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  1. Wealth
November 27, 2008

Get the Funk Outta Here

By Spear's

Freaking out, melting down and staying up all night worrying about the credit crunch and other nasties is such a drag. Penelope Bennett on a simple recipe for making your life groovy again

Freaking out, melting down and staying up all night worrying about the credit crunch and other nasties is such a drag. Penelope Bennett on a simple recipe for making your life groovy again

I’m not going to make a list. Statistics show that the more things you put on your New Year’s resolutions list, the less likely you are to cross any of them off, so I’m having no list and just going for the one objective instead: next year, I’m going to be less anxious.

I don’t suffer from status anxiety (ie, I’m not compelled to drive around town advertising my university or country-club affiliations in the rear window of my car. I don’t have a car, for that matter. And that doesn’t bother me either). It’s the perpetual expectation that the worst will happen, and that it will happen to me, that I suffer from. That’s my niggling, sticky, relentless pest of a problem.

I can’t blame my ‘condition’ on my upbringing, because past the age of eighteen it’s a bit pathetic to do so (disclaimer: depends on the childhood). I was, however, born an adult and spent my childhood scanning everything ‘fun’ for signs of ‘potential disaster’. Something happened — I’ve no idea what — to turn me into the village/school/family watchdog. I had to fix things, and prevent things right from going wrong.

Our family doctor once told my mother to let me play more, to which she replied that she did and that I just didn’t want to, which is true. I dabbled, but the silliness of fake supermarket check-out counters and the playing with newt-sized ponies with pink hair just didn’t do it for me.

When someone screamed in the playground at break time, I ran to the rescue.
When my sister rode on the back of her boyfriend’s moped aged fourteen, I gave her the mother of all lectures (I was ten), and I think the boyfriend ran away, but to my sister’s credit she sat there and nodded and took it. She knew I was a bit special.

So, I’d like to be less like that and more like normal people. I heard of a character somewhere described as ‘so laid back she’s nearly flat-lining’. That’s what I’m aiming for. I’m striving to be less fearful of what I have no control over and have no business fearing in the first place. I’ve come across a number of things to get me there, and as I’m dispensing with lists, the below can be marked on Post-its instead.

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Meditation classes: because in these anxious times we’re all jumping on the Om bandwagon. Meditation foils the physical damage that a prolonged state of agitation can cause to the body, and it does so by slowing down your heart rate and breathing, normalising your blood pressure, and enabling you to use oxygen more efficiently. Result: you sweat less, stress less, your immune function improves, your mind ages at a slower rate, clears, and your creativity increases. Not bad.

It has no potential side effects (unless you count making you dream up films like Blue Velvet, which happened to David Lynch, a big fan of meditation), it’s easier to practice than strenuous physical exercise for stress relief (it doesn’t get much easier than not moving, does it), and no equipment is required. It’s free, too, but it’ll cost you in terms of discipline and commitment, so the free bit goes out the window for those of us who need the help of someone for added motivation.

So, sit down and clear your mind. Focus on a sound (yes, like ‘Ooommm’) or your own breathing, or on nothing at all, and keep at it for twenty distraction-free minutes. I’ve yet to find those minutes (can’t for the life of me remember where I put them), but when I do I’ll get right to it.

Humour: because developing a sense of humour about life’s challenges is a must. You can sign up to laughter workshops dotted across the country if you really need hand-holding, or you can take this nugget of information on board: smiling releases endorphins, so you’re more likely to laugh if you’re already smiling than if you weren’t.
I’m of the only-stupid-people-are-happy-all-the-time school of thought, so smile too much and I’ll have to hit you. But maybe I should just smile back at you and together we can make the world a better, more annoying place.

Wisdom: because wisdom, really, is organised life. They say that wisdom comes with age, but you can fast-track it by reading lots and speaking to people older than you and chewing over what they’ve been through. Take away from it that, hey, it’s not all bad, why worry, and what will be will be.

Learn the art of patience (relevant to the bit about fast-tracking), apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious, visualise decisiveness, confidence and rationality, and power down the road to success. I was just aiming for reduced anxiety, but what the heck, I’ll take the package, with a laughter workshop coupon to go, for good measure.

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