Dr. Worry Wart

It has been eight years now since I quit my job as chief “worrier” of my family.

If there was a college degree in worrying I would have had a doctorate. Most of the time I spent worrying was related to things I had no control over or were not as dire as I imagined. This would cause me to get so upset that I couldn’t focus on my daily responsibilities and would even become ill.

So when things happened like my father having surgery 2,000 miles away, I would pace the floor waiting for an update on how things went and would wonder how he and my mom would do while he recovered. Nothing would get done and I’d end up with a headache.

Over time it just snowballed and became so bad that my husband voiced his concern and advised me to do something to change my behavior. At first I was indignant about this idea. This was just how I was, part of my character. How could I just stop caring and become indifferent? Fortunately for me, I have a supportive and loving husband who overlooked my protests and simply said he would help. He let me cool down and think over his idea more rationally. I started to see how much I was hurting myself and my family.

A few days later he gave me a book by Dale Carnegie entitled “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”. He asked me to read it and see if it would help. My first reaction was to worry about when I would be able to read a book with four small children to look after and no time to myself.

Then I thought of my dear husband. The effect of his kind, caring ways caused me to think that I needed to do whatever possible to overcome this habit. The book was just what I needed. It pointed out the drawbacks of too much worry and gave me several tools to deal with and overcome it. I was able to see things more calmly and sensibly right away. For example, I could look for the worst case scenario in a given situation and come up with a plan to handle it if it were to happen. This allowed me to stop being a catastrophist and look for the best case scenario to happen.

The most important thing I came to realize is that there is always something we can do and the act of doing gives us hope. Sometimes all I can do is pray, which in itself is a productive act. Worrying is not productive. Over time I have learned to recognize when I am no longer thinking productively and have started worrying. This is when I can use my “toolset” to stop myself from going too far down that road and get back on track to where I want to be.

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Sandra Mann
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