“It’s not time to worry yet”― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

As you know, we’re talking about struggles and the ways we self-sabotage this month. I know, what a cheerful topic, huh?

Specifically, this post is about worrying. Fretting. Brooding. Losing sleep. Stressing out. Getting anxious. Call it what you will, but let’s call it something you do. I know, because I do it, too. Most of us do it to some extent, at some point or another. Some people are professional worrywarts (what a terrible name) and have worry habits that become diagnosable anxiety. Not fun.

I’ve been a worrier throughout my life. Remember when I talked about my struggle identity? Well, I was sort of raised to worry. I’ve even been known to go looking for new things to worry about, as if my own life weren’t enough for me to deal with. And you know what? It’s all turned out just fine. Not that my life has been all roses and unicorns, but most of my worries never came true and worrying didn’t stop the tough stuff that did present itself, either. I dealt with it eventually. Imagine what I could’ve done with all the time I spent worrying.

So, gratuitous wallowing aside, have you ever stopped to think about what worrying is actually doing for you? Because I have, and here it is:

  • Worrying gets you off the hook. Or so you think, at least subconsciously. Worrying keeps us from doing anything, lest it be the wrong choice. Even if you make a decision, but continue to let the worry gnaw at you about whether it’s the right direction or a horrible misstep, you haven’t really committed to your decision and empowered your choice. The trick here is that you’re not really off the hook at all. In fact, you’re writhing and wriggling around on the sharp pointy end of it, in fear and discomfort. All that writhing feels like a lot of work, but you’re really not going anywhere at all.
  • Worrying fills your time. It keeps you from having to do something hard. This ties in with the above point: All that worry-fueled indecisiveness is a mighty wind of procrastination, filling your sails with stress and concern and not really moving you forward. Until tomorrow, when you start worrying all over again. Not the most productive cycle.
  • Worry helps you make sure you’re making the right decision. Oh wait, no it doesn’t—it just prolonges the process. A decision is actually a pretty quick thing to make: Yes or no. Blue jeans or black. Sandals or shoes. Do these seem frivolous? Okay then, how about these: Go back to school or don’t. Buy the car/house/boat or not. Go to France or not (always go to France when it’s an option, by the way).

As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” In fact, the longer you deliberate, the more likely you are to create new problems to worry about.

Worry is like a paralysis. It comes from our survival mechanisms and it feeds them; it’s really hard to access your essence and light when it’s covered with sticky, gooey worry. So we don’t do things, we miss opportunities and we don’t take chances, and then we tell ourselves it was right to worry. See? It didn’t work out, just like we’d worried about. It would never have worked. Or, we see we missed the boat, and then we spend our time in the past, feeling sorry for ourselves and our missed dreams.

And worrying is bad for your health. Talk about giving yourself something to worry about: Worry and stress, over time, take a toll on your body. From muscular tension and headaches, to hormonal imbalances, and even increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Our bodies react to stress and worry the same way they did when our ancestors had to be on their toes for survival. Remember the sabre-toothed tiger? Well, our ancestors needed to react when they were in danger, so adrenaline kicked in and they chose their fight or flight (and I’ll tell you what, the tigers didn’t give them much time to make the decision, either).

Worrying is literally wasting your life. While you worry and stress about a myriad of things that will most likely never happen to you, time is passing you by. You’re wasting today by painting tomorrow with what happened yesterday. Now, that might be something to worry about. Briefly. Then go out and do something. Take a chance. Make a choice and let it go.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.” ― Mark Twain

Stop worrying. Choose to let it go. Choose to do something. Anything. It might not be the best choice, but there’s no way of knowing until you actually do it! And tomorrow’s a new day: You can try something different then.

What does worry keep you from choosing? What has worry cost you? What is possible for you if you don’t have to worry? What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

For me, it’s cost me some dreams I’d always wanted to follow, some adventures I’d wanted to take. The good news is that they weren’t mistakes, not really. And, along the way, I’ve found new ones, and now I see that there’s nothing to stop me from trying them out.