Denise Marek is known as “The Worry Management Expert.” An international speaker and television personality, she has helped thousands of women to transform their feelings of worry into feelings of inner peace. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, Terry, and their two daughters.
Author of the new book CALM: A Proven Four-Step Process Designed Specifically for Women Who Worry, Denise offers the following information on worrying and tips on how to stop:
- CALM Your Worried Mind: Do you worry? Millions of Americans do! The Anxiety Disorders Association of America estimates that more than 4 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 54 suffer from chronic worry and that more than half of that number represents women.
- Worried Sick: Stress caused by worry has been known to contribute to hypertension, heart attacks, diabetes, ulcers, back pain, headaches and strokes. In addition, worry can cause the body to store fat. Researchers have found that worry causes an increase in the body’s level of the hormone cortisol. The elevated level of cortisol causes the body to increase fat storage in the abdominal area. According to the American Cancer Society, excess fat in the abdominal area appears to increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. CALM provides strategies to eliminate worry, break free from self-limiting beliefs and develop inner peace.
- From Guilt-y to Guilt-Free: Guilt and worry go hand in hand. Guilt is the anxiety we feel about the past and, worry is the anxiety we feel about the future.
- Physical clutter equals mind clutter: To start releasing mind clutter – such as worry – clear your space of physical clutter. It sounds easy, but often worry keeps us hanging on to those things we no longer need, use or love.
- How to stop worrying about what others think of you: It’s difficult to take action when faced with the possibility of being judged or displeasing others.
- What you need to know before you ask for an opinion: Gaining a fresh perspective by seeking another’s point of view can work wonders to calm a worried mind.
The following is an interview with author Denise Marek.
As the Worry Management Expert, were you ever a worrier?
Denise Marek: Absolutely! I was a chronic worrier. In fact, when I was a kid, my mom used to tell me, “Denise, if there was nothing in the world to worry about, you’d find something!” I didn’t let that stop me; I kept on worrying right on into adulthood. I worried about my weight, my appearance, my job and my finances. I worried about making mistakes and being alone. You name it, I worried about it. Yet, here I am today – a non-worrier.
I believe that means there’s hope for everyone, because if I could learn to calm my worries, anyone can! I have first-hand experience with chronic worry and I fully understand the pain it causes. I know how freeing it is to control the worry, instead of letting it control you. I’m not a doctor, and in my book I don’t give medical advice. Instead, I detail the strategies that have helped not only me, but thousands of women who have taken my worry-management seminars across North America. Apply these same strategies to your life and you will stop worrying. It’s that simple.
Your book was written for women. Don’t men worry?
DM: A woman will admit to worrying before a man will, but men do worry. In fact, men often ask me, “Why is your book just for women?” I used to respond, “Men tell me they don’t worry.” But time and time again, they replied, “Oh, yes we do!” Many of the strategies in my book are aimed specifically at women. However, the CALM process is something that can help reduce worry in both men and women.How does worry affect our lives?
How does worry affect our lives?
DM: There is no doubt that worry affects our health and relationships, our business and financial lives. If you were to look at the origin of the word “worry,” it comes from the Old English word “wyrgan,” meaning to strangle or choke. Worry can cause you to choke financially, socially, spiritually, professionally and mentally. Worry also takes an incredible physical toll. Stress – and worry is one of the root causes of stress – has been known to contribute to hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, ulcers, back pain and headaches. Worry can also cause you to store fat. I love telling this to a roomful of women! The reaction is almost always the same: “Well, that explains a lot!”
It’s easy to see that worry affects individuals; however, it also affects entire organizations. Worry in an organization – whether relating to job security, performance, the economy or whatever else – can cause a company to choke financially. In fact, many employers don’t realize worrying comes with a price tag. Stress and worry is estimated to cost North American industries a whopping $200-$300 billion annually! Worry in the workplace ultimately takes the form of absenteeism, direct medical costs, employee turnover, accidents and diminished productivity. Clearly, worry can dramatically affect a company’s bottom line.
What are some of the unhealthy ways people cope with worry?
DM: People tend to deal with worry by overspending, overworking, overprotecting, oversedating or overmedicating. They may develop changes in their eating or sleeping habits. Unfortunately, most of the things on this coping list only add fuel to the fire. Suppose, for instance, you’re worried about your weight and you overeat to sedate your worry – as many people do. What will happen? Your weight will increase, you’ll worry about the weight gain, you’ll overeat to sedate the worry and the cycle will continue. Or, imagine you have financial stress in a relationship and you cope with that concern by overspending. What will happen? You’ll increase your debt, your money worries will grow, and the cycle continues.
The beauty of the CALM process is that it gives you a proven formula to manage worry in a healthy way so that you can reconnect with your inner peace and put an end to these destructive patterns. It’s a simple process, yet it’s profoundly effective.
What is the CALM process?
DM: CALM is a four-step process to eliminate worry, break free from self-limiting beliefs, and cultivate inner peace. Each of the four steps begins with a letter in the word CALM.
- “C” stands for Challenge Your Assumptions. Most of our worries begin as an assumption that something we don’t want to happen might happen or that it already has. So it’s important to learn how to challenge your assumptions before they snowball into a massive amount of worry.
- “A” comes from Act to Control the Controllable.
- “L” represents Let Go of the Uncontrollable.
- “M” corresponds to Master Your Mind. Here’s where mastering your mind comes into play: it’s your inner dialogue that largely dictates whether you feel worried or calm. When you master your mind, you’re able to regain control of your thinking and, as a result, reconnect with your inner peace.
In the section of your book that talks about “Mastering Your Mind,” you write about how to put an end to “What-if” thinking. How do you do that?
DM: Back when I was a worrier, I was consumed by “what-if” thoughts. Here are two strategies that really helped me re-examine these thoughts. First I asked myself: will it matter 12 months from now? I found that most of the things I wasted my time and energy worrying about were really not that serious in the grand scheme of things. So it’s a great initial question for restoring your perspective.
However, I did find that there were times when I asked myself that question and my answer was: yes! if what I’m worried about happens, it will matter 12 months from now! If that was the case, I affirmed to myself: i’ll handle it! Really, when you think about everything you’ve already handled in your life up to this point, you can see that you’ve been able to work through everything life has sent your way. It follows that you’ll be able to deal with whatever comes up for you in the future. Developing your belief in your ability to handle anything is key to discovering that there really isn’t anything to worry about.
In your book you offer 52 ways to let go of worry. Are any of the strategies quick fixes?
DM: Yes, there are some quick-fix strategies. Here are two of my favorites: the first one is to rock. Studies have shown that the repetitive, rhythmic motion of swaying back and forth can calm your body because it can prevent the fight-flight-freeze response from being set off. Think of what we instinctively do to comfort a crying baby. Rock! I have two daughters and both were colicky as infants; I think all the rocking I did in those days was as much to soothe me as it was to calm my babies! Rocking is great because it’s free and you can do it anywhere.
Another quick fix is to write about your concerns. Things often seem much larger in our minds than they do on paper, so writing them down will help you to gain some distance and perspective. Another reason why writing about your worries works is that in committing them to a list or journal entry, you take the pressure off yourself. You no longer have to be as concerned that you’re going to forget what you’re worried about! It’s strange, we’re often worried that we’re going to forget what we’re worried about, so we’ll mentally replay (and replay) our concerns in our minds in order to remember them. Night time can be especially bad for this kind of worry. If you’re worrying at night, keep a pen and paper beside your bed, and as concerns pop up, write them down. That way you can get them out of your mind and down on paper, ready for addressing with the CALM process the next day. Added bonus: after a good night’s rest things always seem a little clearer!
You use a lot of humor in your book. Do you think humor is a necessary component to managing worry?
DM: It certainly is! If you can learn to laugh at yourself, it’ll go a long way in helping you to reconnect with your inner peace. One of the stories I write about in the book concerns the very first time I gave a full-day seminar. I was on stage in front of 250 people and three of the top buttons on the front of my silk skirt popped off. Yikes – that was embarrassing! In that moment, I had two choices: I could either allow self-defeating thoughts and worry to consume me, or I could laugh it off, learn from it, and move on. I decided to laugh it off and move on. And I definitely learned from it – I won’t be speaking in a button-front skirt any time soon! When you develop the ability to laugh at yourself, your recovery from setbacks will be enhanced, and fear – like the fear of making mistakes, looking foolish, being rejected, and so on – will lose its grip on you.
How can this book help you if you’re feeling stuck in life?
DM: I know what it feels like to be stuck. Worrying about my weight and appearance kept me stuck for years with bulimia. Concerns about being alone kept me stuck in unhealthy relationships. Anxiety about money kept me stuck in a job I didn’t enjoy. Worry stops you from living in the moment and puts a damper on truly being able to move forward in your life. I share my very personal experiences in the book and set out the proven strategies to transform fears into action so that you can overcome worry and live a more exciting, abundant, and balanced life.
Do you ever worry now?
DM: Yes, but I use it as a positive force, because sometimes worry can serve us. Not all worry is destructive. In fact, some concerns can serve as prompts to take action. Worrying about your health might be prompting you to take better care of yourself or to see a doctor. Anxiety about having too much to do might be prompting you to prioritize, take a time-management course, or learn how to say “no.” When you’re feeling worried, the key is to stop and ask yourself: Is this worry prompting me to take action? If it is, then take action. If it’s not, if you’re worrying about something you can do nothing about, let it go. That’s what being a non-worrier is all about and that’s precisely what I’ve learned to do in my life. When a worry pops up, I determine whether it’s useful or useless. If it’s useful – if it’s prompting me to do something – I take action. If it’s useless, I let it go and the worry disappears.