Worrying is different from thinking through something that needs to be rationally considered and decided upon.
Worrying is being stuck in the mire: dwelling on troubling things, exaggerating problems, fretting about stuff you can do nothing about.
It makes me imagine the worstcase scenario. Case in point: Mary had to get glasses in Grade 2. I started wearing them at the same age and was mildly teased. Never mind that kids’ glasses are nicer now and that ‘geek chic’ is popular. Teenagers wear non-prescription glasses to look cool. I was awake in the dead of the night worrying that she’d be teased.
That was the last school year, and she has yet to be teased. (Note to self: let there be at least a whiff of something to worry about before you nearly drive yourself mad!)
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” So said Jesus. “There is nothing that wastes the body like worry,” said Gandhi. Touché. But because I was a worrier before I was a parent, I knew I would be with my daughters, Mary and Adelaide.
Adelaide used to get full-body hives every time she caught a cold, for example. It lasted a week each time. The doctor told me she’d likely grow out of it by mid-childhood. Still, I envisioned the bullying she’d endure at age 10. What a waste of my brain; she hasn’t had hives in a year.
In kindergarten, Mary didn’t form a “best friend” relationship. Some of the other girls had, so I ruminated about her not ever having friends. Now in Grade 3, Mary has three ‘best’ friends and seems to get along well with her other peers.
Mary saw me reading a newspaper story about a tornado months ago. Now, she worries that one will touch down on our house, despite our explanations that a tornado has never hit our community. Is she fretting, just like me? Actually, I think I’ll stop right there – my worry warts are showing.
Expert Advice – Psychologist Sara Dimerman says:
Some people are wired to think things through in exquisite detail. Others deal with things as they happen. The challenge is to strike a balance between too much and too little worry. Too much planning and there may be disappointment if things don’t go exactly how you have mapped them out; then you may regret that you have wasted so much time fretting over things that you need not have been concerned about.
On the other hand, not planning at all may leave you ill-prepared or caught off guard along the way. Try these techniques for curbing the worrying:
- Visualize a stop sign whenever you feel yourself getting caught up.
- Mark a date on your calendar that you think is reasonable to begin thinking about or preparing for an event. This can clear your head beforehand and prevent the process from taking up so much time, and also create room for enjoying the moment.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, December 2013.