By: Justin Hill
Worrying is part of our everyday lives. The problem arises when the worry becomes an interfering force that cuts into the daily production of those everyday lives. Which begs the question on whether the worrying you experience is detrimental, or not? Don't worry, I'm here to help.
We'll begin by defining worry. Then, we'll discuss how much of it is too much, and what to do about it if it happens to be incessant.
What is Worry?
According to the book, Positive Aging (Hill, 2005), worry is “a form of mental preoccupation that can, in some instances, be a reasonable strategy a person engages in to deal with a potentially stressful life event.” With that definition in mind, we can assume that worrying in general isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be adaptive in helping you deal with certain stressful situations.
For example, worrying about a test might lead a student to study, effectively raising his/her chances of doing better.
Everybody worries, it's okay. And just like you, I worry about plenty of things.
Will I be able to afford rent this month?
What will I do if something were to happen to my parents?
I keep getting older and need to find that “special someone."
Think you are the only one that worries? Think again. This New York Times article breaks down worry in different detail. I suggest checking it out, as it covers some interesting points. And, since this website is all about providing you with useful information – not just the information internally suggested – I'm happy to share it with you.
Do I Worry Too Much?
I often ponder whether the daily worrying I go through constitutes incessant worry. Incessant is defined on dictionary.com as: "something that continues without interruption; ceaseless; unending... like an incessant noise". That brings us to our first point: what constitutes too much worrying?
Again, Positive Aging (Hill, 2005) states that worrying can take up ample time and emotional energy if it becomes excessive. In addition, an individual who worries too much on trivial things that should not be worried about can also cause undue suffering.
In the end, it really comes down to the difference between worry that can be helpful, to worry that is harmful. When we say harmful, we mean worry that is incessant, and in essence interferes with your daily livelihood, and overtime can potentially become mentally (and/or physically) harmful.
For a crude example: Say you are worrying about a nagging cough so much that you can't muster the strength to roll out of bed this morning and get it checked by a doctor. This could constitute as an example of worrying too much. If you have a cough and it leads to not being able to get out of bed to figure out if it is something that needs to be treated or not, then the worrying may exacerbate the issue. The solution would be to either: 1) not worry about the cough and rest, or 2) don't worry about anything until the doctor is able to look at it and give a diagnosis.
Still not sure if you worry too much about one thing or another? The following three things can help you figure out your present level of worry, and if it constitutes as incessant.
Let's attack this logically. Ask yourself some quick questions on the matter.
These questions are designed to help you pinpoint whether or not the thing that is causing the worry can be taken care of, effectively diminishing the worry. They also help you decipher whether or not worrying about said thing even helps. Finally, they help you figure out if you are the type of person that tends to worry over most things, while feeling a loss of control.
Use a Questionnaire
The second thing you can do is answer the following scientifically validated questions. Also check out The Penn State Worry Questionnaire. Make sure you follow the instructions, answer the questions truthfully, and consider your score.
After taking the questionnaire, tally your score. The lower the score you have, the less your worry; the higher the score, the more incessant your worry. The higher your score on this scale, the more you should consider seeking professional help with your incessant worry. Which brings us to our next point.
The third thing, especially if you scored high on the worry questionnaire, is to seek out professional help in the form of a mental health professional (a psychologist, psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker, therapist, counselor, etc.). One of these individuals will provide you with further assistance and insight into your particular worry situation, and most likely will be able to help diminish and manage it.
While the most apt option is to seek out professional help, I don’t want to leave you with just that.
If you find yourself worrying more than you’d like, or believe that your worry is incessant – that it leads you to unjust suffering – then I suggest trying out the following strategies to help ease some of the pain.
Each of these strategies is taken directly from the Positive Aging (Hill, 2005) book.
1. Make a List
Lists are a great way to deal with many things, especially things that lead to incessant worry.
List out your worries and rank the items from least to most serious. Take one item and remove it from the worry list.
What this means is that you will either come up with a solution to deal with it - that is, either stop worrying about it entirely, or come up with some sort of actionable step to move in a direction to take care of it.
2. Consider your Worry
Think about your reason for worrying.
Is it something that will take a toll on your life and well-being over time? What are some potential consequences if the thing you are worrying about comes true?
By mulling over the reason of the worry in your mind, you essentially take some power from it and objectify it - which, in this instance isn't a bad thing. By bringing it into your purview, you remove some of its effect over you, thus making the worry less.
3. Exchange the Worry
Practice other emotional reactions to the worry. Figure out ways to diffuse your worry.
You know that saying that everyone needs to vent from time to time? Well, vent your worry in healthy ways. Tell someone about it. Ask their advice on what they’d do. As mentioned above, seek professional help to get more than just an opinion, but real-world advice from a counselor. Also, learn to laugh at your worry – after all, a good laugh is healthy.
4. Re-Examine Past Worry
Carefully scrutinize past events involving worry, especially those that still cause you to worry. What gives fuel to those worries? Ask yourself if worrying about those events will indeed change the present nature of them.
Now you are armed with four strategies to help battle against that incessant worry. We hope you consider trying them out. Let me know your results and experience with each.
It’s easy to let worry get out of hand. In the end, though, it is up to you to distinguish whether your worry is helpful or harmful and, ultimately, what to do about it. There’s plenty of information out there about worry and solutions involved to diminish it. Also, seeking out professional help is always an appropriate option.
In the end, I hope these strategies and advice help you deal with that incessant worry.
After the Session is an supplemental educational blog dealing with various psychology, counseling, and self-development topics.
To begin with, either scroll through the list on the left, or click into one of the archived months or categories below.