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2023 Feb

A Little Willpower

Peggy shares tips for dealing with stress and worry.

I wish someone would invent a cure for worrying. It seems like lately that’s all I do. To be honest, it’s often my kids I worry about…as if all my worrying will change who or where they are. In fact, worrying doesn’t accomplish a whole heck of a lot. So why do I keep doing it? I can’t help it!

And you can probably guess when the worrying occurs: in the middle of the night when there’s no escape. It drives me crazy. Instead of sleeping, I lie awake and think about all the bad things that might happen. Some would say that I am sending negativity into the universe instead of positive energy when I worry. Right. Anyone who can tell me how to flip that switch in the middle of the night will earn my unending gratitude.

I’m sure these worrying thoughts—the monkey mind, as my Buddhist friends call it—are a result of feeling stressed. That’s another modern malady most of us are afflicted with and a close relative of worry. In the old days, people used to include a lot more physical activity in their daily lives. Whether they were caring for farm animals or involved in physical labor at work, our parents’ parents moved around more. I’m not saying they didn’t experience stress, but they released it when they completed manual tasks.

Being overweight and sedentary are huge problems for our society today. Part of the blame for that is the prevalence of modern conveniences. When our grandparents needed bread, they didn’t go out and buy it. They had to mix the ingredients, beat the dough, knead it, and bake it. And you could taste the love in every loaf.

Just about every new invention has made life easier, but these gadgets and gizmos require less physical labor and result in more leisure time. So what are we doing with our leisure time? That’s the question. If you’re sitting around on a couch somewhere watching television or scrolling through your phone—and you know who you are—then it’s time to make a change. All it takes is a little willpower.

And I’m not talking about going to the gym three days a week, although that’s probably a good idea. I’m suggesting you find some new goals to get you moving in the new year. Maybe you’ve been wanting to do some volunteer work for any one of the needy charitable organizations in our area (visit volunteerhr.org for a list). The beginning of a new year is an excellent time to start volunteering.

The benefits of volunteering are many, especially if you are between jobs. Besides having something to put on your resume, you will be learning new skills and meeting new people. It also gets you off that couch and gives you a reason to get active. Plus, anytime you give to others it helps your own feelings of self worth. Because you feel more fulfilled, this translates into less stress in your life. And ultimately, I believe, fewer worries.

Wouldn’t this world be a better place if instead of sitting around worrying all the time or griping about how disappointed we are with life in general or (fill in the blank) in particular, we get out and get involved and create positive change? It’s really that easy, and it only takes a single step. I’m going to make 2023 a year of giving—not just financially—but also giving my time and energy to help others. I hope you will find it in your heart to do the same. The end result will be a happier, healthier you and a better world to live in. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and publisher of Tidewater Family Plus magazine. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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