Most of us devote far too much time worrying. We’re troubled over many little things and sometimes big issues that directly affect us. Currently, researchers tell us most ‘healthy’ people worry about 5 to 10 percent of the time, but the intensity of our worrying varies as in that first night your daughter failed to come home at her designated deadline hour – no phone call. Worry! Worry! Seriously worry! Your first dreaded thought: did she have an accident? You suffer the painful inability to do anything but worry. Then suddenly you hear that familiar sound of her coming up the driveway; your concern now lessens to, “Why is she so late?”
Much of the time, we’re troubled with smaller anxieties such as “Where did I leave my sunglasses? I was sure I had them right here in my purse!” We all hear stories of people who spend hours of each day agonizing about things that are based on old superstitions. Recently, I overheard a customer telling the drug store clerk, “On my way here, I had to slow down for a black cat to cross the road in front of me! Now I’m going to have bad luck all day long and really need to be careful!” We let ourselves fall into the preoccupation of believing, “Maybe I have cancer! Or “What if this surgery doesn’t solve my pain?” Experts refer to this practice as ‘catastrophizing,’ meaning an exaggerated focus on perceived failures in the person’s past, present or future. They trap themselves into an anxiety spiral of what affects how they feel, and directly influencing how they behave. Extreme cases can develop into painful, out-of-control panic attacks. Enduring at least 6 months of excessive worrying and anxiety may involve symptoms such as restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge, easily fatigued, irritable, unable to concentrate, along with sleep disturbance, resulting in the doctor’s diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Such a diagnosis requires serious training in coping strategies and a referral to a clinical psychologist who has experience in successfully treating patients with GAD.
On a simpler scale, just this morning, I found myself in a fretful state. I had in mind to whip up a veggie omelet for the two of us. I reached for my paring knife, my very favorite kitchen tool with its 3.5” blade, never needing resharpening, and its 4.5” black handle, “Emeril TM,” “There’s nothing else like it! But now where is it?” It troubled me as I reluctantly substituted a lesser knife, continuing to prepare our meal. It saddened me that I may not succeed in locating my trusted knife. I checked surrounding drawers, checked the floor, the counters and the stove top. “Maybe it went out with the trash yesterday evening!” Unthinkable, but yet necessary, we raided that last trash bag deposited into the dumpster last evening. It took only a minute or two to learn there was no knife in that stench! Later, as I continued my morning chores, I reminded myself of one of my favorite rules, “Be sure to search thoroughly; most often, the item is where you last left it or very nearby.” I restarted my search from the beginning; my knife collection of 12 all rest in slots carved into a block of wood. One by one, I removed each knife, and there was my beautiful paring tool – misplaced into the wrong slot! Dumb me!
Christine Harness has worked in the field of Occupational Therapy throughout her adult life, both in and outside of the Kern River Valley. She has helped countless individuals to maintain or regain their independence. Christine believes that enjoying and taking satisfaction in one’s day-to-day activities is the key to a meaningful life.