Thursday, March 4th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


When we worry,
we are focusing on the negative.

We create a lot of stress for ourselves when we worry. While in college I loaned my car to a friend who was rather irresponsible. I paced the floors worrying with all the 'what-ifs.' 'What if he wrecks my car?'

A friend of mine tried to help me by quoting a philosopher, 'Do not worry about those things that are not in your power to control.' While it was a nice thought, it didn't seem to help. It is like people telling us 'Don't worry.'

However, worry is trying to control something we cannot control. Our thinking is if I don't worry it will not turn out the way I want it to even though I know worry is not controlling the outcome. The only one being controlled is the worrier.

No one has to tell us that worry is a waste of times, so what can we do? One suggestion that is helpful is when we cannot sleep at night because of worry, to get up and write down all the things we are worrying about. If there are projects and tasks that need to be done, schedule a time tomorrow. Put the paper in the drawer and get back in bed. This procedure tells the brain that we have taken care of the list and now it is time to sleep.

Another way of handling worry is focusing our mind on something else. A neat mental tool is the 5-4-3-2-1 (Yvonne Dolan - solution focused therapy) method of relaxation. It works for those who are anxious. I found it useful when I went to the doctor for a checkup. I was running late so my blood pressure was up. He told me that he would give me a few minutes to relax. During that time I did the 5-4-3-2-1 method.

Closing my eyes I did my breathing with my abdomen. In my mind, I went to my favorite place: the Smokey Mountains. I stood on the mountain and saw 5 things: an eagle flying across the sky, clouds breaking into the mountains, stream below, etc.

Then I heard 5 things: the cry of the eagle, the sound of a crow, the water breaking over the rocks, etc. Then I felt 5 things: I felt the freedom standing on the mountain, the wind gently blowing on my face, the sun warming my body, etc. Then I moved to 4 things I see, feel, and hear. By the time I got to three I was extremely calm and when the doctor checked my blood pressure, it was great! It is like a form of self-hypnosis.

When we worry, we are focusing on the negative. We need to be our own cheerleaders by focusing on words and affirmations that empower. One of my favorite affirmation is: 'The power with me is greater than what I am facing.'

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700