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Addicted to Worrying


Posted by angela p.

I come from a long line of worriers but am trying to break the habit. I figure my mother worries enough for both of us. Obviously, I'm not alone. Often worriers are perfectionists that fear they won't be able to live up to their expectations and they sabotage their efforts. When anticipating a deadline they replace regular work on a project with worrying and procrastination. Going through school, I often waited until the last night before starting a project and I remember thinking "wow this is interesting, too bad I didn't start studying earlier so I could spend more time learning."

Some people don't feel like they're alive unless they have at least one thing to worry about. People try to control their lives and situations but ultimately this is impossible. The problem is that when someone expects bad results often they get just what they expect. When things turn out well can we attribute it to all the worrying? I don't think so.

The November '07 issue of Self Magazine has a long article / essay by Stephanie Olgoff points out that "anxiety that prevents a person from relishing life even when things are going swimmingly is a genuine problem"

"Worriers hope to gain a feeling of sureness," says Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., author of The Worry Cure (Three Rivers Press). "They want to avoid disappointment or staunch a problem before it gets out of control."

A study in Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy found that fully 85 percent of the things we worry about never occur.

People are addicted to worrying, it gets the adrenaline pumping and provides a distraction to dealing with real emotion and the randomness of life.

I'm fairly certain that when we're on our death beds we're not going to wish that we worried more. If worrying was productive I'd be a millionaire a few times over.

 
Comments (6)
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A few years ago, I would worry if every detail was not planned. Then I took a trip that changed my life. All that was planned was my flight to New York and back to California. The plan was to go visit my family in Toronto, Canada and nothing else was planned. We landed in NY, found a hotel, rented a car and started driving North the next day (we didn't even have directions). Along the way, we decided to stop and eventually made it to Toronto. We stayed a few nights and part way through the trip, we heard on the news that NY was having a transit strike. All of the news announcements were say that people need a full car (5 passengers) to enter NY or you're not getting in. Even this stressful event didn't get me worried! I called my parents in CA and they were worried about how we would home. I shrugged my shoulders and calmly said, "I don't know." We arrived at some bridge and sure enough, no one was allowed to enter NY unless you had a full car or where on foot. Long story short, we went sight seeing, stayed a few extra nights and finally got into NY in time to fly home to CA. It was one of the best trips of my life because it was 100% stress free (even with the snowstorms and transit strike). Moral of the story, even if ever detail is planned, we have no control of the situation, so stop worrying.
While some worry is good because it tells us about a potential danger we face, chronic worrying is often just a counterproductive habit. You can train your brain to let go of the worry, but I believe part of that is to let go of needing or expecting your life to be a certain way. If we're worried when good times happen, it's because we've become attached to them. All things change.
I think that there's a distinction between expressing a healthy concern vs. worrying all the time. I've found that worrying is extremely counterproductive and it takes us out of the moment entirely. It also creates the illusion that we have some sort of control over the things that happen--if we worry, we're at least bracing ourselves for the bad stuff, so it's almost like the worst-case scenario has already been lived out. I think it's crucial to roll with the punches--trust in yourself and know that given the millennia of evolutionary adaptations humans have made, you'll be able to handle whatever curveball life throws you.
I have read all the Dale Carnegie books, including "How to Stop Worrying and How to Start Living". It is very instructive and has helped me and several of my friends escape the torture of worrying. One of the advice things they talk about is to imagine the WORST thing that can happen and then improve upon that. Kind of like clenching and unclenching your fist.
It keeps me working until everything is perfect. Even if it's not for my professional life. My anxiety is worse if I'm working to help someone, do something for someone, make someone happy, etc. I'm trying to find a balance now between making others happy and keeping myself calm and happy.
Worrying has actually brought a lot of good to my life...it has helped me find things that help me not worry. Perhaps if I was not one of those addicted to worrying types, I would not be into natural health, yoga, or be typing this right now.
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