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How to Stop Worrying

Updated on April 9, 2011

The origin of the word "worry" is from the Middle English "worowen" which means "to strangle".

That is a true indication of the meaning of the word, for in the toils of worry a human soul may be virtually strangled. Nothing can be more destructive to peace of mind, to mental efficiency and happiness than worry. None of us can aspire to going through life with all its hazards without an occasional worry but there are many who by incessant worry, make not only their own lives a burden but also those with whom they are in intimate contact.

Worrying is to be in a state of anxiety and apprehension concerning some particular problem. It is a form of emotional thinking and it is generally ineffectual in so far as it never helps to solve the prevailing difficulty. Kraines, an American psychiatrist, provides us with a good definition:

"Worry is an emotional phenomenon wherein a problem is evaluated in the light of wishes and fears instead of objectively on the basis of facts as they are."

In other words, instead of trying to reason out the difficulty, the worrying person thinks about it emotionally, thus magnifying the situation through the eyes of fear, distorting the issue and losing all sense of perspective. Even though the problem may sometimes be seen clearly enough, there is fretful over-concern about the solution.

Worrying people abound in the world today. Insecure personalities have a natural inclination to worry even over trifles. They are in a constant state of emotional distress, pouring out energy to no useful purpose; energy which ought to be used for the rational working out of the provoking situation. It is accepted that any one of us may find ourselves "up against it" when circumstances affect us adversely and we are consequently disturbed, but in contrast to the chronic "worrier", if we have stable and mature personalities we quickly overcome our anxiety and apply our energies to a calm and logical sorting-out of the situation.

Worrying easily becomes a habit and is a difficult one to eradicate. It may commence in childhood, sometimes as a result of worrying parents. Children are apt to absorb the emotional atmosphere of the home and where there is apprehension and the worst is always feared and anticipated, such a pattern may be almost indelibly imprinted upon the children's minds. Such children often have difficulty in school and their educational attainment seldom reaches their intellectual capacity. Their school reports indicate that they "are capable of better work" and their relative failure is a matter of chagrin to both teachers and parents. Moreover, the worrying child is seldom a happy child: he meets troubles half-way and is for ever in a state of tension which makes his human relationships uneasy.

The worrying adult has nearly always been a worrying child so that the conquest of worry should start by prevention in childhood. Parents should realize how intuitive sensitive children are to the emotional backĀ­ground of the home. If they, the parents, have emotional problems they should endeavor to solve them by unemotional thinking and thus set a good example to their children. The child who sees its parents tackle a critical or disturbing situation in a calm, balanced and reasonable manner, is likely to adopt this pattern of behavior for its own problems.

For the chronic worrier nearly every event which requires a decision becomes a matter for worry, and, when he has no immediate worries of his own, he takes on the troubles of his friends and acquaintances. Basically in such a person there is a sense of insecurity and inferiority, and this must be overcome before he can learn to approach problems logically. Then the facts of the situation must be ascertained and elucidated as they really are and freed from associated fears. After that should come an analysis of the possible solutions. Some lines of action may be more desirable than others but each should be dealt with as unemotionally as possible. The best solution should be decided upon with an understanding of its advantages and disadvantages, and, to avoid worry, this solution should be accepted until, if need be, a better one can be worked out.

The fact that a plan of action has been made and a decision arrived at will help to dissipate the feeling of worry and will add to self-confidence and stability. If this technique is practiced, there will result a new and unemotional attitude of mind which will make possible a logical and reasoned approach to all difficulties and problems of life.

In the case of problems which do not demand an immediate solution, it is unwise to allow them to be constantly subject to analysis. Continuous thought will lead to "rut-formation" and possible solutions are missed because of an accustomed pattern of thinking. Non-urgent problems, therefore, should be deliberately excluded from the mind of the person inclined to worry until such time as an answer is really necessary.

It is important to remember that the course of action decided upon should be carried through even though it may be unpleasant and arduous. Accept this attitude without emotion and it may be possible later to effect a more happy result. It is always better to do what is planned than to drift aimlessly on a sea of indecision, for this latter course must inevitably engender worry. The mere making of a decision will usually lead to a cessation of emotional tension and stress. Most of us have experienced this, although, when we are in difficulties, we are apt to lose sight of it. It is also desirable that we should make this decision ourselves. It is a great temptation, especially in inadequate persons, to have someone else make up their minds for them. This must be resisted, for it tends to perpetuate an unhealthy attitude of mind and hinders the cure of worry. No matter how hard they may be, make your own decisions in life.

Dependency on other people weakens the personality and destroys courage. Every decision in our lives that really affects our destiny must come from within ourselves.

Worrying people are always excessively preoccupied with themselves. Even their apparent worrying concern over other people may not be disinterested and indeed may really be a form of selfishness. Parents who constantly worry over the welfare of their children will hamper their children's lives. The deep motive for this may lie in an excessive possessiveness for the children's love. Such a motive is not conscious or deliberate on the part of the parents, but is nonetheless dangerous to the free development of the children.

There is one significant point to be noted concerning worry. It is useless to tell a person not to worry. No one consciously wants to worry. It is unpleasant and painful: it takes away the joy of life and results in second-best achievement. The person who worries must try to discover why he worries: he must discover the origin of his worrying disposition: he must learn to remove a bad habit by the substitution of a good habit. He must replace emotional thinking by reasoned thinking. He must learn to accept a certain amount of trouble in life as inevitable and he must avoid indecision at all costs. He must cultivate a cheerful philosophy, remembering that "the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never come".

Finally, it should never be lost sight of that worry is life-shortening. Many physical illnesses originate from worry. High blood pressure, peptic ulcer, spastic colitis, disordered action of the heart, and certain skin affections are definitely related to the habit of worry. For the health of our minds and bodies, therefore, we must strive to subdue this insidiously destructive force.


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