses can be self-fulfilling prophecies.

Nobody is going to pay you to worry, so why do it?
Or perhaps adopt the dog's philosophy of life: If you can't eat it or mate with it, just piss on it and walk away.

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