Don’t Feed the Fears
This playful little quote has a very serious undertone, and I chose it today as I reminder to myself.
I am a worrier by nature… and I have lost more hours of sleep in my life to the ‘what if’s’ than I care to admit…. But lost sleep aside, I choose to believe that worry comes to us not as an enemy- but as a messenger…
Worry occurs in the void. What I mean is this: If we are worried about something, it is usually because something is missing or askew. At least in my own life, worry shows up for a reason…. And even though worry invariably takes me into my discomfort zone (yes, I said discomfort zone) it also always heightens my senses, increases my empathy, clarifies my priorities, and generally despite the fact that it makes me lose sleep- leaves me more WOKE than before it arrived. It may not be the yellow brick road…but it is the path I have always traveled.
So, for the last week worry has been burning the midnight oil at our house…. And despite my best intentions I have found myself awake and ‘Feeding the Fears’ a bit…. Its why I am sitting out on the couch in our family room typing right now while the clock ticks past 1am.
Last week our youngest came down with the stomach flu- he was violently ill with the usual symptoms, but he also experienced a wildly fluctuating body temperature ranging from the low 94’s up into the high 102’s. A fast moving 8-degree temperature span that occurs in the midst of a massive loss of body fluids is a frightening ride to take with anyone- but to be taking it with the littlest human in our family made it really scary.
Well, the debilitating flu symptoms have passed and the high fever is all gone, but those dang low temperature fluctuations are still hanging around…. and the worry and the what ifs are still nudging me awake at night …. and making me feed the fears.
Worry is no fun- but most of the time it is an adaptive behavior. Try to remember that worry serves a purpose. It is not just there to keep us up at night, sometimes it protects us, sometimes it is the tipping point to doing the thing or asking the question that makes all the difference in the world.
Three years ago, during a different bout of the flu, Ajay experienced a very similar temperature drop…. My worry over it led us to the emergency room, which led to him being flown to a children’s hospital… which led to him being cared for by one of the best Pediatric Auto-Immune Medical teams in the country.
Even though I am a near professional worrier, in 25 years of motherhood I had never once made a frantic middle of the night run to an emergency room with one of my children, until that night with Ajay. Worry paved the way to what ended up being a true game changer, and a full three years later, we still hop on a plane and visit this same team every 6-8 weeks without fail… and their care is why he is a thriving, happy, healthy little boy (despite being a hot mess of auto-immunity on the inside.) Worry was the tipping point to all of the very good dominoes that have fallen for Ajay medically…. And for that we are forever grateful.
So, worry serves a purpose. It is adaptive, and it usually arrives to protect and help us, but left unattended it can also burn like a wildfire and consume us.
If worry arrives into your world- acknowledge it- get to the bottom of why it is there- and fill whatever blank space the worry is occupying with something tangible. (For example, if you are worried that your boyfriend cancelled your dinner plans because he hates your cooking…. don’t just worry about it- ask him about it- fill in the void with information.)
When worry arrives push up against it- demand that it either stand up to your fears or evaporate. (I pushed up against my worries with Ajay by taking him to the ER for medical tests… and my worry did not evaporate, it turned out to be well founded.)
When we stay still and worry in silence…. That is when we ‘Feed the Fears’… and when it comes to sitting still and feeding the fears, JUST DON’T. If worry arrives, let it move you to action.
P.S. When I was done writing this blog, I pushed up against the worry that had me up writing in the first place and sent an email off to Ajay’s main doc. She will respond and my worry will either be founded or it will evaporate. It is a very simple equation once we push up against the worry with action.
Learning to do this can be difficult but it is amazing what a weak constitution worry has- it gives way easily when challenged… so don’t be afraid to push.