Stop Worrying! How to Break Free and Find Peace in the Face of Life’s Uncertainties
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows. It empties today of its strength.”—Carrie Ten Boom
“My sixty-seven-year-old mother had a heart attack last month. Doctors said it was due to her smoking and high blood cholesterol levels.
“However, I believe there were other contributing factors to my mother’s heart attack, such as not getting enough rest after Dad died, her poor eating habits—but particularly worry.
“So, after my mother’s heart attack, I got a little parakeet and taught him to say, ‘Don’t worry, mommy. Be happy.’ I went on YouTube to watch a tutorial, and the process seemed to be working.
“Anyone else who is out there with the same problem should try this. My mother seems to be far less anxious now.”
What Does It Mean to Worry and Why Does It Matter?
“Given to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.”—Merriam-Webster dictionary
Based on this dictionary’s definition, would you say you are what’s known as a “Worry Bird?”
If you do tend to worry, so what?
Why does it matter?
The consequences of over-worrying can be severe.
Consider some effects:
- Suppression of the immune system
- Digestive disorders
- Muscle tension
- Short-term memory loss
- Premature coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
Being concerned about someone or what may happen in the future is expected.
However, over-worrying can be dangerous.
If you’re preoccupied with hypotheticals or let negative thoughts run away with you, you’re significantly impacting your happiness, relationships, peace of mind particularly—and even your health!
What You Can Do About Worry
- Do I worry about the future?
- Am I anxious about daily duties?
- Am I sometimes so overwrought that I can’t sleep?
Over-worrying hurts more than being a workaholic.
A recent poll listed the following top seven reasons why people worry, taking into consideration ethnic groups, geography, age, education, and job status:
- Job security
- Aging (depending on the age of the demographic)
- National Safety
People have mixed feelings about worrying. Some say their worries keep them from sleeping, while others believe worrying helps them solve matters.
Here are Seven Myths and Truths About Worrying
MYTH: It keeps us from being blindsided by terrible news, so we worry about preparing ourselves for disappointment.
The truth: The news will appear anyway, and we may or may not be disappointed.
MYTH: Worrying keeps us safe. The world is dangerous, and we must be on the constant lookout.
The truth: We can’t prevent possible threats from happening.
MYTH: Worrying shows we care.
The truth: There are so many other ways we can show our care but don’t because we worry.
MYTH: Worrying motivates us to work hard.
The truth: Worrying makes it harder to stay focused on daily tasks.
MYTH: Worrying helps us problem-solve.
The truth: We need to be aware of the difference between productive problem-solving and letting our minds become out of control with hypothetical scenarios.
MYTH: Worrying makes us feel in control.
The truth: You are ALWAYS in control of your actions, no matter how “out of control” your impressions may seem.
MYTH: Worrying reduces uncertainty.
The truth: It is impossible to eliminate uncertainty. Some things will never be entirely sure.
What Are Other Dangers of Over-Worrying?
There are differences between toxic and healthy ways of worrying.
A moderate amount of worrying is perfectly reasonable; this is healthy worrying. However, when our worrying causes us to think in destructive ways, it turns into toxic worrying, which isn’t healthy.
Harley Therapy and Consulting Services has identified nine ways overthinking can become destructive:
- Mind Reading (making assumptions about other people’s thoughts).
- Fortune Telling (predicting an outcome and believing it is a fact).
- You are overgeneralizing (predicting that a negative will be accurate in the future based on an experience you had in the past).
- You are jumping to conclusions (making a contrary interpretation or prediction even though there is no evidence to support your decision).
- You are personalizing (automatically assuming responsibility and blame for adverse events not under your control).
- You are making “should” statements (no purpose other than to create negative emotions like guilt, shame, anger, or regret; you cannot change the past).
- You use black-and-white thinking (seeing only one extreme or the other; either wrong or right, good or bad; no in-betweens or shades of gray).
- You are using mental filtering (focusing on only one part of a situation and ignoring the rest; tunnel vision).
- You are basing your view of situations or yourself on how you are feeling (emotional reasoning); you assume feelings reflect fact regardless of the evidence).
Which of these rings true to you in your case?
How can destructive thought patterns cause excessive worry?
So, how do we solve the problem of worry?
We limit these thoughts or put them into perspective.
Ask yourself, “What can I do about it?” If there’s nothing you can do, dismiss those thoughts from your mind.
Think only of today’s problems; do not worry about tomorrow’s.
Four Methods to Limit These Thoughts
- By limiting the number of possible outcomes in your mind, you prevent your worry from getting out of control and force yourself to consider positive effects that you may otherwise dismiss.
- Create a scenario where everything ends favorable, then plan to make this ending a reality.
- Have an attitude of acceptance. This way of thinking can lighten your worry.
- Create an action plan to eliminate anxiety. You want to get out of your head and act.
Below are other ways to initiate a sense of calm if you are prone to anxiety or unease:
- Breathe deeply
- Be present
- Reach out to friends and family
- Laugh out loud
- Listen to soft music
- Be grateful and count your blessings
Finally, follow the example of evergreen trees.
You can find hundreds of miles of evergreen forests in Canada and the northern United States.
These trees endure extreme weather conditions during winter times, such as heavy wet snow and freezing rain and ice.
But the evergreens thrive.
Evergreens bend, flex, and adjust to their circumstances. They thrive not out of resistance but by accepting what they cannot control.
So, dear reader, how will you bend and flex with your life’s circumstances?
How will you refuse to let worry steal another moment of your happiness and contentment?
There is strength—not weakness—in learning to bend and adjust when storms come our way.
- Know the dangers of over-worrying.
- Understand the differences between toxic and healthy worrying.
- Know how to limit destructive patterns.
- Remember the evergreens!
When to Consult a Trained Mental Health Professional
To worry means “to be given to anxiety or unease.”
Harvard Medical links anxiety disorders to heart disease:
“Chronic worry or an ongoing fear or anxiety can cause actual physical symptoms. Chronic worriers tell of feeling a sense of impending doom or unrealistic fears that only increase their worry; cognitive therapy helps people avoid thoughts that generate anxiety. These therapies may have an important role in preventing or treating heart disease.”
Thus, if you are in the same situation mentioned above and you are prone to excessive worry, you should speak with a trained mental health professional at once!
Meanwhile, why not use the ideas presented in this article and Break Free from a World of Worry.
“Situations are not changed by worrying. Problems are not solved by worrying.”—Phanuel Muverengwi
“Worrying is like walking around with an umbrella waiting for it to rain.”—OurMindfulLife.com
It’s time that you break free and find peace in the face of life’s uncertainties.
Source for this article: A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions (2019)
More tips to stop worrying:
“How to stop worrying: 9 tips to stop anxiety and stress in their tracks”