Worry. A worried man.


Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.

~Leo Buscaglia

In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double.

~Bobby McFerrin


Everyone, from Alfred E. Newman on, seems to offer advice about how to handle worry. But at some point or another, we all do it.

Nobody makes a conscious choice to worry. It’s a very unpleasant feeling, and it generally doesn’t fix the problem. It can also rob us of our peace of mind.

Everyone worries, but by recognizing it for what it is and acknowledging the effect it has on us, we can minimize those effects. In my experience, once I recognize and accept a negative feeling, it brings it out into the light of day, and this somehow makes it less scary.

I also find it helpful to deconstruct the feeling so I understand where it comes from and how it affects me.

This might begin with identifying what I am worried about. Am I thinking about a worse-case scenario? How likely is this to happen?

I can also ask myself if I absolutely have to (or really want to) go through with the thing I’m worried about. If it is some unavoidable trouble or issue, then the answer is yes. But if I can avoid it, I might ask myself if the potential for reward outweighs the potential downside—then I make the decision about whether or not to go through with it.

Of course, I try not to let worry about an undesirable outcome get in the way of something that can enrich my life (most of these scenarios do involve risk). I actually love the risk—but I hate the worry.

If it turns out I can’t remove the source of the worry, then I ask myself if I’ve done everything I can to minimize the chance of a bad consequence. Is there anything that can be influenced, minimized, or removed? If there is, then I can take further action to decrease the chance of a bad outcome. Instead of worrying aimlessly, I can be proactive and do something about it. Even if I’m not successful, taking that action will invariably make me feel better.

Ultimately, many of the things we worry about will be mostly out of our control— a loved one in a war zone, the national economy, the plight of the poor—and in those cases, we can keep reminding ourselves to do what we can and keep thinking positive thoughts. The difference between worry and positive reflection is huge— just ask people in a prayer circle or a meditation group.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I still worry. I try all of the above, and sometimes an overriding sense of gloom and doubt pervades. What to do then?

I spill my guts.

To loved ones, to friends, to Facebook, to my journal, to the comments section of my favorite blog—to anyone who might listen.

I get it out there. I don’t let it hide in a corner and taunt me. (My worries tend to taunt me between the hours of 2:30 and 4:00 AM. It’s very inconvenient).

Sometimes I win the battle—sometimes worry does. The war rages on, but the dispatches are hopeful.

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  • Alli Glorioso September 25, 2017   Reply →

    Hi Pete – Sharing in my therapy practice Facebook page.

    • Pete Wiley October 17, 2017   Reply →

      Hi Allison! Sorry just seeing this. Thanks!

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