I once knew someone who used to be perennially worried. Sometimes she was worried because she did not have anything to be worried about. It was almost like a hobby to her. Worry, stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably, and there is overlap, though the causes are usually different. Derived from the Old English wyrgan, which originally meant strangle, worry changed over the years to mean first harass, and then, cause anxiety to.
Worry turns problematic if one has been excessively apprehensive more days than not, for at least six months. If it becomes irrational, it is harmful, and you can’t focus on reality, or think clearly. It may lead to actual physical symptoms. The excess emotion that remains after all reasonable measures are taken to safeguard your family and personal interests is worry, an emotion that derives from the appraisal of threat.
Why do we worry?
So, why do we worry? Mental tension translates into physical tension, which can make us feel like we really should worry, because we’re feeling so physically agitated. Worry occurs when fight or flight is triggered daily by excessive worrying and anxiety. Its response causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. It can also be an overthinking disorder. The anxious brain is hyper vigilant, always on the lookout for anything it perceives to be dangerous or worrisome.
Sometimes, a little worry or anxiety is helpful, as it can help you get ready for an upcoming situation like a test or a job interview. Excessive worry, ongoing fear or anxiety, however, is harmful when it becomes so irrational that you can’t focus on reality or think clearly. When people have difficulty shaking their worries, they may experience actual physical symptoms. Is anxiety the same thing as worrying? A normal reaction to stress, anxiety manifests itself in multiple ways, and does not discriminate by age, gender, or race. But ongoing anxiety may be a generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety. Excessive worriers react quickly and intensely to these stressful situations or triggers. The hallmark of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), is worrying too much about everyday things, large and small. … It tends to interfere with daily life, accompanied by noticeable fatigue.
Often, people with acute anxiety may find themselves feeling sick to their stomach, nauseous, or getting sick more often, because their anxiety weakens their immune responses. Sweating is one symptom. Anxiety disorders run in families, with a biological basis, much like allergies or diabetes, developing from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
While one may not normally die from worrying, it will make one more susceptible to disease. There is a relationship between cortisol and diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and burn-out can be caused by stress and fear. If you don’t stop worrying, you will die!
The silver lining
But happily, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened. There is a story about a Polish man whose plant was taken over by the invading Germans. He made a mistake involving thousands of zlotys and afraid of the consequences, he went under- ground for a week. Thinking that at best he would be shot, he returned only to have the General admonishing him for his lapse and absence, and asking him to get to work. He had worried needlessly.
The synonym of worry is learning to welcome and accept every emotion as it arises. As Cohen writes, “When you watch your own emotional flow with no effort to change it, you realise you can endure it.” If you find yourself wasting time worrying about things you can’t control, here are six things that can help: Determine what you can control, focus on your influence, identify your fear, differentiate between ruminating and problem-solving, create a plan to manage your stress, and develop healthy affirmations.
If you are tired of losing sleep or living in fear, you could read a book, don’t toss and turn, take action, tell some- one, write it down, exercise, or have guided muscle relaxation, meditation, and exercise. It can help to quiet our mind and body and find a sense of ease.
Let’s end with a joke: Moishe, Shmuel and Chaim met once a week in the Lower East Side in Manhattan to discuss the world’s situation. On one occasion, they tried to solve the problems of life.
“Where do all of life’s problems come from?” asked Chaim.
The more they talked about it, the more they thought they knew the answer. The problem of life is that everyone has worries. “If people didn’t have any worries,” said Shmuel, “then life would be easy.” But now that they knew, another question remained, how can we three end our worries? They thought for a while and then Moishe said, “Why don’t we hire somebody to do all the worrying for us so that we can then have it easy?” Shmuel said, “Great idea. It won’t be an easy job though but between us, we could come up with enough to compensate him for this challenging role.” So they all agreed to chip in to pay someone $2000 a month to do all their worrying for them.
They were very happy with this decision until Shmuel pointed out the flaw.
“Tell me,” he said, “If the man is making $2000 each month, what has he got to worry about?”
Let’s face it. Like some enlightened man said, “There are only two things to worry about: Either you are well, or you are sick. If you are well, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you’re sick, there are two things to worry about. Either you will get well, or you will die. If you get well, there is nothing to worry about. But if you die, there are only two things to worry about. Either you will go to heaven or hell. If you go to heaven, there is nothing to worry about. But if you go to hell, you’ll be so damn busy shaking hands with friends, you won’t have time to worry”.
Remember always, worry saps your tomorrow of its energy!