Worry vs. Healthy Concern

It is highly likely that within the last few hours you have given in to the urge to worry about something. Worry comes as naturally to most of us as breathing, so it is important for all of us to consider some basic questions and principles whenever worry begins to creep in to our thinking.

As a psychologist, I have worked with hundreds of people who struggle with worry, and I have found that each person has their own unique triggers, reasons and methods of expressing worry, but they also have some things in common – they either worry too much, too little or just enough.

Excessive worry is always harmful. As it’s been said, worry doesn’t change the past or make things better tomorrow, but it steals all the joy from today. Not only that, but the effects of severe worry can include headaches, digestive illness, high blood pressure, irritability, sleep-deprivation, memory lapses, feelings of hopelessness and depression, and the list goes on. People who worry too much for too long will ultimately harm their productivity, their relationships and their health, while rarely effecting changes to whatever they are worried about. It’s an exercise in futility.

People who worry too little often suffer the consequences of not addressing issues that genuinely need attention. “My spouse is really hurt and angry, but it’s no big deal. I’ll just lay low until it blows over.” “We won’t need to check the oil before our trip. It hasn’t been that long.” “I’ve had some pain for awhile, but it’s probably nothing.” You can imagine the potential dangers in all of those statements! What may appear to be cheerful confidence could actually be avoidance of necessary action. Worrying too little is reckless and irresponsible at times.

Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes lies what I call “healthy concern.” Researchers have found that a mild degree of worry, healthy concern, can actually benefit a person. Having a healthy concern about a situation can help you anticipate possible problems and discover better ways of handling them in advance. This is the instinct that tells you to bring a first aid kit on your camping trip, to have some candles and extra batteries on hand in case of a power outage and to make a doctor’s appointment if something doesn’t seem quite right. It’s the urge that says that you should proactively seek to understand your spouse’s emotional needs and offer an apology or support if needed. It’s the reminder to take five minutes to check your oil, make sure the door is locked or text your teens to make sure they’re on their way home. It can potentially prevent a crisis and increase your control over a bad situation. A healthy amount of concern helps you find solutions to difficult challenges.

To sum it up, excessive worry will likely immobilize you with fear and anxiety and too little concern could land you in hot water. But healthy concern is just the right amount to motivate you towards positive action!

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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