I recently read a brilliant paragraph in Terry Brooks’ book The High Druid’s Blade. (Yes, I read fantasy during leisure time.)
“Worrying about the future seldom did anything to help improve it. If you wanted to do something about the future, you had to put some effort into it. That usually involved working on something that would make the future you sought more attainable. It’d be nice if you could make things better by skipping the work part, but you can’t.”
I think there’s a difference between worry and concern, but it’s a fine line. We can be concerned about our family without becoming worried. We can be concerned over needs and events without being worried. What’s the difference?
I think concerns are things under our control, or at the very least things that we can act upon. Like the quote above, there are things that we can put some effort into and change a future outcome. We can have input on our circumstances. We can train our children to make good decisions. We can prepare for emergencies, health problems, and economic downturns.
Worry, on the other hand, is a product of uncertainty coupled with lack of control. When we can’t do anything to affect the outcome of something we tend to worry, but truly it’s a futile exercise. Honestly, it’s a complete waste of time.
Worry is Self-Destructive
Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, shared some profound truth about worry.
“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” (Matthew 6:27, 34 ESV)
Worry can’t add a single hour to our lives. In fact, it tends to do the opposite by causing all sorts of stress that detracts from our lifespan and lowers our quality of life in the here and now. The more we worry, the more stressed out we become. The more stressed we become, the higher the cortisol levels in our brain rise, which can lead to a giant list of health problems.
Here’s just a few of the potential problems caused by excessive worry:
- digestive disorders
- suppression of immune system
- anxiety and/or depression
- memory loss
- high blood pressure
- heart attack
Beyond all this, worry creates undue stress on our relationships and negatively affects our ability to work.
The glaring truth about much of our worry is that we get all twisted around by material things—stuff that can be replaced. We worry about someone stealing our stuff. We worry about someone scratching our new car. We worry about being able to pay our credit card payments. But in the end, it’s all just stuff.
All the more reason we should be wise in avoiding debt and preparing for emergencies by making sure we have an emergency fund and proper insurance coverage. That goes a long way toward helping us not worry about things.
Ultimately, worry is a lack of trust in God.
Learn to Let Go
Letting go of worry is a hard thing, almost impossible. Consider prayer, meditation, massages, soaking baths, reading, exercise—anything that helps you bring your stress levels down. Surrounding yourself with people who can help shoulder your burdens goes a long way toward alleviating stress. So does being a person of faith and holding on to that faith in times of stress and trouble.
Whatever works for you, live a life where you concentrate on ridding your worry over things out of your control. Maybe Bobby McFerrin was on to something when he wrote, Don’t Worry, Be Happy:
Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
What are your favorite ways to destress and stop worrying? Share with us in the comments.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.