I tossed, I turned, and I worried like crazy the night before my son left for a semester of university in the U.S.
My stomach felt queasy and that’s when the light bulb popped: worrying would get me nowhere. It was stupid to worry. My anxious thoughts were keeping me awake and making me sick to my stomach.
To reinforce my revelation, I shifted my thoughts back to when I was his age and did crazy things like hitchhike from Los Angeles to Chicago. (I won’t go into other sordid details of my youth—I think you get the picture.) Suddenly all traffic stopped on the superhighway between my stomach and my brain.
During the weeks after this incident, I realized that my recent yoga teacher training played a role in my transformation from worrywart to cool cucumber. And I understood that if I continued to regularly practice and teach yoga, many other pleasant surprises lay ahead.
I mentioned my bed-time incident to friends and family members who have kids. They all agreed that I was right: worrying is useless; it wastes time and threatens health. They told me some hilarious stories about their worry-triggered bad behavior (and yes, their thoughts affected them physically). So now I remind them of these and other yoga-related ways to conquer anxiety and its side effects:
Identify triggers, then choose a mental, physical or spiritual remedy to dissolve the worry.
Yogis know that calming the mind through breathing and meditation are ways to prevent and quell anxiety. Mindfulness plays a crucial role during daily living because if you’re functioning in the present, then you’re better able to identify your emotion (fear, worry or anxiety) and do something about it on the spot.
For example: now, when I feel a useless emotion swelling up, I push away thoughts that triggered it and replace them with other thoughts. I know this is easier written than done, but it can be done. It just takes practice.
Sometimes you just need to feel reassured about your actions.
You can also ease your mind and perhaps avoid worry by consulting other parents, including your own. Other times, you might need suggestions on how to cope with various situations. Parents who’ve been through what you’re going through might help you stop your neurotransmitters from misfiring.
Always take the necessary physical action immediately, because the longer you procrastinate, the stronger the worry.
Avoiding physical actions, such as doing laundry, might trigger worry over whether or not the kids will have clean clothes for upcoming events. I kept 14 pairs of socks and underwear on hand for each kid, which weakened the worry burden. If your child has a reading problem, search the web for ideas on how you can help. Fretting over the overdue library books was never an issue for my friend because she never allowed her kids to check them out: she bought all their books.
Eliminating or dealing with worry from a spiritual perspective probably dates back to the beginning of religious practices. For many people, talking to a higher power or praying works wonders—as demonstrated by a cousin who is raising a son and twin daughters.
“I put my faith in my god, and then I don’t need to worry.”
I’ll leave you with a version of the tried-and-true “Serenity Prayer” by Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr and perhaps you’ll keep troublesome thoughts at bay:
“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.”
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Assistant ed: Catherine Monkman[Photo: Ulrica Toming]