Living a life free of anxiety is the promise of Dr. Gregory Popcak, author of Unworried. According to Dr. Popcak, anxiety tends to be a fear response triggered by something that either happened a long time ago, has not yet happened, or may not actually be happening at all. For instance, have you ever been afraid you said something embarrassing (or wish you hadn’t said it) while out to dinner with your friends (or client/customer), so you kept replaying the scene in your head and experienced a low-grade sense of dread? Or, say you emailed or texted a friend (or client/customer) and didn’t get a response — have you felt anxious that something must be wrong? (Editor’s note: I confess this is me. I’m a world-class worrier. Ask my partner.)
Dr. Popcak begins by differentiating between fear and anxiety/worry. He would say fear is the natural, biological, and appropriate response to an imminent threat. When the fear systems in our brain work properly, they serve a protective function, warning us of danger and then easing off once the threat has passed. In contrast to fear, anxiety is when the brain’s natural fear circuits get hijacked by something that isn’t an immediate danger or could even be good for us.
Think about your life — where you work, live, and play. Now think about your parents or grandparents. I bet your life is filled with way more activity and travel. You may live in an urban setting that’s more stressful, or your kids have endless sports and other activities (I grew up surrounded by farms, where in the summer, the neighborhood kids met every day to play unsupervised baseball; I think you get the point). And you wonder why you’re feeling stressed!
I won’t attempt to summarize the book, but if anything I’ve said resonates in your mind, I would highly recommend investing some time in Unworried. Like many authors of the books I’ve read in the past few years, Dr. Popcak describes the need to reprogram our brain, and he strongly believes we can. In explaining what to do, he uses the metaphor of creating surge-protection as well as a treatment called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), and limiting or eliminating the use of medications. This book provides well-grounded hope for the worrier.
As someone with anxiety, I plan to incorporate Dr. Popcak’s advice into my life.