In a cartoon a wife tells her husband: “You worry too much… it doesn’t do any good…” And the husband replies: “It does for me… 95% of the things I worry about never happen!”

Worriers can have a very active imagination but when worrying becomes excessive the imagination can be a handicap.  But not all worries are made equal. There a worries about problems that can be solved and then there are worries about problems that cannot be solved; these are the useless worries.    For example, an adolescent might worry about the coming exam.  She worries about what questions might come up, what if she forgets this or that, what if she fails, etc.. and the list of the “what ifs” go on and on. At this point it is very important to distinguish between what can be controlled and what cannot be controlled.  She can control studying for the exam to the best of her ability but she cannot control the outcome.

Here are some myths about worrying: it helps me solve a problem,  it prepares me for the worst, it protects me from the unexpected, etc… In fact, worrying does not help at all and has the opposite effect of increasing stress.  Exaggerated worry can provoke many disorders  (panic attacks, phobias, obsessions and anxiety)  and affects many facets of our being: thoughts, emotions, physical reactions and behaviors. Next I would like to propose a few tips with the hope of keeping worrying in check:

First start by making  a list of all possible worries (paying bills, meeting a dateline, doing more exercise, etc…)

Cross out all the things you cannot control (the price of gas, the weather, your partner’s mood, etc…).  Decide to tolerate them since there is nothing you can do to change them.

About the things you have some control, ask yourself what can I do about them? (Can I study more to improve my grades, can I take an extra part-time job to improve my financial situation,  can I be more understanding so my friend is not angry at me, etc…) This is the problem solving part. Try to do everything possible to change those things you can change and then let the outcome go.  You have done your part to the best of your ability, now rest. Accept that you cannot control everything.  After all the sun rises every day without our help.

The next thing is to identify two moments in the day when you are specially anxious (possibly mid-morning and mid-afternoon) and do a reality check:

1.  Check how your body feels: are you too hot, too cold, hungry, thirsty, tired, etc… and do what is required to be at ease, to release the discomfort, the nervousness. Sometimes it does not take much to change our body/mind set.

2. Check the environment: unwanted sounds, colors, smells, company, etc… and see if you can do anything to change the external situation perhaps by removing yourself.

3. Check what emotion is dominant now, probably fear.  Do not repress it and acknowledge that “fear is happening”.  Do whatever physical movements are necessary to unblock and circulate the energy, for example a Yoga lion roar: open the eyes, open the mouth, stick the tongue out and roar with all your might.  Scare away the demon of fear.

Anxiety is the result of being uncertain about the future, of not living fully in the present moment.  Being aware and mindful of the task at hand (walking, eating, working, reading, etc…) is then crucial to take our minds away from the future and the “what if?” Because the breath is always happening right now it is a most important focus to bring our awareness to the present.  So become aware of your breath right now: is it too fast, too shallow, too unbalanced? Accept it the way it is without judgement or blame.  To regulate your breath count your inhale to 2 and your exhale to 4, then inhale to 3 and exhale to 6.  After a while you will calm down and the inhale and the exhale will become balanced.  This is what you are aiming for. Of course if you can attend Yoga classes on a regular basis you will become familiar with more breathing exercises and relaxation techniques which will be very helpful.

Guided imagery can also be a good way to use skillfully the runaway imagination.  There are many guided imagery tapes in the market or the internet that can help develop positive qualities like courage and patience.

Finally,  repeat the following Serenity Prayer:

May I accept the things I cannot change,                                                                                      Have the courage to change the things I can change                                                                  And the wisdom to know the difference.”




About suryasanmiguel

I'm a Yoga teacher and educator. I was born in Madrid, Spain and came to Canada in the 70's to study but remained here. I received a degree in Education from McGill University. In my student's years I had the good fortune of meeting my Zen teacher, Roshi Phillip Kapleau and I studied with him for 15 years attending numerous retreats. In 1988 I was also very fortunate to meet Swami Vishnudevananda at the Sivananda Yoga Camp in Quebec where I became a certified Yoga teacher My interest in Budhism and Hinduism also led me to meet several Tibetan Lamas and study their teachings and traditions. I live presently in Montreal, Canada but travel frequently teaching Yoga and giving workshops and lectures on spiritual related topics.
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5 Responses to HOW TO WORRY WELL

  1. Maya cerda says:

    Great post mom!!

  2. Vicky D says:

    Hallo Mrs. Miguel,

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all those beautiful thoughts you sent to me during the last several weeks. They are full of wisdom and beauty, they are just the solution of everything, that we cannot cope with.

    My best wishes for the New Year, I wish you all the happiness of the world, I wish you to make me think like you in order to be able to understand the secret of the difficulties of the world and the capability to live with them and to feel them in a different and better way.

    I have hard time to observe how a very dear creature of mine is unable to have a normal life and nobody can help.

    I am exhausted and hopeless. Is the Canadian medical body so week, or our case is very unusual? My patience is legendary but everything has a limit!

    Respectfully Yours,


    • Happy New Year to you, dear friend! I know how painful it is to see a dear one suffer. My heart is with you. There is not much I can tell you except a thought that came into my mind reading your words. The Dalai Lama exemplifies a compassionate being that every day has to live with the pain of seeing his country, his people, his religion being destroyed so it seems that a redeeming quality of suffering is the opening of the heart and the awakening of tremendous compassion, a compassion that is so much needed in the world. I hear that you are exhausted but please take also good care of yourself. Let me know if I can do anything from here. I send you all my love, Surya

  3. Marita Martinez says:

    Ya estamo en Mallorca , el viaje a HK
    Muy bien , nos gusto mucho y Tonina estuvo contentísima y fue una anfitriona muy eficiente , extraordinaria Bali también fue muy bonito e interesante , pero demasiado calor Todo en general , una gran experiencia
    Bueno y vosotros que congelalitos estáis , impresionante , tanta nieve ,
    Te deseo para ti y tu preciosa familia lo mejor del 2014 , con mucha salud para disfrutarlo
    Besos , siento la tardanza en responderte pero hasta hoy , no encontré , el mentó , todo ha sido muy intenso
    Gracias por tus escritos

    Enviado desde mi iPhone

    > El 03/01/2014, a las 23:27, “suryasanmiguel” escribió:

    • Feliz ano nuevo a vosotros. He seguido un poco vuestro viaje por las fotos de Tonina en Facebook. Por cierto tu no estas en Facebook. Y me alegra decirte que no estoy congelada en Canada, sino que estoy al borde de la playa en las Bahamas! Un abrazo muy fuerte.

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