Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Bit About Worrying

"When I look back on all these worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened." – Winston Churchill.

Some days I wonder how it all happened. How I started being afraid of things. How I became such a worrier. I’d like to say it’s the kid’s faults (easy to blame them and the dog), but really, I’ve been this way since my early twenties.

I used to be unprepared to a ridiculous degree. One time I went on a camping trip in college and didn’t even bring a sleeping bag. I slept on the hard floor of the tent, curled in a ball. And I wasn’t even passed out drunk. These days, I try to control my world by being overly prepared.

I used to be relatively irresponsible.  A few minutes late to work, no problem. Ran out of gas? Oh well. Accepting a ride from a stranger when I was stranded? Yeah, okay, stupid.  Now I ease my mind by being ultra in-charge and controlling. Hence my nickname, “TC” (Take Charge).

I never used to sit around thinking, “what if” as I jumped off of 100 foot cliffs in Greece or got on a plane during a snowstorm. Now, I habitually question, “what if” as a means of trying to prepare for the worst. It’s very depressing. And paralyzing.

None of this is fun. In fact, living with a worried mind down right sucks. Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and a place for worry. Like that time I was hiking and heard a mountain lion growl in the nearby trees. You bet I was worried. For my life. And, rightfully so. Once safe in the car I worried about my soiled pants too.

I miss the carefree days. I get that with jobs, kids and a mortgage comes a certain amount of planning and accountability. But, does the mind have to get so involved?  The mind needs a good whooping, really. The mind is the beast that reminds me that bad things can happen and prompts me to think that worrying about them will stave them off. Just not true. We’ve all heard that phrase that 90% of what we worry about never happens. So, why worry?

Fear. We are all afraid. Afraid of not being good enough. Afraid of dying. Afraid of losing someone we love. Afraid of shattering the ideal life we have created. Afraid of failing. Afraid of not being perfect.

My theory is that we use worry to cope. It makes us think we have control. Worry intensifies as we get older because we’ve lived long enough to know about all the bad and freaky stuff that can happen. Our thoughts get the best of us.

If you are a worrier, you probably have triggers where your worry sets in. Mine is travelling. Weird, because who doesn’t love vacations, right? I do, but I fret.  I know that every time I have plans to go out of town, I start to worry. About the unknown. About not being in a familiar setting. About everything. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to travel and do it a lot. But it can be uncomfortable for me. And I HATE flying. In snowstorms. On clear days. Again, loss of control.

So, if we’re to tackle this thing called worry, how do we beat it down and refuse to let damper our days?

I have a great book called “Worry - Hope and Help for a Common Condition.” I reference its highlighted pages when I need a swift kick in the butt. Here are my favorite worry busters:

  • Get the facts. Base worry on reality rather than a terrifying fantasy your imagination has concocted.
  • Reality-test your worry. Regain perspective. Ask someone who should know if what you’re worrying about makes sense or if you may have exaggerated it. Remember Freud’s advice: if you’re worried about lions in Africa, that’s okay. If you’re worried about lions in Venice, you’re stupid and wasting time (that’s verbatim Freud).
  • Learn how to talk to yourself in a calming, reassuring way. Most worriers do just the opposite. They are forever yelling, “FIRE” within their minds. Learn phrases you can repeat to yourself such as “it’s never as bad as you think.”
  • Listen to music. It’s scientifically proven to reduce tension and anxiety.
  • Pray or meditate to keep things in perspective. “Let go, let God.”
  • Develop connectedness in any way that you can. Social connectedness, familial connectedness, connections to your past.
  • Talk about it. Sometimes speaking your worry takes the power out of it and gives you outside perspective.

Are you a worrier? About what? How do you combat it?

SUAR

51 comments:

  1. I only worry about what I can control...the rest is out of my hands.....$#!T Happens!!!

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  2. I try to live in the moment no matter how sh*tty it may be.....

    Also I tell myself to take a breath.

    Think good thoughts, yeah I know that sounds dumb. But it is better than thinking crappy thoughts!

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  3. I used to worry all the time. About everything. What people thought of me, how I made a fool out of myself because of my lack of verbal filter, over the lesson plans I had to write for the next month, I worried about what if I couldn't ahve kids way before it was even time to have kids, worried about the research paper that was due in 3 weeks, the race I had to run on the weekends, how much weight I was gaining, everything. And then I married my perfect balance...he's my calm. He's taught me to just let it go. I've really worked hard in life to be where I am at now and I don't worry so much anymore. I just let things go and do what I can. When I start worrying, I start writing down and saying all the things that I have in my life that are wonderful and that I have to be oh so thankful for. This usually puts my worrying in perspective and helps me to just stop worrying. Oh, and running or intense exercise usually does the trick too. Haven't worried in awhile which is nice. :)

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  4. I am a horrible worrier...especially when pregnant.....my kids run a fever with no other symptoms and I am googling leukemia symptoms....I watch a story about a family that gets stranded in their car in a snow storm and even though this happened in orgen and I live in suburban Maryland I instantly make a survival kit that could feed my childs pre-school for a month! I often times think that the life I have created with my husband is soo fairytale that their is no way we can escape bad all the time. Bad is around us everywhere things that are completely out of one's control, and how are we sooo lucky and blessed over and over again. I often pray and thank god and strive to do as much good as I can for our family, home and community and even those folks I don't know...it is truly the only thing that eases my mind! great post!

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  5. And no Chris, Beth didn't set a word count limit on this so shut it!

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  6. I AM SUCH A WORRIER! Ha I worry about everything, what I can control, what I can't just everything! I do try to talk it out, and that helps, in fact I am talking about worrying how there could be a ginormous earthquake in CA like there just was in NZ.
    PS I am adding that quote by Winston Churchill to my quotebook, it's quite perfect! :)

    http://annawalker1992.blogspot.com/

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  7. I am a worrier and I'm a big wuss and don't combat it.

    Carefree days? Don't you like work at home? That is uber-carefree.

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  8. I've become less of a worrier as I've gotten on in years. I am married to the king of all worriers so I need to balance that,

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  9. The most I worry about is if I am going to make it out of work on time for my runs. Now thats serious.

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  10. In the past I was a worrier and at the ripe old age of 17 had an ulcer. After several more years of worry I decided it wasn't worth being that sick ever again over, so I try hard to not worry especially about things I simply cannot control.

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  11. Sadly yes. I worry, All the time, about pretty much everything, the kids, money, our health, am I doing an ok job raising my boys, Flying is a big one for me also and I am from Quebec, Canada and I now live in Southern California. I have not been back home in over 2 years. It is bad. I left my parents house at 18 and I have been like that since then and I am now 42. It sucks. Causes me to get insomnia also. I started running last year at 41 and I must say it does help. A lot. Never heard of that book before I will look for it.

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  12. I'm a BIG time worrier.....it drives me and everyone else around me nuts. I would have never thought you were a worrier...thanks for sharing, great post!

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  13. I used to be a bigger worrier...about everything! But I'm starting to control it better. Meditation has helped me to learn to stay in the moment. When I start to get worked up about something I stop and ask myself is this really a good use of my energy and is it really going to change the outcome? Takes the emotion out of it which helps.

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  14. My worrying comes in spurts. Sometimes it is all-consuming and others it is nearly non-existent. My kids are what most of my worrieas are about.

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  15. I ALWAYS worry that my zipper is down. I am constantly checking it which just makes me look like a pervert. Even if I know I just checked it, I will check again a second later just to make sure. If you read my blog today, this turns out to be a legitimate worry.

    BUT, seriously, I think most of my worries started when I had kids. Last summer I went kayaking for the first time. I was in a slow river, that was only waist deep or less and I'm a really good swimmer, but I was so worried I was going to tip over and ...well...I'm not sure what I was worried about, but it was severe worry.

    So I went from white water rafting while drinking Keystone from a can all summer long when I was in my twenties, to being afraid of a little slow flow in a lazy river. What's up with that?

    Gotta be the kids... or the lack of consistent risk that I now take.

    My favorite over the top tv evangelist said that worry is like making a downpayment on something that will probably never happen.

    WHAT A WASTE.

    Worry not! Live on!

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  16. Indeed, a worrier I am - and I've been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder because of it... or maybe I'm a worrier because the anxiety disorder?

    Thanks to my awesome family, yoga, running, healthy eating, and mindful living I've been able to flip that diagnosis 'the bird' and live a happy (prescription free) life. Not saying I don't freak out from time to time (dude, I'm a full-time worker and full-time grad student and training for races and a rock climber and a wife-of-a-workaholic... oh yeah, and a work-a-holic... who wouldn't freak out??), but for the most part I can be a 'healthy' level worrier these days :)

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  17. I grew up with 7 younger brothers and a worrying mom (She should have worried, too, we were incorrigible rascals). She worried about everything! When I grew up, I never worried about anything. I still don't. The drawback to this is that I'm not afraid of a single thing, even armed men in dark alleys. I am missing the "fear" response. I'm pretty sure that cannot lead to anything good.

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  18. I use to worry A LOT when I was a new mom but then things started to happen that I couldn't control and I realized "it was out of my hands". I still worry but usually about other people who make poor choices. Life happens and you can either Act or React and I'd rather Act and let the chips fall where they may.

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  19. Yes. I "knock on wood" like a mad man. I've been known to flip out on my husband for making overly confident statements that would require a "knock on wood". They said the Titanic was "unsinkable" and fate said bull shit.

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  20. i'm SUCH a worrier. my best coping strategy is to just do. keep my mind off the worry because, like you said, most of what we worry about never happens.

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  21. I heard that 9 times out of 10 the things we worry about never come true. Have a great trip. More bikini pics please.

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  22. I never, ever worry about anything. I subscribe to the Andy Kelp philosophy of life - "Every day is another chance to triumph over the unexpected." Generally life, and other people will take care of themselves if you let them be.

    That doesn't mean I don't plan. I think it's quite smart to look forward and make reasonable preparations. I said *reasonable* preparations. That means giving myself a few minutes extra in case traffic is bad; that's just good sense. But I don't worry that I'll get a flat tire, or that I'll be run over by an idiot in a huge SUV, or that a meteor will strike, or, or, or.

    There are an infinity of things that could happen at any random time. But there's no sense worrying about them. They will happen or not. If they do, then cope. And if they don't, all that worry was wasted.

    Relax. Enjoy the trip. You know you're going to die sooner or later, so what's the big deal? If sooner, your kids (if you have any) will either learn to survive on their own and be better for it, or will be eaten by wolves, so really there's no downside. If later, you can put them to work for you, that being the H'alfred P Dolittle school of thought, (the most original moralist).

    All worrying will do is give you stomach pain or an ulcer. It interferes with your digestion and sleep. It gets your imagination going on stuff that isn't going to happen (like winning the lottery) and gets it off stuff that's happening now (like 99% of American's being raped by the super-rich).

    Do I really need to explain who Kelp and Dolittle are? Please say no.

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  23. I could be your twin. (I'd be the bigger, fatter one who was born a few years earlier) I could worry for Australia. I totally get what you mean about travel and had to have valium for years to be able to get onto a plane. But I am improving.

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  24. This is good. I used to worry about everything. Worry led to panic attacks....

    I don't worry nearly as much anymore. My sister died. I for whatever reason tell myself no matter what happens, even if I couldn't pay my mortgage-(which I wouldn't do because I'm still a bill freak but if I "couldn't"), I would not die.....Fear-still have that fear of open water. Yep, worry about that. Overall, my 30's have been much more relaxed than my 20's.

    Have a great trip Beth. It's gonna be awesome!!!

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  25. The older I get, the less I worry. I think it is because I have racked up so many experiences where I was 90% wrong with the worry and that has helped me let go. I've learned that most things I do won't help.

    Also, it helps not to watch too much news or read too much about all the horrible things that go on. Ignorance is bliss as they say.

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  26. All good tips. I wrote down the name of that book. I am so looking forward to leaving five kids this summer to go on a cruise with my husband....I am also SO worried about leaving five kids to go on a cruise with my husband.

    I try to avoid things I can't change....so I don't watch, or read the news. If there is anything else I can be in denial about I often use that was an attempt to stop worrying.

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  27. I worry about my in-laws..ugh! Because we have become the logical ground they refuse to engage, within themselves. Their life defeats are my nightmare. Their consistent financial problems, everyday life choices, and lack of common sense weigh heavy on my mind and heart.

    Yet it is their life...their choices. I take long deep breathes and remind myself that I have no control over the choices they make. However I do have control over the choice(s) to get involved..thats my power!

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  28. Am I a worrier? Well if you look up the word you will see my pic right there next to it! I worry about stupid stuff, stuff I can control and stuff I can't. I can't stop.

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  29. I share your same problem and am at my wits end. I have canceled so many trips and feel trapped by my anxiety. Glad to hear that I am not alone and others have overcome this. As for me.....who knows.

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  30. Excellent post! I am a HUGE worry-wart! I worry about everything from hurting people's feelings to making sure I stay long enough at work each day if my run took me 5 minutes longer than yesterday. It's ridiculous. Spike has really helped me relax to some degree but I still have a ways to go... it's comforting to know I'm not alone in this. Thanks for the great write-up and for sharing the words of wisdom from that book... I've already written it down to pick up!

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  31. I'm a huge worrier - to the point that it sometimes shuts me down and I become unable to function. I'm working on letting go of things I don't control and doing something about the things I do control.

    The tips you shared at the end are really good, particularly the one about worrying about reality, not fantasy. I honestly worry about things that I've basically made up.

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  32. I don't really worry about things. In my mind its a waste of energy.

    I enjoy life and try to take nothing for granted (as easy as it is at times).

    I can also say that things have worked out pretty well for us so I have not been slapped in the face with all sorts of bad things that would lead me to be a worrier.

    We don't have kids, therefore life is simple :)

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  33. I've noticed I've become more of a worrier as I get older too. It's the worst when I have trouble sleeping.

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  34. Dude, I am a huge worrier. My husband thinks I am nuts. I pack extremely large bags just to go out for the day because God forbid I should forget something and have to buy it once in a while. And you should have seen us camping last summer. I had a full house packed into one truck and a huge tent, and we were only camping at a Koa in Jackson not a safari in Timbuktu.

    I am learning to let go a bit now that I have 2 kids. I know that means I should worry more, but there just isn't enough time. So, I had a little chat with myself and I went out and got a script for retin A to combat the wrinkles I have from all of my worring, decided I am going to buy an old airstream trailer and restore it so it can hold all of the crap while camping, and have stopped watching all of those the world is going to end, 1000 ways to die disaster shows on tv.

    Thanks for pointing out the fantasy part too. I tend to imagine the worst in my mind before it even happens.

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  35. great post. i've been realizing lately how much i worry about stuff outta my control. does no good, just stresses me out. i needed this perspective :)

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  36. I used to worry like crazy about anything and everything and then the dr told me that I have anxiety and I needed to stop worrying about the things that I can't control, so now I try to be more carefree about things and not to overreact when it's not necessary!

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  37. I am the queen of worry. And I think you're right--it probably all comes down to what I can/can't control. My mom's (overused!) line with me is "don't borrow trouble." Easier said than done.

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  38. I rarely leave town for vacation because of travel worry. I am ok locally but god forbid I have to get on a plane. It's worry but the PITA (and I dont' mean EMZ's hubby) factor. PITA the pack, travel to the airport, get on a plane, fill out paperwork, arrive at destination and talk to scary police, get to resort, have no idea where you are or what you are doing. Once I'm there I'm ok but by the second day I'm worrying about the travel home.

    My comments are WAY too long..

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  39. I have been a worrier since birth. Serious, terrible anxieties. I cope by climbing mountains and facing my fears as regularly as possible (except for spiders, seriously, why do those little f*#$@rs have to hide in my shoes?). As the workweek progresses, I worry. I worry about work. I worry about worrying too much. Eventually I crash into depression around Wednesday or Thursday, and pick myself up again for the weekend to go hiking again.

    Been trying to get myself to run during the week to relieve some of the tension... but what if I hurt myself again?

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  40. I am admittedly a worrier. I always have been, and I got it from my Mom. I remember being a kid and having panic attacks when my Mom or Dad was not home 5 minutes after I thought they should be.

    Now I am terrified of things like flying and skydiving and skiing and I still worry incessantly about people I care about.

    I read a great quote on Tall Mom recently that stuck with me:

    "You should have a healthy sense of paranoia."

    I definitely agree and I WANT to be prepared and safe... but there is a fine line where it becomes excessive.

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  41. What, me worry? I worry about not worrying !

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  42. Total worrier!! Oh to be a kind again...hmm but i think I still worried about kid things!! Dang it!

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  43. But what do you do when your worry becomes excessive to the point where you can not shut it off? These catch phrases help the average person but don't seam to help me. Any advise?

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  44. The older I get the more I worry. I hate flying and worry the whole time you know what will happen. I worry about not packing enough or forgetting something. I worry about signing up for a race too early and injuring myself and not being able to run in it, then I worry I will wait to long and it will be full. I mostly worry about making the wrong decision. I am a worry-wart! eek! Thanks for sharing your worries.

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  45. I worry about everything. I usually handle it by using the "worst-case scenario". If I have a plan in place for what *I* think is the worst that can happen, I can work backwards and be OK. Crazy? Maybe. But I never claimed to be anything but.

    My priest often says that worry is focusing on the negative and meditation is focusing on the positive - if you know how to worry, you know how to meditate. I feel like I should be an EXPERT!

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  46. If you think about it though, even animals worry. Like my dog, she'll worry herself to death if I give her a bone and she wants to bury it somewhere safe. There's a commercial about an investment firm that has this exact scenario about a dog and it's bone.

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  47. My favorite remedy? Two words: crack pipe.

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  48. Use to be a worrier but my therapist told me one thing (he told me a lot of things actually) but this one has stuck out the most. You can only control the things in your control. For example on a plane and worried about landing....why? Are you flying the plane? Can you control how it lands and where it lands? If not, then let it go.

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  49. I needed this post today - not only a reminder that I'm not the only one who worries, but some worry-bustin' tips. This morning I went from worrying about my health problems (cleared) to worrying about how to pay for the tests & doctor visits. It will be much more productive to get the (financial) facts, work on the paperwork, reassure myself, and call my family than it would be to sit around worrying myself into more health problems!
    -g.

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  50. I saw a quote on a church sign once that said "worrying is a misuse of your imagination." When things get too heavy I remind myself of that quote and try to put things into a better, more healthy perspective. Seriously now, who wants to misuse their imagination? :-) (easier said than done, of course)

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