N. Shannon Walker

Nothing's Wrong. Try Not to Worry.

By N. Shannon Walker

N. Shannon Walker or many years I suffered from chronic worry. I don't remember exactly when it started but I think it was sometime in my mid 20's. This is a condition that is extremely difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced it. Basically it's a state of constantly (and sometimes obsessively) thinking about what might go wrong in your life or the life of someone you love. Even if there is no evidence of anything being wrong, a chronic worrier will invent things to worry about, or even worry about the possibility of something going wrong in the future. (I've heard this referred to as the "what if?" syndrome.)

As the chronic worrier continues to play out the hypothetical scenarios in his or her mind, the worry can at times escalate into near panic, which effectively prevents the worrier from accomplishing anything remotely productive and even from enjoying an otherwise pleasant experience.

Chronic worry is not the same as legitimate concern. If a relative or a friend is ill, or if there is a news story about a serial robber in your neighborhood, it is perfectly normal to be concerned and even worry about it. But a chronic worrier will come up with any reason to worry about anything, whether it's real or not. Nobody knows why we would purposely put ourselves through such agony, and even we are unable to explain it.

It has been argued that even legitimate worry doesn't accomplish anything. If something unwelcome is to happen, worrying about it won't prevent it, and many, including myself believe that worrying about something can actually bring it into your reality.

I wish that I could declare that I no longer worry about anything, because I certainly do. It is something I will probably be working on for the rest of my life. But now that I'm middle aged I can look back to my past and realize that almost nothing I had ever worried about actually came about.

Mark Twain is attributed to have said "During my life I have experienced many troubles, some of which actually happened." (I'm paraphrasing because there is no record of the actual quote, but it's quite profound.)

If you're a chronic worrier you are not going to "just get over it" as some may advise you to. What you can do, however is to make it one of your priorities to recognize when you are worrying about something that doesn't really need to be worried about and continuously remind yourself that many, if not most people would not be even thinking about such a thing. By getting in the habit of recognizing your worry for what it is and thinking logically about it you will (if you're like me) be able to gradually decrease the intensity of the worry and often actually stop thinking about it altogether.

When I think about how many what otherwise would have been happy days from my past that I spent conjuring up things to worry about, effectively preventing myself from fully enjoying an experience, it makes me feel rather sad, and maybe even a bit guilty. What I intend to do going forward is to continuously work on my worrying obsession with the ultimate goal of fully releasing it. I can tell you with certainty that the mere act of being aware of unnecessary worry and consciously taking the steps to release it feels absolutely marvelous.

N. Shannon Walker
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