How to Kill Worry for GoodBy Homaira Kabir
As a kid, I was a worrier. I worried about everything my wild and fearful imagination could think of. My grandmother often tried to calm me by telling me stories of the time in her life when she too suffered from endless worry. This always came as a surprise, because my grandmother had the most cheerful outlook on life of anyone I knew. She said she owed it to her doctor who had listened to her ailments and devised a simple treatment plan. Wake up early, he had advised her, milk the cows, separate the wheat from the chaff and gather the mangoes from high up in the trees.
As a kid, I wondered whether the doctor was a hoax. Today, I believe he was a man of great wisdom. He figured out that my grandma’s condition was mostly a figment of her imagination and decided to keep her busy. In the classic How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers the same advice: “Spit on your hands and get busy. Your blood will start circulating; your mind will start ticking—and pretty soon this whole positive upsurge of life in your body will drive worry from your mind. Get busy. Keep busy. It’s the cheapest kind of medicine there is on this earth—and one of the best.”
As humans, with our ability to time travel in our minds, we spend a large part of our waking hours envisioning our ideal future. But this same ability also makes us hang on to the failures of the past and sabotage our steps towards our goals. A gulf begins to form between our current selves and our ideal selves, and this is where worry resides. The wider the gulf, the greater the worry.
The Limits of Cognition
One way of taming this worry is to challenge our thoughts. It's a helpful first step because we may be engaged in "Thinking Errors" such as seeing the world in black and white or overgeneralizing a single event. But by itself, a cognitive approach does not get us far. Dr. Aaron Beck, foun