“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” Michel de Montaigne, philosopher during the French Renaissance, made this statement 500 years ago which provoked a recent study. In this study, subjects were asked to write down the things they worry about over an extended period of time, and then were asked to show which of those things actually happened. It was actually proven that only 85% of what the subjects worried about never happened. Within the 15% of the worries that did happen, 79% of those subjects felt as though they handled the situation better than expected, or learned a valuable lesson from their misfortune. So…what’s the point?
I have suffered from severe anxiety since around my junior year of high school. I’m sure I had some anxiety as a child, but never to the extreme that developed later in my life. I go through phases of it being so bad I can’t even get out of bed in the morning, to some periods I forget it even exists. When I am in a “funk”, I can’t seem to stop convincing myself that my life is horrible and that I’m dying from every medical condition known to man. How does one sharp pain in my side turn into a weeklong panic attack that my appendix is about to rupture? Or how does one headache, obviously from alcohol and dehydration, send me spinning into the direction of the nearest MRI machine to see how huge my brain tumor is? I. Hate. It.
Since reading an article in the Huffington Post about the whole 85% thing, I’ve started to try to use it as my mantra. I’ve been in a funk these past couple of days over something entirely stupid and a waste of my time, yet it still is taking a valiant effort to stop being crazy over it, so as I walked into the deli to grab my salad before starting my work day, I chanted “85%, 85%, 85%,” in my head over and over again. I am so tired of sending those, “help, I’m panicking” texts to my poor friends who are probably exhausted from hearing me bitch about the same tired things my brain convinces me to care about. Boys, money, appearance, nonexistent cancer raging through my body- just the every day things I waste time freaking out about. Studies have actually shown the damage that worry and stress do to our body, like premature aging and a shrinking IQ and a vulnerability to cancer. So all of my anxiety about these things I don’t have, are going to cause me to have them?! SHIT.
Time to re-center. I bought a gratitude journal and every day I write down things that I have seen or experienced in that day that I am grateful for. I give myself an extra 15 minutes in the morning to just lie in bed and play my favorite “feel-good” songs. I write a bible verse out every week on my whiteboard. On the mornings I feel like I can’t get up, I throw myself into the car, get a coffee, and drive down the most beautiful road I’ve ever seen and stop and take pictures of the beaches at the overlooks (because I live in paradise). The more I focus my energy on helping myself getting out of a funk, the better I feel, but it is so hard. I’m never going to buy some magical journal or self-help book and be cured and never worry again. It’s a process, and it takes a lot of energy that some days I just don’t have. But I will get better.
I will continue to remember all the things I have to be grateful for, I will continue to pray and listen to “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5 until there is no possible way I could be unhappy. I will keep reciting “85%” in my head over and over again. Because, 85% of the things I worry about…will never even happen.