Worry Too Much?

I don’t know what we were talking about, but I remember once when my grandfather said to me, “I’m just so worried.” I said, “About what, Grandaddy?” He answered, “I don’t know. That’s what has me so worried.”

            A lot of folks complain that they worry too much. Worry – a first cousin to anxiety – is another one of those stressful areas that presents a coping challenge; it’s one of those areas where you’re tempted to surrender to it and burden yourself with self-criticism: “I could do all right if I didn’t worry so much.”

            Stop being so hard on yourself. Remember, worry is an adaptive trait that increases survival chances. If you didn’t worry about being robbed, you wouldn’t install security devices in your home; if you didn’t worry about dangers to your children, you wouldn’t be attentive to where they are and what they’re doing; if you didn’t worry about completing a project at work to your boss’s satisfaction, you wouldn’t put in extra time and effort to produce a quality outcome; if you didn’t worry about future financial security, you wouldn’t make an effort to save. Worrying can give you and your loved ones a much better quality of life.

            No doubt about it, a little worrying can go a long way. From a coping perspective, though, things can go south when the worry becomes excessive. That’s not surprising because there are a lot of things that are good for us unless done to excess. Food and water are both essential for survival, but too much of either one can damage your body. Even extreme thinking can be your coping undoing, because it hides alternative actions from you and locks you into one way of meeting challenges. When it comes to coping with stress, moderation in your perspective will help you plan a more successful strategy. Moderate worrying? OK. Extreme, chronic, and unrealistic worrying? Get professional help.

            Control is also an important aspect of worry. Here’s a good rule to follow when it comes to worrying: Identify the source of your concern and determine if there’s any aspect that is under your direct control, either through your actions or your thinking. Focus on those parts of a troublesome situation that you can realistically confront – that is, parts that are mostly under your control – and take steps to allay your concern.             Jason and his wife, Linda, are taking a hard look at their family budget, a source of worry for both in this time of inflation. Jason says, “I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting that raise beginning next month. That should really help us increase the gas allowance.” Linda adds, “That raise will be a Godsend, but let’s face it, there’s no guarantee. No sense in worrying about it because what the company powers are going to do is out of our control. So, I say we stop putting money in our vacation fund. We have to be ready if the raise falls through. The vacation is something we can play with.” “You’re right,” says Jason. “Cutting out the vacation money will make us feel a lot better. Hell, even if I get the raise, let’s dump the vacation money for now. We’ll be in a lot better shape.” Note how their moderate approach – and realistically evaluating what they can control – lets them consider alternatives. If just one of them was extreme and irrational in thinking about the vacation – “There’s no way we’re touching the vacation fund, no way! I don’t care if we’re broke. We’ll all need a vacation in seven months!” – their stress about the budget, and their family interactions, would go off the rails

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