There are people who just can’t stop worrying. They import non-existent “phantom perils” and work themselves into a destructive tailspin. Studies show that 1/20 adults suffer from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and 2/3rds of these are women.
Worry is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘to strangle’ or ‘to choke.’ Norman Vincent Peale compared it to someone grasping a person’s neck tightly to cut off air supply. Worry acts in the same way, disabling a person over a period of time.
“Worry is based not on facts but on assumptions,” says Paul Stolz. So borrowing trouble from the future is a sheer waste of time and energy.
Signs of a worrier:
• Agitated over nothing. The expression ‘Cat on a hot tin roof’ or ‘walking on pins’ is an apt description. A woman in my neighborhood fits the bill. Her husband cannot leave home for more than half an hour, when she imagines that he has met with an accident. A slight stomach discomfort drives her to the doctor to rule out cancer of the stomach. If she can’t find anything to worry about, she borrows other people’s problems and broods over them. Others avoid her because her nervousness rubs off on them.
• Unexplained fatigue, headaches, muscle tension.
• High Blood Pressure, heart attacks.
Dale Carnegie used to be a worrier until late in life. It began in childhood. One day, while picking cherries on a Missouri farm, he began to cry, “I’m afraid I’m going to be buried alive.”
During thunderstorms he worried that he would be hit by lightening. During hard times, he was sure that he would have to go hungry. He worried that he would go to hell after her died. He worried that no girl would marry him, and even if she did, he would be dumbstruck after the ceremony.
As an adult, he discovered that by the law of averages, the possibility of him being killed by lightening was 1/350,000. Similarly, only 1/ten million would be buried alive.
Worry is toxic to the mind and to the body. Bunyan called it “the slough of despond,” and St. John Cross saw it as the “dark night of the soul.”
Consequences of Worry:
• Worry is debilitating. It causes loss of vitality and leaves one physically and mentally fatigued, and unable to cope with the ordinary problems of life. No job can be performed satisfactorily.
• Change in Personality. A worried person walks around with a gloomy, hangdog appearance. He loses the joy or living or interacting with other people. Irritability, moodiness and impatience are characteristic.
• Loss of Creativity because the mind is never free of tension.
• Loss of logical thought and decision making ability. “Worry can prevent the body from reaching flexibly to stresses in the environment,” says Thomas Bercovec a psychologist.
• Loss of the ability to keep friends. Relationships flounder and break. People avoid contact and keep their distance.
• Worry works people to an early grave. They are prone to peptic ulcers, hypertension, heart attacks or even suicides.
Causes of Worry:
– May be genetic. Some say that in 30% of cases the ‘worry wart’ is inherited. An anxious mother often has an anxious daughter.
– Certain experiences in childhood or adolescence. May be due to poverty, unhappy environments, illness, traumatic incidents that happened long ago.
– Personal tragedies due to loss of loved ones, accidents, frequent shifting of residence.
– Parental over-protection or molly coddling hampers normal development of children They are fearful of making decisions, suspicious of people they don’t know, timid and insecure.
– Prematurely thrust into adult responsibilities through early marriages, unwanted pregnancies, providing for siblings or parents, or overburdened with work.
– Lack of faith in God.
How to overcome Worry:
1. Be Knowledgeable: Of all creation, human beings are the only ones who worry. Almost everyone goes through short periods of worry. These are usually about real issues, and disappear when the problem is taken care of. Some like to call it “Good Worry,” because it is constructive in action. It helps us take precautions or positive steps to eliminate the problem. “Every problem contains seeds of its own solution,” says American Thinker Stanley Arnold, and if properly thought out and solved, could work to our advantage. But “toxic worry” has psychosomatic repercussions like breathlessness, rise in blood pressure, increased pulse, and is harmful both to physical and mental health. “The mind that is anxious about the future is miserable,” says Seneca.
2. Be Introspective: Analyze your worries and look them in the face. Examine each aspect of the problem from different angles. What is the worst that can happen? How can you prevent or handle the problem? Is there a way to fix it permanently? Then think out solutions. Observe how others tackle such problems.
3. Try Positive Imaging: A person who anticipates trouble subconsciously expects the worst and envisages failure. One must learn to think differently and create a positive image in the mind. This brings confidence that the problem not insoluble. One needs to visualize success and work towards it creatively. Anticipating the worst has a paralyzing effect on the senses. The incredible power of positive imaging can change the direction of your life. Psychologist William James says, “The greatest discovery of this generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitude of their minds.” Reconditioning the mind to think differently is an important step in overcoming worry. However, some people may need the help of a cognitive behavioral therapist.
4. Distracting the mind through reading, gardening, music, cultivating new hobbies or social work.
5. Relaxation through meditation can empty the mind of worries.
6. Good physical health through regular exercise, nutritious food and adequate sleep.
7. Making friends with happy people who are fun to be with and have a positive outlook on life.
8. Finding God. He tells us not to worry. “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mathew 6:34) So cast your care on Him for He cares for you”(1Peter 5:7) The person who believes that the Creator of the Universe loves and cares for him, is someone who is free of self distrust and is able to overcome worry. Faith gives courage to take chances and the ability to cope with problems.