Worry is like cholesterol …

Worrying indicates that that we are not looking forward to the next step. We aren’t ready and emotions kick in. The range of feelings is broad. Can you add to this list?

anxious, concerned, uneasy


nervous, jitters, uptight

brood, fret, troubled

doubt, question, unsure, uncertain, apprehensive

distressed, stressed, under pressure, strained, tense

dread, panic, fright


These feelings don’t look very helpful, but they can be if we use them to figure things out and make the right choices. At a minimum, we will be heading in the most suitable direction to relieve the pressure.

Dr. Edward Hallowell , psychiatrist and author of Worry, refers to this as “good worry”. He states:

“Worry serves a productive function … good worry leads to constructive action.”

Just like “bad” cholesterol, too often “bad worry” takes over. Hallowell calls it “toxic worry” and differentiates it as:

“Toxic worry is when the worry paralyzes you.”

It can be harmful to your mental and physical health. It handicaps, incapacitates, and diminishes you. It concentrates on avoiding or resisting reality. It gets in the way of finding solutions by circumventing clear thinking. Instead, it distracts with negative self-talk that wastes time and energy. For example, students writing a test can become anxious. They have two options. They can focus on problem solving techniques and the subject matter, or they can wander off into worrying about failing and its embarrassing consequences.

The brain follows your directions. Will it be thinking clearly or clouded by “toxic worry”? It’s easy to plunge into deeper states of concern and anxiety. Just thinking about your problem(s) for too long can immobilize you and lead to generalized anxiety disorder. What to do? We need to learn how to minimize “toxic worry”, the bad cholesterol.

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