Don't Worry, Be Happy: How to Cope with Life
As we all know, some people worry too much. Rather than solving a problem, too much worry becomes the problem. Not only does excessive worry create much personal suffering, but it also affects the people around the worrier. I wonder if a lot of our worrying in life is like this: constant, spontaneous and effortless focus that gets dislodged by distracting external events or our own change of perspective. Now, I think that anyone who does not worry is just living on a different planet; yet, as we know, just worrying about the weather does not make it rain.
9 Tips for Coping with Life, from a Psychologist
After 31 years of working in the field of psychology, I know a few things make a difference in coping with life.
- Pay Attention to the Important Things, More than the Urgent. Sometimes the only way to get the important done is to stick it between the urgent things that drive our days. Worry is often related to disorganization. Make a list of things to do each day and cross off tasks once they are completed. Leave early enough to make appointments on time. Put your keys in the same place every time you come home. Keep your house straightened up. When things are under control, there is less to worry about.
- Take Action on What You Want To Do And Figure Your Results As A “Prototype”. A handy friend of mine told me how he approaches building things. He considers the first version as his working model. Although I have two left hands with tools, I always thought I had to get it right the first time. My combination of ridiculously high expectations and little tolerance for error was a deeply frustrating workshop ethic to follow.
- If You Do Not Know How To Do it, Ask For Help. Most of us just need a little guidance or a resource with whom to check out our experience. We all need support and positive feedback from time to time. Other people may have solutions to problems that we haven’t thought about. For reassurance, find people who know how to give it. Many of us spend a lifetime looking in all the wrong places for approval.
- Try To Do The Right Thing. Maintain your sense of integrity whenever you do something. Tell the truth. Obey the law. Keep to your promises. Let your conscience be your guide. Granted, we might tell an occasional lie or break a promise, and this is fairly common – but it can also set the stage for worry. We may think sometimes that we can get ahead in the world the easy way – but the price we pay could be excessive worry, among other penalties.
- Minimize Catastrophic Thinking. Some people find it difficult to keep perspective when faced with even a minor stressor. Not every mole means cancer and not every bill is going to lead to bankruptcy. Test out the reality of these situations by talking them over with a trust friend.
- Limit Your Exposure to the News. Although there is value in keeping up with the latest news, understand that the media focus on bad news since this tends to sell best. We seldom hear about the good news in the world on TV or newspapers. Constant exposure to negative events increases our tendency to worry. Instead, look for what is good in life.
- Sleep, Eat Properly, Exercise. Lack of sleep and a bad diet can make us irritable, distracted, and anxious – all condition which set the stage for worry. (Try to be mindful of the problem of overeating as a way of making our worries disappear.) Exercise helps us dissipate the anxiety that often accompanies worry.
- Avoid Substance Abuse. Drugs and alcohol may give the illusion of comfort for the time being, but using them has negative long-term consequences. They increase depression, cloud judgment and may give you something to really worry about later.
- Learn How to Let Go of Worries. This is a skill that might require some practice and each of us will have our way of doing it. Some people do this by allowing themselves perhaps half an hour a day of worry time – and at the end of the allotted time period, they will be free of worrying until the next day. Some people give up their worries by writing them down on a piece of paper and then tearing them up. Some people prefer to hand them over to a higher power.
The 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. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace, taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will, that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
As this year continues, on behalf of the psychologists in the practice, I want to thank you for recommending us to others.