Don’t worry, be calm

Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - March 25, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  In these days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sound counsel “Don’t worry, be calm” may ring empty. The threat of the deadly virus is real. One is damned to be whistling a happy tune to make it go away.

Conversely, the opposite is also true. Worrying too much wears out the fighting spirit. It tires the mind and weakens the body’s resistance to disease.

There was a man who went to the psychiatrist worrying that he was sick. The smart doctor, through the use of psychotherapy, cleansed the man’s mind of the worries that were making him sick. The man went home feeling so much better.

The next day the man returned to the psychiatrist’s clinic in worse state than when he came the day before. Puzzled, the doctor asked him what the problem was this time. “Doctor,” the man replied, “I am scared. I can’t remember something that I should be worried about!”

That’s the way many people are. They fill their lives with worries, about just anything. Many of people’s ailments, physical and mental, are caused worries.

Worrying can create a crack in the person’s defences for diseases to enter. Worries can make way for so-called psychosomatic symptoms to develop, the body manifesting the negative thoughts the person keeps. This type of ailment is often more complex and difficult to cure than purely physical afflictions.

Even before actual sickness can afflict a habitual worrier, he has already suffered enough emotional agonies, his life being a chain of apprehensions and fears. He worries a lot; he just can’t help it. Worrying is a well-entrenched habit in him; since childhood he’s been trained to worry about anything: how to improve his grades at school, how to be better than the neighbor’s kid, how to ensure his own salvation in the hereafter.

Worrying is not a bad thing altogether. One needs to worry to move him to do something to enhance himself and better his life. But chronic, senseless worrying is bad; one has to break the habit if he has to live a healthy, satisfying life.

Of course, it’s not easy to break a long-standing habit. Habits die hard, but they won’t go away if one doesn’t start doing something about them. And breaking a habit can take some time. 

Any worry always turns out either way of only two possibilities: it may happen or it may not. An impending, worrisome situation will either come to pass or it won’t.

Simply worrying about it will not change anything, except perhaps one’s mental health.

If there’s anything that must and can be done, the wise thing to do is to act at once and do it. If there’s none, worrying will only make the worrier too weak to cope with the situation should things turn out as he fears they will. By the time the situation occurs, he will be so exhausted to effectively deal with it. But if he stops worrying, even if the worst happens, he will have the courage and energy to handle it properly.

There’s no sense in thinking that things cannot go right unless one worries about them. It’s quite similar to swimming. When the swimmer is so anxious to stay afloat in the water, he’d flap his arms wildly and the panicky effort makes him take on some more body weight. Then he begins to sink instead of float. But once he learns to let go and relax, that’s when it all begins to work. That’s how swimming is learned, whether in the swimming pool or in the sea of life.

Health experts and government leaders are doing all they can to contain the coronavirus scourge. There have been public advisories given on protecting oneself and avoid being infected. And certain measures have been put in place to manage the general situation.

In the meantime, all that everyone has to do is follow and let the authorities take charge. Fretting over the situation won’t help. “Don’t worry, be calm.”

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