Banish Worrying, Scientific Backed Ways to End Worrying, Stop Worrying and Start Living, How to Stop Worrying about Money (your job, finding your next client, things you can’t change, fill in the blank), and my personal favorite, How to Stop Worrying about Worrying.
These are actual titles of articles about worry, and if the volume of advice available on the subject is any indication it’s hard to imagine that there could be anything left to write about, but there one issue that is rarely discussed.
Is worry all bad, or can it ever serve a purpose?
To answer this question we’re going to explore the two faces of worry.
Understanding the Nature of Worry
We all experience worry from time to time; it is a skill for which we need no training. In fact, some scientists believe it may be hardwired into our DNA.
On the positive side, worry can be beneficial if we use it constructively to focus our attention and energy on taking action to solve a problem, address an issue or strive to achieve goals.
For example, you may be concerned about getting an important report turned in on time. Rather than waste energy worrying, you decide to put in a few extra hours of work so you don’t have to rush and can be assured of making the deadline.
I wished there was some kind of switch in my brain that I could turn it off in the same way that I could turn off the television. Just click it off and immediately empty my mind of all these images and worrying thoughts. And simply leave a blank screen. Or if I could just remove my head and put it on the bedside table and forget about it until morning. And then attach it again when I needed it. ~Marian Keyes
On the negative end of the scale is chronic worry, which is the focus of most advice articles.
This is a triggered response to a problem (real or imagined) that is negative in nature and involves over analyzing the situation and is usually accompanied by an emotional reaction and mental pictures of the potential worst case scenario that plays out repeatedly.
Using the example of feeling the pressure to get an important report in on time, when you become stuck in chronic worry, instead of taking action, you’d likely end up treating yourself to full-color mental reruns of all the things that could go wrong, from being criticized by your boss to losing your job and ending up homeless.
Chronic worry is an exhausting process that can escalate to anxiety and fear, even as it paralyzes you and prevents you from taking action. It can adversely affect your health and relationships, which is why everyone is telling you to just stop it.
Of course, as we all know, stopping a habit that has been a part of your life for years, maybe decades, is far easier said than done.
Why is it So Hard to Stop Worrying?
Worrying is a habit that is grounded in your beliefs. No one enjoys the way worrying feels, but there is a natural tendency to believe it serves a purpose because it gives you something (you perceive as) constructive to do.
The flaw in this belief is that we become so mired in thinking and imagining that we take no action to solve the problem (if there actually is one) which only causes the worry and anxiety to deepen.
But the good news is that since chronic worry is a habit, it can be broken.
The most constructive way to do this is to think in terms of managing your worry by sorting out what part is worth paying attention to and converted into action, and what part is useless and should be ushered out the backdoor, so to speak.
And as I often do, I highly recommend using a journal to work through this process.
Any level of worry that fails to spur you to take action is unhealthy and a waste of your time and energy. On the other hand, being concerned about a problem in a way that motivates you to get moving and resolve the issue can be beneficial.
So, you can worry and lose sleep over how you’re going to pay your bills this month (lose weight, get that promotion, etc.), or you can turn your concerns into action and focus on solutions and growth.
There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem. ~Harold Stephen
How about you? Are you a worrier? Are you able to turn worry into constructive action?
Related reading …
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.