Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What? Me Worry?

I was reading a magazine yesterday morning and worrying about how much I had to face once I got to my office when I was confronted with an article on living longer. The article listed several key things one could do to live a longer life but one point in particular struck me. It said—get this—that people who live longer fret occasionally. Apparently, too much optimism can leave you unequipped to deal with the worst possible scenarios that you might encounter in your life. “A little worry,” the article says, “keeps you warmed up for the curveballs life throws.”

See? I knew I was on the right track.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a constant worrier but I do have moments when worrying consumes so much of my brain power that I need to use specific coping mechanisms to stop. There are a few things I remind myself when I get to worrying:

1. Worrying won’t change the outcome. There have been times when I’ve been so consumed with worry, e.g. a test will reveal more disease, a deadline will be blown, someone I love may have an accident in icy weather, that I can’t get out of my own way mentally. Worry just consumes me, eats me up, so to speak. When that happens, I tell myself that whatever is going to happen will happen whether or not I worry; I have no control over the situation. This takes some mental energy, and sometimes it works, other times…not so much.

2. I should set aside a few minutes each day to worry. Someone once told me that if I was consumed by worry, I should set aside a time—say eight o’clock in the morning—and set a timer for fifteen minutes during which time I should worry about the things that concern me. After the timer goes off, the worrying stops. There are a few problems with that plan. First, I don’t own a timer. And second, I don’t have the mental fortitude to put my problems or concerns out of my head after a set period of time. I learned that while doing the ostensibly mind-clearing exercise of yoga. Not going to happen.

3. Worrying is a giant waste of time. Now this is a coping strategy I can get behind. Why? Well, I’m what is called in scientific circles a “Type-A personality.” (In regular circles, I’m just a hyper lunatic.) When I thought about all of the times I worried about a particular situation, only to have my feared outcome never come to fruition, I calculated that I had wasted approximately a year of my life worrying about things that turned out just fine. Or didn’t turn out at all. Or had become completely irrelevant by the time there was an outcome to note. Wasting time is a concept I can get behind and when I think of wasting precious time when I could be doing something constructive or positive, I seem to stop worrying immediately.

Right now, I’m worried that a book I’m working on for my day job won’t get to the printer in time. Or that my daughter won’t do as well as she wants to. Or that my son will get hurt playing lacrosse. But then I remind myself that if the book doesn’t make it to the printer on the day it’s supposed to, it will probably go the week after. And that my daughter has been working day and night to make sure she’s prepared for the “big test.” And that my son wears so many pads while playing lacrosse that it’s amazing he can move at all. See? Worrying is a giant waste of time.

Any other champion worriers out there in Stiletto land? If so, what do you do to stop yourself from biting your nails to the quick, chewing the inside of your mouth raw, or grinding your teeth?

Maggie Barbieri


  1. What me worry?

    Worry is my middle name, according to my kids and husband. Sometimes it's my first and only name

    But these are good coping mechanisms. Sometimes I try to make a deal with myself -- I agree I will worry, even full time worry, but not today. I agree that tomorrow or next week will be the time that I will devote to a specific concern. As you pointed out, sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

    Yours in worryville,

  2. Oh, girl, you know I am! I used to grind my teeth until my dentist said, "If you don't stop on your own, we'll have to make you a night guard." So I made myself stop (and probably worried about it in the process). My husband remarks that I worry about things that haven't happened yet, but I told him that's the point! I think I'm a tad better every year, but I have a feeling it's built in my DNA. Like you, Maggie, I'm a Type A. The best I can hope for is to be a Type A-minus. ;-)

  3. Son of worrier here, but I don't think it's genetic - just the way some people are built. It is amazing, though, when you stop and think about how much time we waste on this stuff, isn't it?

    Kinda makes me worry that I'm missing out on life's ...


  4. Hey! I was worried that I wouldn't get any comments! Seems like worry is a universal topic about which we all have thoughts. Maggie

  5. My biggest worry right now? That you don't own a timer, Maggie!

    Good grief, woman, how do you get through the day!? I have several, including one little one that has four separate timers built into it. Then, one of my watches has a timer. Oh, the iPhone has a timer app. I have a timer on my oven and on my microwave.

    Now, I am a list-obsessed and timer-addicted person, it's true. Most of the time, the timers are timing some cooking effort. That timer with four separate clocks gets it's buttons pushed a lot during Thanksgiving dinners--one for potatoes, one for turkey, one for pie, one for stuffing, etc.

    But, I do use a timer now and then during work when I set it so that I'll have something that will nudge me from my desk into prepping for a meeting or conference call, into stretching and resting my eyes so I don't get aches and strains, or poke me into just getting up to turn off the garden sprinkler or go downstairs and slam the chicken into the oven (setting another timer for the roasting of that, of course) so dinner will magically be done when the work day is done.

    I worry about beating the clock in dozens of ways all the time, I guess.

    I am not joking when I say that to me one of the biggest luxuries in this world is a day when I intentionally don't wear a watch and just forget the clock. Doesn't happen often enough. I should set a timer to tell me when to take my watch off. Then I'll set another to tell me when to put it back on.

  6. I'm not much of a worrier, because my oldest sister is. It's like I went the opposite direction because she worried enough for all 6 of us. She passed the worry gene to her oldest son. The first time he stayed over night with me (by himself) he was about 10. He had to stay in my apartment all alone during the day because I had to work. "What if someone comes to the door?" he asked. "Answer it," I said. "But what if he's a bad guy?" "Then don't answer it." "But what if he breaks in?" This went on for about 15 minutes before I could finally leave for work. In the end, no one came to the door that day :-). And in a town like ours, the chances of a bad guy coming to the door were astronomically slim. But he was sooo cute!

  7. I really try not to worry and pray instead--but I think worrying is part of being female.


  8. Queen Bee Worrier checking in to central command. When you have 3 kids who are all driving, you worry!

  9. When I was younger, I am getting ready to be 29, so when I say younger I mean before I met my husband and had a family, I used to be so carefree. I didn't have a worry in the world because I used that saying that worrying didn't do anything but stress you out. I didn't care if my rent was late or even paid at all. Now that I have a family, I worry all them time. My main worry times comes to me when I am trying to settle down for bed. I start thinking about all the possible things that COULD happen. The bad What If's. So my main solution is to pop in the funniest movie I have or can find on the internet or get into one of my books. I wish there was another remedy because I know sometimes I don't get the best of sleep but at least I wasn't up ALL night worrying.

    I seriously don't understand how they say worrying can be good for you, it stresses me out.

    Be Blessed!!

  10. @ Zita, you can tell your sister is a worrier because your nephew didn't stay all night with you until he was 10. I will be the same way, I already that way with my step-son
    tyler and he is 16.
    This is how much my sisters worry less than I do. I kept all my niece and nephews at my house overnight by myself within the first couple of weeks of them being born. I was glad but I didn't understand why they didn't care because there is no way I could let my kids go stay with someone until they are atleast 12 or 13. LOL