Does incessant, worrisome chatter fill our mind? Do we wave high our flag of worry as a symbol of our loyalty and love? Is worry a habit that we can’t seem to live without? If we said “yes” to any of those questions, then this article is for us! We’ll take a look at the reasons why we worry, its effects, and alternatives.

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The psychological perspective of worry.

According to a February 2020 New York Times article by Emma Pattee, when Americans were asked whether they experience worry, stress, or anxiety, most didn’t know the difference. Here’s the psychological perspective of worry, as written in that New York Times article.

Melanie Greenberg, a clinical psychologist in Mill Valley, California is quoted as saying, “Worry tends to be repetitive, obsessive thoughts.” According to Luana Marques, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, worry is thinking about an uncertain or unpleasant situation — such as missing something that is desired, or doing badly on an exam. Thinking at healthy levels can cause us to problem-solve or take action, both of which are positive things. However, when our thinking gets stuck and dwells on the problem, it becomes unhealthy. It then stops being functional, and becomes worry.

The article suggests three things to help lessen worry:

  1. Give ourself a worry “budget,”of an amount of time in which we allow ourself to worry about a problem. When that time is up (start with 20 minutes), we can consciously refocus our thoughts.
  2. When we notice that we’re worried about something, select and take a next action step.
  3. Write our worries down. Research has shown that just 8 to 10 minutes of journaling can calm obsessive thoughts.

The spiritual perspective of worry.

Worry, from a spiritual perspective, is fearful thoughts gone wild. Worry corrodes the spiritual fruits of peace and joy, and usurps energy. Worry is a product of an unconsciously-trained mind, which we can consciously retrain, if we choose.

Why might we choose worry over peace?

We worry because we don’t know what else to do. We want to DO something. And we want to do something that improves our situation. We worry as an unconscious means to control or fix the problem. However, when we worry, we aren’t thinking about good solutions and best case scenarios. We’re in our own thought gutter, thinking about all the terrible things that could happen. And consoling ourself with Murphy’s Law, that “whatever can go wrong will.” Worry has a purpose—it alllows us to make-believe that we are, in fact, doing something about our problem, and that something is worry.

Though it may seem hard to imagine, there are both intentional (conscious) and unintentional (subconscious) reasons we may benefit from worry. Here are some examples of reasons people choose to worry.

  1. We identify with worry. We may think worry is who we are, and say things like, “I am a worry wart.”
  2. We identify with being a victim of worry. We may say things like, “I can’t help but worry, it’s what I do.”
  3. We misidentify worry as love. We may feel that worry makes us a better parent, friend, or lover.
  4. We habitually worry. We may have parents or caregivers who are/were “worriers.” We may have unconsciously adopted the habit of worrying from them.
  5. We use worry to attempt to control life. We may complain about how much we worry, as a method of coercion and/or guilt to manipulate others to behave as we wish.
  6. We use worry as an excuse for our behavior. Worry may allow us to feel sick, tired, emotional and/or isolate ourself from people who annoy us, or from the world.
  7. We use worry to receive attention. We may have been bathed in attention and pity because we worry.

Will we feed the worry-beast?

If we have benefitted from worry in these or other ways, it has fed our worry-beast. And the beast may be quite fat by now, and need to be fed worry often. Feeding the worry-beast may require much of our time. It may require so much time in fact, that worry may have become our routine and our lifestyle. A life of worry may be the only thing we’ve known, and it may be our full-time job, without monetary pay, feeling as if it is part of us. The worry-beast may be so hungry for worry, looking for things to worry about, that we can’t even enjoy the “good times” or look forward to happy events without “raining on our own parade.”

What are the results of worry?

As listed on WebMD,

worrying can trigger the release of “stress hormones” that increase the heart rate and breathing, raise blood sugar, and send more blood to arms and legs. Over time, this can affect the heart, blood vessels, muscles, and other systems, and cause inflammation, which can lead to hardening of the artery walls, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and other problems. Muscles in the shoulder and neck can also tense up, which can lead to migraines and tension headaches. Even something as small as a nagging worry, held over a period of time, can affect the heart. It can increase the likelihood of having high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke.

In short, worry causes us, and those around us, to suffer mentally, emotionally and physically, while minimizing the “good times” and feelings of joy.

Worry destroys integrity.

According to Wikipedia, having integrity means that we live in accordance with our deepest values, we’re honest with everyone, and we keep our word. With this definition of integrity in mind, if we say we love our children, for example, and that is our truth and deepest value, then any thought that does not support love in, with, or for our children, is not in our integrity. If we love them, we will think loving thoughts for them and about them (not worry).

Here’s an example. If we love our child and s/he is late coming home, the worrier may choose to think, “Oh, they’re 20 minutes late, they disrespect me, they don’t love me, and they probably crashed the car in a ditch and so on and so forth.” If we worry like this, while we also say we love our children, it is blasphemous. If we wait for them to arrive home so we can argue with them, attempt to assert control over them, and make them afraid of us and our worry, that is neither love, nor integrity. I’m not saying we ought not to care and want the best for those we love, but worry is the cold bathwater that can be poured out around our beloved babes.

Is it possible to not worry?

With practice, it is possible to not worry. In the beginning it can be challenging. Worry is a habit and an addiction to a way of thinking. And that’s the way we need to treat worry. Like a bad habit that kills our love and joy. Worry is poisonous to feeling good.

What can we do instead of worry?

Tip #1 Gently refocus our attention on what brings us joy, and is easy to find. Maybe it’s our hobby, our horse, our home or our husband. For me, it’s nature. Because no matter how painful my situation, this world is filled with natural joy. I use all of my senses to take nature in. As I see the birds, the trees, the blooming plants, and the falling leaves, I see the natural order of things. I see the ways that nature cares for me. And this brings me stability and peace. For more information about peace through the healing power of nature, feel free to read our previous article, titled the Healing Power of Nature. For each of us, joy may be experienced differently, so find what means the most to you! 

Tip #2 Ask ourself, “Where is the beauty now?” and then focus on that. Instead of worrying, we can observe and accept that beauty, is a present for us. For more information about the power of beauty, feel free to read our previous article, titled Beauty: A Saving Grace.

Our choice to refocus away from worry builds our willpower.

Each and every time we choose to refocus away from worry and onto constructive, helpful, hopeful, joyful, beautiful things, we build our willpower. We have the free will to choose what we focus upon. In the past, our willpower muscles may have been used to focus on lifting the heavy load of worry. If we feel ourself slipping into that old habit, all we need to do is gently, calmly and kindly say to ourself, “I focus on beauty now,” or, “I focus on joy now.” Seek and ye shall find.

How will we apply our willpower?

At some point in our personal evolution, a vital question presents itself that can help us determine our life choices. The question is, “Does this add contentment or chaos? Let’s craft this question around today’s topic. “Does worry add contentment or chaos to our life?” “Are we a worrier or a warrior?”

What say ye?

Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section, so we may grow in strength and willpower together …

Always with love,