Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Anxiety is at the forefront of medical and educational conversations today. I’ve written before about the ways anxiety can put undue stress on your body and brain. I have also written about ways to prevent or soothe anxiety. In her new and irreverent book, artist and publishing executive Amber Rae argues that people should choose wonder over worry. What does that mean? Let me use a portion of Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential to explain. This selection deals with the author’s reaction to her father’s substance abuse and subsequent death in a car accident:

“What did upset me, however, was his wasted talent, creativity, and gifts. While I didn’t have the language to interpret my emotions at the time, now I can put words to the wondering I felt as a kid: I wondered how his life may have been different if he had more direction, more encouragement, and more self-compassion. I wondered about the contributions he could have made in his one lifetime had he worked up the courage to face himself, to work through his demons, and to understand the root of his pain. I wondered what art may have come through him, what business contributions he may have made, and the sense of self he many have discovered along the way. He had so much to give, but he got lost along the way.

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            Call it intuition, my higher self, or a sliver of something I heard from Oprah once, but I specifically heard a calm voice whisper these words: Please don’t die with your gifts still inside.

“And now, I turn to you, and say the same.

“Please don’t die with your gifts still inside.

“Please don’t be like the majority who regret what they could have done, but didn’t do, as Australian nurse Bronnie Ware saw when she counseled the dying in their last days. “I wish I could have lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me’ is what she uncovered as the most common regret. In their final breaths, most people hadn’t honored even half of their dreams. Instead, they took those unexpressed gifts to the grave…

“It led to my profound curiosity around what it means to live each day fully, which sent me on a path of asking – and seeking to answer – a central question: How do we express the fullness of who we are and what we have to give?”

She continues to explain that this was almost not written because she doubted herself. She listened to voices in her head that argued she wasn’t good enough or maybe it had already been written. Then, instead of focusing on her doubts, she chose to recreate the wonder she had experienced as a child. She explains that wonder is what we are born with and worry is what we learn. How can you reclaim that wonder? Using amusing and, at times, edgy examples, Rae lays out the groundwork for reclaiming wonder in our lives. You’ll have to read the book to find out how!

In the meantime, here are some more conventional tips to fighting anxiety. In her book, The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques, Margaret Wehrenberg lays out 10 methods to help overcome anxiety:

  1. Manage the body. People who are stressed don’t take care of their bodies, which leads to more stress. Therefore, in order to manage your emotional and mental state, you need to take care of your physical self by eating right, avoiding alcohol, sugar, and caffeine, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
  2. Breathe. Deep breathing slows down your stress response.
  3. Mindful awareness. Close your eyes and pay attention to your body. How does it feel to breathe? Do you feel your heart beat? Can you feel your stomach rumble? Now, focus your attention away from your body.
  4. Don’t listen when worry calls your name. Anxiety is an emotional state; anxiety is a monster. When you feed the monster by giving into the anxiety, you let it grow bigger.
  5. Knowing, not showing, anger. Sometimes anxiety and anger are coupled. When you feel angry, you begin to feel anxious. If you can separate those emotions and understand that you are feeling anger, rather than anxiety, it may help you let go.
  6. Have a little fun. When you are in the midst of an anxious moment, it’s hard to laugh. But, if you make an effort to add more laughter and lightness into your life, you might find it easier to navigate the stress-inducing moments.
  7. Turn it off. The idea is to “turn off” your ever-thinking mind. First, you think about each thing that is bothering you. Then, you visually place each worry into a mental container and close it shut. You can take out those worries when you have the time and resources to deal with them.
  8. Interrupt those worries. When you feel your brain starting up, say “Stop” or picture a stop sign or hand. Then, say something like, “I can do this” or another self-asserting statement.
  9. Worry well, but only once. If you simply must face your anxiety and you can’t turn it off or stop it, then you should worry. But, you should set aside a prescribed time that you are allowed to worry about it.
  10. Learn to plan, instead of worry. The difference between planning and worrying is that once you create a plan, you don’t need to check it over a million times.

Can you turn worry into wonder? Hopefully! But, if you can’t, at the very least, don’t let worry take over your life.

 

Register now for a Mindsets and ADHD workshop by Dr. Robert Brooks on November 13, 2018. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@gmail.com.