Stop Worrying about Worry Preparations stops when worry overwhelms BY : Troy Murphy |October 2015
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Worrying is automatic; for many, the slightest problem triggers relentless thought, interrupting other aspects of living. Worry doesn’t just take an emotional toll but also impacts physical health. Nothing new, right? We already know worrying is disruptive. Even the most seasoned, serial worriers know too much worry isn’t healthy. Fretting over life is a learned response. Stopping programmed responses—such as worrying—isn’t simple. Like other life changes, we must employ intentional work combined with patience and persistence to achieve modest improvements. Setbacks besiege the wearied traveler during the long journey of change. When we think we’ve made it, we discover a new challenge and revert to past patterns. When mental energies are exhausted, we reopen the harming practices of the past.
Physical and emotional reactions—such as incessant worrying—evolve from a complex mixture of biological, social, and experiential factors, weaving together to create how we feel the present. Complexity! Worrying is not bad. Worrying is essential to prepare for the future. When present action is blind to the future, lives become chaotic and dysfunctional. Worrying is a byproduct of planning for the future. Ancestors that worried about an approaching winter stored food and built protective shelters during the harvest season; preparation enhanced the likelihood of survival during the more barren months.
Unfortunately, the future is not perfectly predictable. Therefore, preparation isn’t perfect. We can’t be certain whether we are over or under preparing.
There’s no crystal ball. The future remains largely unknown; no matter how much we plan—and worry. The unknowns of the future will continue to haunt the present, driving a need to prepare for every possible contingency. We must find balance. Anxiety over unknown futures interfere with joys in the present. The cost-benefit scale for the effectiveness of planning peaks and then rapidly declines into lost sleep, unescapable anxiety, and creativity draining fatigue. Moderate worry prepares but excessive worry destroys.
If we habitually worry, we may introduce worrying over worry. “Oh no,” we may muse, “I am a worrier!” Worrying about worrying sucks us deeper into discouragement. We must re-direct efforts to constructive action instead of rumination of a constant flow of what-ifs. Sometimes anxiety dwells within our minds just seeking a problem to project the worry on. If this is the case, professional help may be needed. Fearful pasts live in the mind and must be combated. Scientifically proven relaxation techniques such as meditation, tai chi, or yoga may provide escape. Habitual worriers constantly fight battles with wandering thoughts, and perhaps permanent escape is not always possible; they may fight this war for the remainders of their lives.
"Anxiety over unknown futures interfere with joys in the present."
Ingrained patterns of thought often don’t fade with time, remaining a psychological thorn disrupting peace, and sleep for decades to come. Knowing a psychic pattern exists doesn’t solve the issue; and may even magnify the discomfort. Be patient and compassionate with your propensity to worry, treating the bothersome flaw as a dear but sometimes annoying friend. Change may come with effort, but not always. Sometimes complete extraction of a thorn isn’t possible, we simply must learn to manage the derailment of thought in less destructive ways, limiting the disruptions, and practicing self-soothing.
We can appreciate our uniqueness, including the pesky worrying that occasionally enters our domain uninvited, and disrupts our peace.