When I ask my women audiences, “Please, put your hand up if your family or friends say to you, ‘Stop worrying!’” approximately a third of them raise their hands. Wow! What a waste of time, energy and focus. Yet, I have been guilty of being a worry wart myself. Many times I have asked “Why worry?” Maybe you have, too! Notice, that last sentence does not read, you have to.
Let us define worry as:
ruminating on thoughts, images, and imagined negative outcomes of a possible and future event. It is an attempt to problem solve a challenge that most often never happens.
Results of Excessive Worrying
Here is what happens. When you imagine danger, your body reacts as if it is actually happening. A fight or flight response kicks in with increased heart rate, deeper and heavier breathing, and hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) released into your blood stream. Sometimes a collapse response is trigger and is experienced as a numbing sensation.
Worry can also result in headaches, bowel problems, sleep disturbance, a weakened immune system, loss of memory, and loss of appetite for food and/or sex. This distress affects relationships as well. You might say or hear, “Sorry dear, back off! I’m too busy worrying!”
Chronic worrying, especially if the above results gang up on you, can turn into its big brother, anxiety. Obviously, getting a handle on our brain’s worry chatter is a worthy goal. What do we tend to worry about? A Psychology Today article, “Against All Odds” attempted to answer that question by looking at American statistics.
What People say When Asked, Why Worry?
Here are some of the top sources of Americans’ worry and their statistical odd of actually happening.
- Odds of dying in a shark attack: 1 in 3.7 million
- Odds of dying from drowning: 1 in 1.134
- Odds of dying from being struck by lightning: 1 in 79,746
- Average annual risk of being killed in a plane crash: 1 in 2 million
- Average annual risk of being killed in a car crash: 1 in 7,700
- Lifetime odds of being killed in an assault involving a gun: 1 in 32. This statistic is scary.
Note: My understanding is that Canada’s worry ratios are lower.
Why Not Worry
Consider the lyrics of Why Worry from the British rock band, Dire Straits:
There should be laughter after pain. There should be sunshine after rain. These things have always been the same. So why worry now?
Makes sense, eh? In Canada, the late Alberta Governor General, Lois Hole said, “Ninety-nine per cent of things you worry about don’t happen; the other one percent you can’t do anything about, so why worry at all?”
Yet worry continues for many in a chaotic and challenging world. If you identify as a worry wart, please consider exploring some anti-worry practices.
10 Ways to Stop Worrying
Overcoming worry (and anxiety0 requires some focus and effort.
- Make a list of the scary, future events you worry about. The fears might be items such as your child will marry that loser or you might die from lung cancer. Keep writing until you have ten or more events you fear. Then score each item from (0) I have no control to (10) I have total control. Where you have significant control lower the risk by taking action. It doesn’t matter what action. On action might be to write down a Plan A and a Plan B. Where you have little or no control let it go.
- To let go, notice your thought and your body distress, take in a big breath and let it out while thinking, “Let it go!”
- Read Richard Carlson’s little book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.
- Post the serenity prayer where you can read it daily. Grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
- Contain your worrying thoughts by disciplining yourself to only worry while sitting in a particular spot. Choose an uncomfortable Worry Chair. Sit there until you are ready to focus on something productive.
- Edit your thoughts. Ask yourself, “Logically, why should I worry?”
- Practice optimistic thinking. Ask yourself, “What is the best that could happen?
- Focus on all the reasons you have to be grateful.
- Volunteer to help those who have a better reason to worry than you.
- Consider seeking professional counselling to help avoid worry turning turn into anxiety.
Here’s a bonus–a 1.41 minute video called How to Stop Worrying: Help for Worry Warts!
I hope your answer to why worry has shifted. If you seldom worry or created positive results using thought-calming ideas, please let us know. Ok?