Five Methods I Have Used
to Banish Worry
William Lyon Phelps

When I was twenty-four years old, my eyes suddenly gave out.  After reading three or four minutes, my eyes felt as if they were full of needles; and even when I was not reading, they were so sensitive that I could not face a window.  I consulted the best oculists in  New Haven and New York.  Nothing seemed to help me.  After four o'clock in the afternoon, I simply sat in a chair in the darkest corner of the room, waiting for bedtime.  I was terrified.  I feared I would have to give up my career as a teacher and go out West and get a job as a lumberjack.  Then a strange thing happened which shows the miraculous effects of the mind over physical ailments.  When my eyes were at their worst that unhappy winter, I accepted an invitation to address a group of undergraduates.  The hall was illuminated by huge rings of gas jets suspended from the ceiling.  The lights pained my eyes so intensely that, while sitting on the platform, I was compelled to look at the floor.  Yet during my thirty-minute speech, I felt absolutely no pain, and I could look directly at these lights without any blinking whatever.  Then when the assembly was over, my eyes pained me again.

I thought then that if I could keep my mind strongly concentrated on something, not for thirty minutes, but for a week, I might be cured.  For clearly it was a case of mental excitement triumphing over a bodily illness.

I had a similar experience later while crossing the ocean.  I had an attack of lumbago so severe that I could not walk.  I suffered extreme pain when I tried to stand up straight.  While in that condition, I was invited to give a lecture on shipboard.  As soon as I began to speak, every trace of pain and stiffness left my body; I stood up straight, moved about with perfect flexibility, and spoke for an hour.  When the lecture was over, I walked away to my stateroom with ease.  For a moment, I thought I was cured.  But the cure was only temporary.  The lumbago resumed its attack.

These experiences demonstrated to me the vital importance of one's mental attitude.  They taught me the importance of enjoying life while you may.  So I live every day now as if it were the first day I had ever seen and the last I were going to see.  I am excited about the daily adventure of living, and nobody in a state of excitement will be unduly troubled with worries.  I love my daily work as a teacher.  I wrote a book entitled The Excitement of Teaching.  Teaching has always been more than an art or an occupation to me.  It is a passion.  I love to teach as a painter loves to paint or a singer loves to sing.  Before I get out of bed in the morning, I think with ardent delight of my first group of students.  I have always felt that one of the chief reasons for success in life is enthusiasm.

II.  I have found that I can crowd worry out of mind by reading an absorbing book.  When I was fifty-nine, I had a prolonged nervous breakdown.  During that period, I began reading David Alec Wilson's monumental Life of Carlyle.  It had a good deal to do with my convalescence because I became so absorbed in reading it that I forgot my despondency.

III.  At another time when I was terribly depressed, I forced myself to become physically active almost every hour of the day.  I played five or six sets of intense games of tennis every morning, then took a bath, had lunch, and played eighteen holes of golf every afternoon.  On Friday nights I danced until one o'clock in the morning.  I am a great believer in working up a tremendous sweat.  I found that depression and worry oozed out of my system with the sweat.

IV.  I learned long ago to avoid the folly of hurry, rush, and working under tension.  I have always tried to apply the philosophy of Wilbur Cross.  When he was governor of Connecticut, he said to me:  "Sometimes when I have too many things to do all at once, I sit down and relax and smoke my pipe for an hour and do nothing."

V.  I have also learned that patience and time have a way of resolving our troubles.  When I am worried about something, I try to see my troubles in their proper perspective.  I say to myself:  "Two months from now I shall not be worrying about this bad break, so why worry about it now?  Why not assume now the same attitude that I will have two months from now?"

more on worry


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Do you remember the things you were worrying about
a year ago?  How did they work out?  Didn't you waste
a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them?
Didn't most of them turn out all right after all?

Dale Carnegie


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Worry is one of those "hamster wheels" of our lives, offering us the
opportunity to live through terrible things that never happen.  When we
stop to catch our breath, we might ask ourselves, "Why pre-worry?" "Why
live through something that hasn't happened and may never happen?"  Do
we actually believe that worry practice will make us better prepared?
   Remember, everything has a beginning and an ending.  We only need to
deal with situations in our lives as they are happening, not before.  Today's
disasters may tomorrow or next week be seen as one of life's gifts.
All we have to do is deal with what is in front of us.

Anne Wilson Schaef
Meditations for Living in Balance


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