Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Being a worrier - good thing, or bad thing?

Confession: I’m a worrier. I regularly worry about things, niggle, occasionally have a sleepless night about something or other, find myself getting a bit snappy or stressy because something is digging around in the back (or front) of my head… Many years ago I suffered from depression due to worrying, and found myself on anti-depressants until I found my way out of the tunnel.

What I wonder though, is whether worrying about stuff is a good thing (in a way)? Obviously there are different levels of worry - from mild concern to downright all-out anxiety and breakdown - but for the low to middle range stuff, is worrying actually a good thing? We’re all encouraged not to worry (“If you can’t do anything about it and it’s out of your control: there’s no point in worrying”… “worrying just stops you thinking straight”… “worrying prevents you enjoying the other parts of your life”… “don’t worry, it’ll be fine, nothing to worry about”… “don’t be silly”...). But what I wonder is if there is actually a place for worry. It’s a natural instinct after all - so should we fight that feeling and try to train ourselves to ignore it?

If we didn’t worry, I don’t think the human race would have lasted this long: “If I forget to take my spear with me tomorrow the sabre tooth tiger might get me”. So, at its most basic level, worry is ultimately all about self-preservation. Without worry we’d all be crazy risk-takers!

But on the more complicated and sophisticated level, it isn’t quite as clear cut as that: worrying about something can be more insubstantial or hard to define, or multi-layered (several worries all at once, sometimes inter-connected like the worlds worst Venn diagram!). Worrying about relationships, health issues, family, work, money, etc.

A couple of years ago, my dad said something interesting:
“I’ve always been a worrier. People all my life have told me not to worry about things so much. But I actually think all my worrying over the years about different things has stopped the things I was worried about from happening. Something will come up - I’ll worry about it for a few minutes/days/hours/weeks/months (depending on its severity) but very, very rarely do any of the things I was worrying about actually happen. I think if I didn’t worry about something there’s a good chance it would turn out bad!” 
So, for him, worrying about stuff is like a good luck charm, almost like a superstition! It’s an interesting way to look at things though: to think of worrying as a natural occurrence and just accept it will happen.

Maybe, at the end of the day, we shouldn’t put too much pressure on ourselves to ignore or stop our worried thoughts - perhaps what we should be aiming for is to accept and then manage those worries so that they don’t take over our life and relationships with others. Accept that its inevitable we’re going to worry, almost inviting it in - but doing it in a managed and controlled way. Perhaps our worries are made worse because we worry about worrying! Worrying, by its very nature, tends to make us think in a more extreme way - always thinking the worst, most out-there ideas and imaginings. So if we accept that worry, whilst we’ll still be worrying, we’ll be doing it in a calmer way? Could that be a solution?

What do you think? How do you cope when you have something worrying in your life? What coping techniques do you use (if any)? Leave a comment, otherwise I’ll worry that no one’s listening to me! 😉

Sarah x

1 comment:

  1. I worry too, but I agree with your argument! I guess we just have to accept it's a natural thing, and that there is a way of turning that around to be an advantage (like your father said)!


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