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Your Health
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Positive Aging

Marilyn Murray Willison: How to Psych Yourself Up

Unless you are blessed with superior Zen-like mind control, you have probably noticed an unwelcome uptick in your anxiety levels as you’ve grown older.

It’s not uncommon for seniors to be burdened with a variety of age-related concerns — on top of the ordinary worries everyone else copes with. But it doesn’t help us to obsess and worry over scary questions like “What will happen to me if (or when) my health deteriorates?” or “How will I manage if I haven’t saved enough money for my retirement?” or “Why do I always feel so lonely?”

If you’ve ever tormented yourself with these sorts of accusatory questions, you are not alone.

A number of years ago, I went through an intensive “poor, pitiful me” phase during which I beat myself up for what I told myself were a lifetime’s worth of poor planning and bad decisions.

Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to remember the law of attraction, which tells us that the ideas or thought processes we focus on become stronger. My negative mindset was actually making every aspect of my life worse. Yikes!

Around the same time, Elizabeth Taylor started promoting a jewelry line, based on her own impressive collection. My stepdaughter, Laura, works at a jewelry store that once carried the famous actress’ designs, and one day she gave me the jewelry line brochure. There, in elegant cursive script, were the words I have since adopted as my all-time favorite phrase: Something wonderful is about to happen.

Since I first read them, those six words have helped me maintain a nearly constant mindset of optimism. What could be more positive and upbeat than that?

I’m not sure whether our worry levels simply rise with the passing years, or whether the problem is that we become less resilient, much like a tired rubber band. Whatever the cause, as we age we need to find effective coping techniques to help us lower toxic stress and worry levels.

As a reading junkie, I am always on the lookout for any solutions that lie within the pages of a book. If you would like to develop a more bounce-back attitude, a good place to start would be any one of the 6,775 or so books on Amazon that come up with a search for “resilience.”

Another smart, soothing voice that aspires to help people stay upbeat belongs to master life coach Martha Beck. Her books and essays remind us of a few important things: Our feelings are valid, beating ourselves up is counterproductive, and we all have the power within to make things better.

When I find myself caught in an emotional hamster wheel of doom and gloom, I dial up a phrase that, if repeated often enough, will always bring me back to a “Yes, I can” state of mind.

During the late 1960s, I went through that persecuted and tormented American teenager-girl phase. While my poor parents suffered through my extreme mood swings, when my disposition went from “This is the best day ever!” to “I hate everything about my life!” in a nanosecond, they reacted with benign tolerance.

But whenever Daddy sensed I was becoming way too melodramatic, he would look me in the eyes and calmly say, “This too shall pass.” It’s a good mantra to help us remember that situations, circumstances and outcomes always change, for better or worse.

It’s only natural for us to be concerned about our individual issues, not to mention the biggies like global warming, Iran, the Islamic State group, North Korea and the U.S. economy.

But it is really important to remember that focusing on the things you want to have in your life, rather than the things that frighten or depress you, is the easiest and most effective way to decline those seductive pity-party invitations once and for all.

Marilyn Murray Willison is a columnist, motivational speaker and journalist, and author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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