To complement “Embrace Fear: How to Live a Confident Life,” in the April 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.

why worry

Do you worry a great deal? Then you are not alone!

When I look back on my life and all the worrying I did, I come to the conclusion that most of the things I was worried about never happened.

Remembering that helps me worry far less today. I am sure you agree that wasting so much time worrying and causing yourself suffering is very stupid, especially as most of your worries are unfounded.

Worrying can be helpful when it makes you take action to solve problems or be more careful and avoid unnecessary risks. On the other hand, worry can be as paralyzing as fear and destroy both your day and your sleep at night.

Worrying is also contagious, which means that you can make other people worry less or more. This implies that you should not spend much time with people who make you worry.


Why Worry All the Time?

woman holding clockMelinda Smith, Robert Segal and Jeanne Segal provide self-help ideas on how to handle worrying. Here are a few of their tips:

  • Create a worry period. You can learn to postpone worrying by creating a worry period consisting of a defined amount of time, such as 30 minutes or whatever you consider suitable. It should be at the same time every day and not close to bedtime.

When worrying thoughts arise postpone them until your worry period. You may have to make a list in order to feel certain that you will not forget about what to think about during your worry period. This will make you realize that you have more control over your worrying than you think.

  • Ask yourself if the problem is solvable or unsolvable. If the worry is solvable, make a list of possible solutions. After evaluating your options, make a plan of action. If the worry is about something that you cannot solve, you must try to accept uncertainty.

This last tip is similar to the so-called Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

  • Challenge anxious thoughts. Start by identifying your frightening thoughts and ask yourself if there are more realistic and positive ways of looking at the problem. Are you looking at things in black and white categories? Are you over-generalizing, diminishing the positive sides, jumping to conclusions without evidence, expecting the worst-case scenario, too hard on yourself about what you should and should not do and assuming responsibility for things that are beyond your control?

What may also help you to worry less is spending more time in the present. Living in the moment relaxes us. In addition, try to activate yourself by doing things that prevent you from dwelling on your worries.


Why Worry at All?

Rachel Naomi Remen writes, “One of my patients, a successful businessman, tells me that before his cancer he would become depressed unless things went a certain way. Happiness was ‘having the cookie.’ If you had the cookie, things were good. If you didn’t have the cookie, life wasn’t worth a damn.

baking cookies“Unfortunately, the cookie kept changing. Some of the times it was money, sometimes power, sometimes sex. At other times, it was the new car, the biggest contract, the most prestigious address. A year and a half after his diagnosis of prostate cancer he sits shaking his head ruefully.

“‘It’s like I stopped learning how to live after I was a kid. When I give my son a cookie, he is happy. If I take the cookie away or it breaks, he is unhappy. But he is two and a half and I am 43. It’s taken me this long to understand that the cookie will never make me happy for long. The minute you have the cookie it starts to crumble or you start to worry about it crumbling or about someone trying to take it away from you.

“‘You know, you have to give up a lot of things to take care of the cookie, to keep it from crumbling and be sure that no one takes it away from you. You may not even get a chance to eat it because you are so busy just trying not to lose it. Having the cookie is not what life is about.’

My patient laughs and says cancer has changed him. For the first time he is happy. No matter if his business is doing well or not, no matter if he wins or loses at golf. “Two years ago, cancer asked me: ‘Okay, what’s important? What is really important?’

“Well, life is important. Life. Life any way you can have it. Life with the cookie. Life without the cookie. Happiness does not have anything to do with the cookie, it has to do with being alive. Before, who made the time?” He pauses thoughtfully. “Damn, I guess life is the cookie.”


About the Author

Ingrid Johansson, Ph.D., was born in Sweden. In 1997 she completed her doctoral thesis in Education at the University of Stockholm. The Joy of Life: Your Guide to Finding More Joy in Your Daily Life was published in August 2015 on Amazon as an e-book and a paperback book. She wrote “Embrace Fear: How to Live a Confident Life,” for MASSAGE Magazine‘s April 2016 issue.