The Worry Syndrome

“Whatever you fight, you strengthen and whatever you resist, persists.” -Eckhart Tolle

My mom gave me the “worry wart gene.” As wonderful as she was as a mother, she always seemed to worry about me, the family, the weather and much more. As I became a young adult, I didn’t understand her apprehension and frequently complained to her about it. With absolute assurance, she would pledge, “You will understand when you get older and become a mother.”

Mom was right! Now, I am older and a mother, and I find myself worrying about my family, health, finances, and whatever happens to be on my mind. Unfortunately, my worries seem to skulk into my mind in the absurd hour of 2:30 AM. (Experts say that the greatest frequency for nighttime worries is between 1:30 and 3:30 a.m. when things are frequently quieter with less distraction and more opportunity for worry.) I blame the intrusion on the uninvited “Worry Monster,” and I usually toss and turn as I struggle to fight him off.

Anxiety Coach, David Carbonell, Ph.D., says that, as adults, everyone worries and it’s part of the human condition. We tend to experience thoughts that are generally exaggerated and unrealistic about bad things that could happen. He says that worries are not thoughts that you deliberately seek out; in fact, you probably try not to have them! The thoughts arise spontaneously, often against your will, or when some chance event reminds you of unpleasant topics. When worried or anxious, your mind and body go into a state of ‘fight or flight’ as you focus on what could happen. It can affect your daily life and can interfere with your work, appetite, relationships, sleep and reduce your quality of life.

In an article on worry, mindfulness expert, Dr. Christopher Walsh, emphasizes how important it is to avoid fighting the feelings or thoughts. Instead, he says, label the worries just as they are – simply thoughts – a creation of your own fear. Try to bring your mind back to the present moment and don’t buy into the worry.

As I climb into bed each night, I now envision a “do not disturb” sign on my door for that dreaded nighttime Worry Monster. And when a worry appears on my mind anytime, I stop fighting it – and label it as a THOUGHT of my own creation.

Confidence Begins at an Early Age and The Sky is the Limit!

Looking back at my childhood, I was blessed. Both my mother and father raised me to believe in myself at a very early age. When I had moments of doubts during the challenging teenage years, my parents were there to support me, but always insisted that I make my own decisions and take charge of solving whatever was the setback of the moment. As I got older, it was my dad who consistently reminded me that, when it came to my choice of livelihoods, “the sky is the limit!” He encouraged me to look for a career for which I had passion and alleged that I could do most anything.

It is thanks to Mom and Dad’s reassuring push, that I departed confidently, ready to face the world on my own, and I followed my dad’s advice with my choices. I had a belief in myself with a strong desire to find exciting work and had some amazing opportunities throughout my years! Although I didn’t always pick the job with the most money, I chose what I loved to do, finding that most of my jobs filled my purpose of helping others.

Now, that I’m in my Baby Boomer years, I have found my confidence being reassessed. At this stage of life, I have felt at an impasse. I have the knowledge, experience, and still have the energy and desire to serve a purpose of helping others and have wanted to start something new. Yet, I am pondering, “Am I too old for this?” “Can I do this?” “Will I be successful?”

Then, I read about Ginette Bedard, the 86-year-old NYC Marathon runner, and Robina Asti, the 99-year-old flight instructor and active pilot. Both of these women continued to do what they loved, and age was not a factor! Why can’t I continue to pursue my goal? Thanks to examples like Ginette and Robina, I am off and running once again, unafraid “to reach for the sky!”

So, yes, Dad, you were right, “the sky is the limit.” Or as Maura Beatty wisely advised, “What keeps you from believing that the universe is yours? Reach out, embrace it. The sky is the limit! So, get your bag, get your stuff, and head for the stars…I’ll meet you out there!”

Boomer Dating

The Journey Between Companionship and Solitude

by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

In my later 30’s, after a divorce, dating was not pivotal for me. My focus was on raising my young daughter and a full-time job. I was enjoying my single-life solitude and freedom. At that stage, my life was full with an active social schedule and little verve was needed with meeting new people. Companionship was nice, but not crucial. The dating I did was for fun with no immediate plans other than to make the most of my newfound independence. However, after a couple of years, I was introduced to the man whom I would eventually marry, and we shared 28 fulfilling years until his death.

Let’s fast-forward to my late 60’s when I was now a widow and, once again, alone. Unlike in my 40’s, the solitude was arduous. I felt lost and abandoned. My daughter was now an adult with her own life and family, and although my part-time teaching job was a fraction of my focus, my life felt empty and companionship was sorely missed. As a Baby Boomer, my business and social schedules were less active, many of my friends were still couples, and the dating world had changed significantly. I had lost confidence in myself, especially when it came to dating! What I missed most of all was any form of companionship with the opposite sex. At this stage of my life, I was not looking for another husband or live-in partner — just a compatible person with whom I could share some of my life. Would I ever meet someone again in these latter years?

Since I was not on any social lists, I reluctantly decided to give on-line dating a try. No matter how old I felt, I chose a picture that was recent and honest about my age. I painstakingly composed one paragraph on myself, with correct grammar and spelling, and inserted more creative interests than walks-on-the-beach or wine-by-the-fire as favorite things to do! I hesitantly posted it with low expectation.

Surprisingly, I found dating on-line was an adventure! I had a decent response from others looking for companionship and met both some interesting and bizarre characters. If Anne Beckley Coleman had not already written the book, Matchless, I would have written a tongue-in-cheek book myself! Joking aside, I found that getting back into the dating world did wonders for my much-needed self-confidence.

After several years, I decided not to play the on-line dating game anymore. I was in a different frame of mind and had my poise back. My family, friends and students were my impetus. No longer was I lonely, and instead, had settled into a relaxed life of enjoying my solitude once again. Then, one day, I happened to encounter a former acquaintance from my past, and together, we now enjoy companionship while still valuing our independence.

The lesson I have learned is that life does not have to be lonely in our Baby Boomer years. Companionship can be great, but learning to enjoy our own solitude and independence is precious, and staying in touch with family and good friends can help fill most voids. We must be brave enough to step forward and seize the day. Carpe Diem!

What Have You Learned

Unmasking Your Vision For What’s Next – Part 4

What Have You Learned?  by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

As I’ve moved through my own growth during this pandemic, I wanted to see how other women, similar to myself, were surviving and dealing with this disconcerting state of affairs. I drew up a compilation of diverse, Baby Boomer women and emailed a simple questionnaire. They, too, had been pondering similar questions and, in many cases, had internalized them. This was an opportunity for each to openly communicate her thoughts and feelings toward these months of the necessary but inconvenient lockdown.

Each woman was asked to write the first thoughts that came to mind.

Question: In one sentence, what have you learned about yourself?

With this question, 97% learned something positive from their experiences. These lessons included: I learned how to enjoy my own company; I will not take advantage of freedom ever again; I can adapt when necessary; I must stay stimulated and engaged with new things; I can depend on using my creativity and resourcefulness; I can learn to go with the flow; I know I need to let go of that which I have no control; I will work to remain positive and look for the brighter side of life; I need to do more acts of kindness; I can overcome my anxiety through mindfulness; I am stronger than I thought.

These results, on the most part, did not surprise me. We, as women who have lived 55 or more years of life, have dealt with many a challenge. Some of us have faced divorce, lost loved ones, lost jobs, combatted illnesses, and taken care of others in need — to name just a few of life’s ordeals. The common thread I found through this survey is that we can find the good in the worst of times and through that, we do more than survive, we thrive.

As we personally move ahead, we find that the sadness, fears and inconveniences of the Covid-19 pandemic still exist, of course. But the time we have had to reflect and contemplate perhaps has strengthened us and helped us to cope and form a new vision toward what we need to do next. Although the years behind us may out-number the ones we have ahead, we know that we can have the energy, creativity, and drive to thrive.

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What Three Words Describe Your Experience

Unmasking Your Vision For What’s Next – Part 3

What Three Words Describe Your Experience?  by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

Having the time to look back at (the lesson of learning to “Dance in the Rain” during my husbands Alzheimer’s experience,) I ask myself, why wouldn’t this work now in dealing with the stagnant circumstances of today? The fear of the pandemic virus is still terrifying, but I understand that patience, attitude, and creativity have helped me to find new methods of safely taking part in life and fulfilling my purpose. My time alone has given me the chance to see with more clarity.

This was my learning, but I wanted to see how other women, similar to myself, were surviving and dealing with this disconcerting state of affairs. I drew up a compilation of diverse, Baby Boomer women and emailed a simple questionnaire. Of those gaged, the majority responded immediately, expressing an appreciation of the invitation to share their thoughts on this issue.

Each woman was asked to write the first thoughts that came to mind.

Question: With the seven months of unyielding solitude during this quarantine, what three words come to mind to describe what you have felt?

Of the 35 participants, 70% listed at least one positive word to describe their spirits including such terms as Hope; faith; peacefulness; blessings; comfort; resilience; flexibility; empathy; reflection; renewal. The most used description among them was gratitude and gratefulness.

On the other hand, 30% listed only negative descriptions such as: Uncertainty; purposeless; loneliness; anger; limitation; social disruption; boredom; and, understandably, the most used terms of: anxiety and fear.

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Learning to Dance In The Rain

Unmasking Your Vision For What’s Next – Part 2

Learning to Dance In The Rain by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

Living through this pandemic brought back the same feelings I had when my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Ten years ago, the same questions emerged. I remembered how I struggled and played victim for a few months after his diagnosis. I felt my world had collapsed around me, and it wasn’t until someone shared a bit of wisdom with me that I decided not to let this defeat me! One day in my self-wallowing, I ran into a neighbor who was also caring for an invalid spouse. She wisely told me, Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain. I realized that I had the choice between being a victim or survivor. It was then that I decided to learn to dance with the uninvited circumstance that had entered my life!

For the following four years, our lives were filled with adjustments that fit the situation and still brought us happiness and contentment. The disease was yet present, but we continued to live our lives by enjoying the little things in life. It all had to do with having patience, changing attitude, and employing creativity.

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Unmasking Your Vision For What’s Next

How Do I Move Forward?  by Margo Ewing Woodacre, MSW

As our country enters into the eighth month of the Covid-19 Pandemic with its uncertainties, frustrations and fears, we find ourselves at a crossroad looking for direction of what might be next for us, our country, and for our world. The benefit, perhaps, from this bedlam has been the unyielding amount of time that has been imposed upon us, which has allowed self-introspection of where we have been, where we are, and where we want to be with the rest of our lives in this changing domain.

As a female, Baby Boomer widow, who has lived a life full of transitions and self re-invention, I have struggled to find answers during this Pandemic nightmare. When the world seemed to stop, I wanted to get off! I felt fear, anger, loneliness, and frustration. At 70, with the reality kicking in that I was in the latter segment of my life journey, these startling questions baffled me, Is this it? Is there more? How do I move forward?

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