We all worry at times. Hopefully it’s short-lived and beneficial. Worry is natural and has an important purpose. It warns us to prepare for a challenge or risk. It reminds us to be careful when trying to cross a street busy with reckless drivers. It signals us to be on guard when approaching potentially vicious animals, like stray Rottweilers or drunken sailors.
Worry is not the body’s instinctive fight-or-flight response to immediate danger. Instead, it’s psychological. It begins with anxiety or concern caused by a real or imagined challenge, risk, or issue. With me, it can start with a feeling or a thought, then quickly develop into a chain reaction of more thoughts and feelings as I consider the next step.
“Worry” is too general a term. It needs specific and descriptive adjectives or synonyms to indicate it’s more distinct qualities. It’s criticality can range from not too serious or trivial to potentially tragic or life-threatening. A sudden change to plans surprises us and we become uneasy. We are annoyed because we will be late and may miss something. Testing our plumbing skills for the first time by installing a dishwasher causes panic as we imagine flooding the kitchen. As we climb the ladder to fix the eaves trough two stories up, worry turns to outright fright, maybe even profound contrition as we pray for our safety.
When we have to face new risks, we get nervous. Remember the jitters before that first presentation or speech? Eventually we learn to brood and feel uptight as we imagine the challenges we may encounter. We are not sure if we have the skills to handle unforeseen problems and difficulties. In a new job or business, concern turns to doubt as we wonder if we know enough about our competitors and have the necessary resources (capital, people, skills, raw materials) to beat them.
Health is a personal issue that should be high on our worry list. We dread potential threats to the quality of our lives. We question our resolve to do what’s necessary to avoid them. It doesn’t take too long before we become anxious about our finances. As teenagers, will we be able to go to the concert or buy a new outfit? Our troubles continue as debts loom in the face of loans, mortgages, investment mistakes, hoped-for vacations, education expenses for our children, maybe even our own as we attempt to recover from job loss, and retirement.
A second spectrum of worries occurs as we extend our concerns beyond the personal to include our family and friends, and, if we get really serious about worrying, to our community, country, and world.
Remember fretting about how your parents will feel if you don’t pass or make the team? What will your peers think about how you look at the prom?
The prospect of a child dropping out of school makes parents anxious. Anguish sets in as your child gets involved with the wrong crowd and you imagine the threat of drugs or criminal activity.
If you are really a worry-wart, you’ll find time to worry about all your friends’ marriage and career problems.
Now that we’ve opened the gate to the rest of the world, how about environmental pollution, politics, changing social structures, the impact of technological progress, terrorism and so on?
Just thinking about it all makes me worried! It’s time to pause and try to figure out how to deal with this epidemic.