Earlier this year, I asked a friend if she was worried because her house wasn’t selling. She replied that she had given up worrying years ago. I believe she was telling the truth. She didn’t seem to worry, and was very busy with both her personal and professional lives.
That got me thinking. Is worry necessary? Is it a universal need like food and water? Are we born with it? I doubt it. If it isn’t innate, then we must learn to worry.
I clearly remember when I got into the worry mentality-it was at the time of Jacob Wetterling’s kidnapping. My daughters were starting high school and had to walk several blocks to an inner-city bus stop. I never worried too much about that before; they grew up in the inner city and they were streetwise and showed common sense. Part of the reason this incident started me worrying was the shock of something criminal happening to a child who lived in what I thought was an idyllic setting. He was with friends, he was from a good family, it was daylight … what was the world coming to?
My worrying took root and I became the typical worried parent of teenagers. You might say that is normal. What kind of a mother doesn’t worry? I suggest that one can be a good and loving parent and not lose any sleep worrying about all of the dreadful things that could possibly happen. My worry made communication with my children worse because they did not want to worry me! The amazing part is that I developed the worry habit in an instant, yet when my children emancipated themselves at 18, I didn’t stop worrying. How many times did I call them to see if they got to their own home safely? Their response was to stop answering the phone; it was starting to stress them out that I was over-worrying. The truth is nothing ever happened that they did not call and tell me about. What a waste of psychic energy.
In January 2006, I picked a day and stopped worrying about everything. This does not mean I don’t get sad or mad sometimes. It just means I decided to use my energy for actions. My daughters (now in their 30s) challenged me that I must not care any more. Actually, I have more time to care and stay on the tasks of work and family because I also started getting eight full hours of refreshing sleep.
I did some research about worrying and discovered that worry and anxiety cause most people to produce a very nasty chemical called cortisol. It is implicated in heart attacks and strokes. It works like a deadly illegal drug, but it’s a natural substance our bodies produce. The body doesn’t discriminate about whether you have a true emergency or you are just upset that you are caught in slow traffic. It also likes to store body fat in case you might face starvation in your big emergency.
I believe that when I stopped worrying I gave a big boost to my health. Maybe there is no connection, but when I quit worrying, I got my waist back and my blood pressure went down.
Here are some suggestions to help you stop worrying:
1. Try to figure out when you started worrying. Was it an incident or did you have a great mentor in a parent who was a world-class worrier?
2. Think of a few worries that have plagued you. Honestly assess whether the act of worrying made any difference in the outcome of those worries.
3. Do some research on anxiety and cortisol. See if you think there could be a connection.
4. Pick a day and stop worrying. When you get the urge to worry, take action. The action can be related to preventing something bad from happening such as studying for a test so you won’t fail it. The action can also be cleaning your house or making a phone call you have procrastinated about. See if you can short-circuit that worry into something that makes a difference.
I was surprised how easy it was to stop. Maybe it will be harder for you, but it might be worth a try.
Real estate broker Sandy Loescher has much more time to spend enjoying her 1-year-old grandson, Cameron, since she gave up worrying.