Group Therapy: The Worrying

I am a habitual worrier. I always have been. I’m constantly in worst-case-scenario mode, and always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve struggled with this as far back as I can remember, but becoming a parent has made it engulf my very existence. And living in this modern media age where you are bombarded with reasons to worry, I am frazzled.

Everyone worries about their kids. I don’t want to make it sound like I think I care about my kid more than you care about yours, that’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is, imagine going through life where every second you are thinking something will go wrong like:

What if those strawberries are bad and make us really sick?

What if that homeless guy attacks us?

What if he darts out in front of the train at the last second?

What if someone comes in and holds up this store?

What if some wild animal comes into our yard and bites him?

What if he falls out the front window?

What if he’s ‘dry drowning’ from the water he swallowed in the bath last night?

This list could go on and on. And it’s crazy, right? I know that I sound crazy and rationally I know none of that stuff is likely to happen, but I can’t help it. My husband is often reminding me, “Just don’t worry about it.” And I wish so much it were that simple. It’s such a part of my being that I cannot control my mind and keep it from thinking those horrible thoughts. This is especially bothersome while lying in bed late at night (and my insomnia more than likely caused by my high stress level). I recently admitted to my husband that in any give situation, I take a moment to form a game plan in case anyone tries to snatch my son. (Yes, I really do that.) He was floored. I know that my level of worry is not normal, but sometimes I forget.

However, I recently read an amazing article written by Deepak Chopra for the Huffington Post that has changed how I look at the world. I am still a massive worrier, but it is getting better every day. Once in a while, I re-read the article to remind myself what I have to do. Here is the article for you to read.

He spoke to every part of my worrying. Stuff like this:

Since [worriers’] minds are filled with every conceivable risk, worriers wind up being right some of the time. They are like hoarders who never throw anything out. If one hoarded item proves useful, it justifies keeping a hundred that aren’t.

I often justify my worry to myself by thinking, in an emergency, I will be prepared. I am simply preparing myself for what might happen. But really, this kind of behavior does a lot more harm than good, as Chopra explains. And worriers end up alienating themselves from family and friends with their excessive need to control every situation and examine all the risks.

One of my other main worry issues is that I need to always expect the unexpected. Something horrible and life altering could happen at any moment. I hate when people say “live every day like it’s your last; you could go at anytime!” That kind of talk makes me lightheaded. Literally. My head spins with what could happen, and I’d just as soon never leave home again when I’m in that kind of mood. Chopra speaks to this behavior too:

Worried belief: Life is full of accidents and random bad things. I have to be on the lookout for them.

Better belief: Accidents can be prevented with useful measures like wearing a seat belt and not living in a flood zone. Once they are in place, there’s nothing more to do. By definition, unpredictable things cannot be foreseen.

That last part has been my mantra for the past week now, ever since I first read the article. It rang so true with me. There’s just no sense in worrying about the unexpected, because it is just that: unexpected. We can’t see what’s coming, and worrying about it is useless.

And the most true of all for me:

Worriers feel that they need to worry. If this need isn’t fulfilled, they fear calamity. Who will keep things in one piece if they aren’t doing the worrying that is so desperately needed?

I worry about everyone, and everything. Things that have nothing to do with me. People who are adults and fully capable of worrying about themselves. I just worry all the time about everything. Obviously, the world will not be any worse off than it already is if I stop worrying about things I have no control over. My loved ones can live their own lives without me “helping” them to worry. I need only take care of myself and help my husband and son with what they need from me, and that is all that I can do.

Reading this article, and recognizing the issues with my worry was such an eye opener. Seeing it as the obsessive and anxious behavior that it really is has motivated me to change it. It’s going to be a slow road, but it’s a necessary one. As Chopra says:

Even though worry is milder and less disabling than phobias or panic attacks, it needs to be healed if you want to find the kind of inner peace that no one can take away from you.

Worry might not be as challenging as some other panic disorders, but certainly warrants some attention if I ever want to calm down and be happy (and sleep at night!).

How are you on the scale of worry? How do you cope?