February 2019


Worry … Worry … Worry … Worry … Worry

Merriam Webster defines worry as a persistent or nagging mental distress or agitation. A second definition is to harass by tearing, biting, or snapping, especially at the throat.

Origin: Old English wyrgan ‘strangle’, of West Germanic origin. In Middle English the original sense of the verb gave rise to the meaning ‘seize by the throat and tear’, later figuratively ‘harass’, whence ‘cause anxiety to’ (early 19th century, the date also of the noun).

I think the second definition really nails it because that is what worry really does. We’ll look at that further along in the blog.

What causes worry? Self talk is the basis of worry. It is what your mind thinks about over and over and over. With “normal” worry, although you may experience some physical and psychological effects, it doesn’t have adverse effects on your life in general. A tendency to long-standing worry that interferes with normal daily living should be assessed by a professional regarding the possibility of an anxiety disorder. For the purposes of this blog, we are looking at the type of worry that we all may do from time to time.

Worry can be about a number of things but usually, it centers around one thing at a time. Today it might be about the trip you are taking; next week it might be about not getting your taxes done on time, a recurring worry might be about your or someone else’s health.


Here are some common things people worry about:

  • Money: bills, loans, retirement, education
  • Relationships: family, marriage, children, friendships, work
  • Health: accidents, illness, weight, fitness, ageing
  • Work: deadlines, workload, promotions, evaluations, unemployment
  • World events: crime, political issues, ecology,
  • Life: purpose, goals, future, spirituality

Worry is a form of fear, but unlike fear, worry is not your friend (see Custom Counselling Blogs July 2017 and October 2017).

Worry is ineffective. It immobilizes you whereas fear can energize you for fight or flight. “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” (Zen Proverb)

Worry is illogical. No amount of worrying can change anything.

Worry is irrational. It causes a divided mind, gnawing on the “what if” which is always a worse-case scenario. “Worry is an old man with bended head, carrying a load of feathers which he thinks is lead” (Corrie ten Boom)

Worry is a thief; it robs you of today. It focuses on what isn’t happening right now but future speculations or assumptions.


How to close down worry

  • Assess your thoughts. “Is this something I can do something about or not?”
  • If it is, then make a plan what you are going to do. Planning is different from worrying.
  • If it is beyond your control, then recognize what you are doing – worrying. Give your thinking its proper name.
  • Keep yourself healthy (eating, sleeping, exercise): physical and mental health compliment each other.
  • Keep your mind engaged in pleasant activities rather than letting it idle in the cesspool of worry.
  • Face problems when they occur rather than trying to predict them.
  • If you find you begin to worry, talk to a person whom you trust will be forthright about whether or not this is worry or a real concern.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. It is hard to worry when you are being thankful.
  • Meditation: this is focusing on good and lovely things that bring a calm and peace to your mind.


Serenity Prayer

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.


Judith S. Carscadden