While a healthy level of worry can help us perform efficiently at work, anticipate dangers, and learn from past errors, excessive worry can make an otherwise sane person seem crazy, devoid of sound judgment, peace of mind and happiness. So how do you curb the anxiety associated with stress and toxic worry?
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. . . The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote those lines nearly 90 years ago. The solution then, as now, was to be found in connection.
“Never worry alone,” an old teacher of mine used to say. Now, more than ever, we need to turn to each other. It is a fact of human nature that the intensity of worry diminishes the moment it is shared, even though the external reality hasn’t changed one bit.
A human connection instantly reduces a person’s sense of vulnerability while it augments a person’s feeling of power and control. These subjective feelings—vulnerability, power, control—determine a person’s capacity to take creative and effective action. Such capacity is crucial when the world is chaotic, confusing, and on the brink of disaster, as it is today in many places.
To appreciate the visceral nature of this fact, imagine you are in a huge warehouse alone, in the dark. You would likely feel frightened and paranoid. But, if someone were with you, you would likely feel bold and far less afraid.
This is what we all need today. Someone to be with us. A hand in the dark. Because, let’s face it, we are all in the dark. No one knows for sure what’s coming. But I can tell you, for sure, the best way to get ready for what’s coming: bolster your connections. Deepen friendships. Recommit to clubs and organizations you believe in. Recommit to God, if God has meaning to you, or commit to some spiritual practice that allows you to connect with what lies beyond knowledge. Make time for the people you love the most. Nothing in this world is as powerful a protective force as the force of love.
It is sad that we are going to have to endure hard times to rediscover these truths. But it is heartening that connection is free and readily available. No recession or depression can remove its abundance. No Madoff or mini-Madoff can steal it. No chaos or confusion can vitiate it, no nightmare destroy it, no force abolish it.
All we need do to survive, and eventually once again thrive, is turn to each other and to all that we love and believe in. This will activate the best in all of us, and our combined best efforts will renovate our new world.
As Samuel Johnson said centuries ago, “The pleasures of sudden wonder are soon exhausted, and the mind can only repose upon the stability of truth.” Over the past decades, we’ve pretty much exhausted the pleasures of sudden wonder. Now it’s time to try truth. It is time to connect.
You can learn more about the types of worry, its underlying causes and the best strategies for coping with worry in Dr. Hallowell’s book: Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition.
Listen to my Podcast on How to Face Your Fears.
Heightened Vulnerability + Lack of Control = Toxic Worry. If you're paralyzed by toxic worry and feeling distressed, it could be anxiety. The Hallowell Centers treat a broad spectrum of cognitive and behavioral conditions, including anxiety and depression. Learn more HERE.