Worrying is an emotion that consumes a massive amount of time in many of our lives. We worry about:
- Paying bills
- Acceptance into social events
- Work performance
- Academic performance
- Relational acceptance
- Meeting deadlines
- Sporting performance
- And the list goes on and on
So why do we worry? There are as many reasons as there are individuals. We fear life and death itself. According to the Psychology Today website, “worrying can also pertain to wanting to be perceived by the world as we wish. And desiring to see ourselves as we want to be seen. When we are heavily invested in projecting and maintaining a certain image or persona to others, we must be ever-watchful and guarded about that particular persona being penetrated and seen through. We worry about being exposed. Being known. Found out, as, for example, in the so-called “imposter syndrome.” Being judged. Criticized. And we worry about knowing ourselves. About being confronted with who and what we truly are. We humans innately harbor a primal fear of the unconscious, the unknown, and of what C.G. Jung termed the shadow.”
Probably one of the most applicable books that I have read that comprehensively addresses these taxing emotional feelings that we experience is Max Lucado’s Traveling Light. He addresses the “what ifs” that we toss around in our minds for perhaps hours on end, ironically when there is typically nothing that can be done about the situation(s). I would encourage considering reading this for anyone who suffers from worrying. I know that it is an easy emotion to harbor, and not release. That is one of the reasons that I chose to write about it. Worrying never added a minute to anyone’s life, but has probably subtracted from it.
So with all that said, the common question is how do we prevent the worrying emotion? I don’t believe that it can be prevented completely. It probably provides an instinctual process that signals our sympathetic nervous system to act as if we need to “fight or flee” and trigger our autonomic nervous system to function so as to provide energy for such an occasion. But that is not how we want to operate in life: with stress and anxiety. There are techniques and exercises that can help prevent the unproductive emotion of compulsive worrying. I have linked a couple of APA blogs that may be helpful. The challenge to many is actually acknowledge that worrying is hindering some part of productivity or joy that life may have to offer, and want to address it productively.
I have used planning techniques that prevent worrying about meeting deadlines, address situations upfront rather than letting them simmer until something more undesirable than the actual event happens, and continually accept yourself and surroundings. All of this sounds so simple in words, I know. It does not come easy, and it takes a lot of courage and patience. And I would be ecstatic if just this posting helped many people, but it takes work – which is well worth the effort. When something doesn’t go as planned, few of these are actually life altering or threatening. This is a challenging process for so many, and I hope that this information is at least somewhat enlightening.
As always, I welcome comments.