e negative reputation and associations of worry precedes it, placing in the shadows any benefits healthy doses of worrying has on our day to day living. So much so are we told to keep worrying at bay that believing worrying can sometimes be good for us is unthinkable. But worry on a reasonable scale can actually help save our lives and contribute to personal growth. The key to worrying well is knowing the danger signs of chronic worrying and avoiding them.
Why we need the worry gene
Our ability to worry is like an inbuilt adaptive survival function. Prehistoric man had to be on the lookout for danger from predators in order to survive. Worrying over things like our diet or the consequences to our actions, or whether we are performing to our highest level at work or at school can lead us to making good positive choices.
Good reasons not to say goodbye to worry just yet are:
- worry helps you remain motivated to bring about positive changes in your life
- worry allows you to anticipate and avoid potential danger
- worry helps you solve problems
- worry can present useful opportunities for personal growth
- you can learn new skills and expand your knowledge base
- worrying well boosts your immune system
Keep worrying healthy and in moderation
Worrying has a negative reputation because many people are unsuccessful in managing worrying; and chronic worrying is detrimental to our physical and mental health. But reasonable amounts of worrying over the right things at the right time contribute to our normal functioning and keep us alive.
We can worry well by examining problems, dividing them into specific, small practicable steps, and ponder over them with others to create feasible solutions.
Regular physical exercise, a healthy eating diet and adequate amounts of restorative sleep all contribute to easing fears and relieving stress the healthy way.
Worrying winners have learnt to avoid the paralyzing effects of fretting by taking productive action. Psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell outlines a 5 step plan in his book, Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition. His approach includes sharing your worries with a loved one, being fully informed on the situation by having all relevant information, having a workable plan of action to solve the problem, build a network of supportive people, taking care of your physical, mental and emotional health; and lastly – hope and trust that the plan of action you have put in place will work.
Danger signs: When your worry levels are in overdrive
It is only when worrying helps us grow or live better lives that it is good for us. When high levels of worrying overtakes our natural ability to function or when we can’t shut the worries out, it becomes a danger. By not practising safe worrying habits, we can easily allow our worries to debilitate us and rob us of our lives.
Save your life from the downward spiral of chronic worrying. Some danger signs of worrying to look out for:
- when worrying immobilizers you from normal everyday functioning
- begins to adversely affect your relationships with loved ones
- you resort to using alcohol, drugs and prescription medication to cope with worrying
- physical signs: heart palpitations, trouble with breathing, excessive sweating and shaking
- psychological signs: disturbing thoughts, avoiding people and situations that prompt the worries
Letting go of chronic worrying requires determination, but over time, it gets easier and we can reclaim the power over our lives.
The positive function of worrying has to lead us to question and seek creative ways in which to live better – to enrich our life experiences, to take courage and to improve the way we relate to each other.
Photo credit: Worry, iStock