Learning from a Dog about Anxiety
My friend Karen Gill (Personal Chef, Owner of Down to Earth Chef) went to special dog training classes with her rescue dog, Cosmo. Karen believes Cosmo had some bad experiences before being rescued and now he has anxiety. When Cosmo gets anxious, he barks a lot at many different things and gets himself agitated.
When Cosmo barks at something he sees outside the living room window, Karen says in a very calm tone: “Not your business, Cosmo.” Through this training, Cosmo has learned to turn away and goes back to his own business.
Keeping his attention on his own business helps Cosmo reduce his anxiety and stay calm.
Where is Your Attention?
Is your focus on you, your life, your desires/wants, your choices, what makes you happy?
Or do you focus more on others and what they think, what they want, what they’re doing, what they want you to do, what they think of you?
What You Can Learn from Cosmo
Focusing on yourself (your own business) really can help reduce anxiety.
When you focus too much on other people and other people’s business, some dangerous things can happen (all of which cause anxiety):
1. You can start comparing yourself to others, feeling not good enough, feeling like you’re not keeping up with the Joneses, or feeling bad about yourself.
2. You judge others more. She “shouldn’t” be doing that. He “should” be doing that. It’s easy to get caught up in what you think other people should or shouldn’t be doing. Then you can lose focus on yourself and doing what is right for you.
3. You can get caught up in the need to be right, which results in you using your precious energy to prove another is wrong. The need to be right creates black and white thinking, which usually causes upset and increases stress and anxiety because life is actually full of shades of gray.
4. You can get easily overwhelmed focusing on other people. Who made it your responsibility to get involved with their business? Do you have people in your life who try to lure you into their problems or their drama? People who want you to solve their problems for them?
5. You can get caught up in trying to control other people, or control situations. This always increases anxiety because it’s impossible!
“Not Your Business, Di”
Let me give you a personal example. When I went to my first Vipassana 10-day silent meditation course, I had a roommate who didn’t follow all the rules. She showered or napped during our designated meditation time. She closed the door when we were instructed to leave the door open, and disregarded many other rules.
I got quite upset about this. I was quite irritated and kept thinking:
• “She should be following these rules!”
• “She shouldn’t be doing that!”
• “Why won’t she do this the “right” way?!?!”
I was very bothered. She was not. In fact, I don’t think she was upset at all.
My focusing on her business only got ME worked up. It only harmed ME.
Finally, I realized that my only business was to do my best with my own meditation and my own following of the rules. I had to remind myself “Not your business, Di.” Only then did my stress, anxiety, and upset subside. Then I could really do my best with my own meditation.
How to Be More Like Cosmo
Be aware of your thoughts and where you putting your attention. When your focus is more on YOU than on other people, you will feel calmer and have less stress and anxiety.
Ask yourself some questions:
• What is really my business in this situation? What isn’t my business?
• Am I worrying about what other are saying, doing, or thinking?
• Right now, is my thinking or talking about other people’s business causing me more or less anxiety?
• What is one thing I can do right now to stay focused on ME?