Ten Ways to Cope with Worries and Anxieties
by Jayaram V
Worry refers to any state of anxiety, unease, disturbance or concern about something that seems to threaten one’s peace and happiness. It is a kind of suffering, which is common to humans and most evolved animals. No one can be free from them, since no one can have full control over the factors that govern life.
People suffer from worries for various reasons. If worries are caused by real problems, they can be resolved. However, difficulties arise when worries are not caused by real problems, but by exaggerated fears, imaginary problems or irrational thinking. When it happens, people become stuck in their worries and find it difficult to cope with them. Some worries also stay in our minds, like relics of the past, even though the situations that created them do not exist anymore. We cling to them because either we have not yet fully resolved the pain and suffering they caused or we want to use them to justify certain behavior, thinking and attitude.
From a survival point of view, worries prepare us to face threats and problems. They warn us about what is not right with our lives or actions, or the direction in which we are heading. If we act upon them, most worries go away, but if we do not, the feelings intensify. At times, worry or anxiety may also arise due to intuition. The intuitive mind may perceive a problem, which the conscious mind is not yet aware of. The feeling may help the person proactively prepare for the situation.
In spiritual life, pain and suffering are used for self-awareness, self-improvement and self-transformation. Initiates are encouraged to cultivate detachment, sameness and indifference towards both pain and pleasure and become stoical. Philosophically speaking, suffering teaches us valuable lessons about ourselves, our thinking and behavior. All major world religions aim to teach people effective ways to cope with suffering or minimize it, by avoiding certain actions and attitudes that produce suffering.
How to Face Your Worries and Anxieties?
It is humanly not possible to be completely free from worries. Rich or poor, strong or weak, everyone suffers from some form of worry or anxiety. Our vulnerabilities are such that even small problems and concerns can lead to worrisome thoughts. Therefore, from a worldly perspective, it is unrealistic to expect to lead a completely worry-free life. However, with right effort, right knowledge and right thinking one can reasonably resolve most of the worrisome thoughts, and experience peace and anxiety. In worst case scenarios, where their causes cannot be resolved, one can learn to endure them. In this regard, the following suggestions are worth considering.
1. Take care of your health: Health is a major source of worry and anxiety for many people. It is especially so with older people, as they begin to experience the problems of aging. Therefore, try to keep yourself healthy, with right habits and discipline in matters of diet, rest, relaxation and exercise.
2. Be proactive: If you identify problems and threats in advance, you can resolve most worries even before they occur. You can also take preventive measures to secure your life and insure yourself against possible threats and hazards. Many people do not plan for their financial future and suffer in the process.
3. Resolve problems in time: If a problem is not solved in time, it becomes a crisis and a major source of worry and anxiety. Therefore, resolve your problems in time, however unpleasant they may be. Also find solutions in such a way that by solving one problem you do not create more problems for yourself.
4. Take care of grievances: In personal and professional relationships, you may often have to deal with grievances and others’ displeasure, as you may ignore them, undermine them or make decisions, which may directly affect them. You should resolve them in time, so that they do not become problematic.
5. Mind your business. Sometimes, you may be tempted to become involved with other people’s problems, without being asked, which can lead to unintended consequences. You should know where to draw the line and mind your own business, so that you can avoid unnecessary problems in relationships.
6. Make peace with your past: Everyone goes through difficult times, when they were dependent and not in control of their lives. Think of the people who might have hurt you or caused you suffering or made you feel helpless and guilty. Mentally make peace with them and your own failures and move on.
7. Accept your limitations: For peace of mind, you must know what you can and cannot do, where your talents and skills are, and where you may need help and guidance from others. If you overstep those limits, you may expose yourself to unnecessary risks, problems and worries, which may cost you dearly.
8. Keep yourself busy: Busy people remain preoccupied with their tasks and goals, and do not easily let depressing thoughts enter their minds and torment them. Hence, keep yourself busy. If nothing else to do, attend to pending work, read a book, visit a friend, help a family member or practice a new skill.
9. Cultivate right habits: Healthy habits lead to discipline, peace and happiness. Unhealthy ones such as smoking, drugs and excessive alcohol consumption impair a person’s health and happiness, apart from causing other problems. Focus on good habits that reflect your values and help you achieve your goals.
10. Stay free from negative people: Negative people habitually worry about something or the other and pass on the same feelings to others. They focus on the negative aspects of life, complain a lot and do not easily appreciate anything. Therefore, it is better to stay away from them or minimize contact with them. Instead, find people who are generous in their appreciation and optimistic by nature.
It is easier to theorize about worry and suggest solutions for it, but it is practically impossible to get rid of all thoughts of worry and anxiety. Our vulnerabilities are such that even small issues can lead to exaggerated fears, worry and anxiety. Since the earliest times, people have been searching for solutions to deal with the problem of suffering, but with limited success.
From a religious perspective, one can see that suffering demands great sacrifices on our part to disappear from our consciousness. Only a few can ever succeed in that effort. However, in worldly life, you can try to minimize its impact upon you, by avoiding certain behaviors and cultivating certain attitudes. It is the best we can do in the present circumstances.
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