Q: I’m terribly afraid of aging. I’m only in my forties, but I think about it a lot. Is there anything you can do to help?
A: You’re aging — we’re all aging — from the minute we’re born. Ruminating about something over which you have no control only serves to raise anxiety. If you want to lower your anxiety, you must face the obsessing and ruminating head-on.
The solution is not to convince yourself that aging is unimportant, or “not all that bad.” Of course it stinks! So does death. But it’s part of life, too. It’s an absolute fact of reality which we cannot escape. A is A, as Aristotle taught long ago. It’s still true today.
The goal here is to convince yourself that aging is not worth thinking about. It’s not worth thinking about for the majority of your lifespan, when you’re either young or middle-aged; nor is it worth dwelling on once you’re in your golden years, as any mentally healthy older person will tell you. “You’re as old as you feel,:” many older people with a healthy attitude (and often a healthy body) tell me. Of course this is not literally true; but the implication in the statement is that you don’t have to think about your age, even when you’re old. Just live your life, based on what you’re able to do at that point in time.
The only things worth focusing on are here-and-now issues and planning for the long-term. Rational planning is not the same as ruminating. Eat a reasonable diet, and get a reasonable amount of exercise. These will help you both in the long-term and short-term. Plan for your old-age savings. Make sure you develop at least a few hobbies in your younger years which can carry over into retirement if you’re not able to work or see or hear as well. These are rational ways to handle aging. Beyond that, you have to work on letting go. And in order to let go, you’re going to have to convince yourself it makes no sense to worry about that which you can’t control. I bet if you look into this issue further, you’ll discover there are other aspects of life over which you have no control that you’re trying to wish into being different.
Training the mind to focus on things over which you have rational control, and letting go of things it’s impossible to change, are the best antidotes to anxiety and phobia of any kind.
Dr Michael Hurd
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