I once had a friend who made me sick. We were very close all through my 20’s. Hardly a day passed where we didn’t hang out and many times we spent the entire day in each other’s company. I thought our unhealthy friendship was unavoidable. I thought it was normal even. I became so accustomed to her company, I couldn’t see life any other way. And in my confusion, I believed everybody else had a friend named Worry too.
I based my value on the opinions of others
During those years, I constantly fretted about how I felt other people viewed me. My day rose or fell on the opinions of others. My perception of their opinions. It was so bad, I would base my value on my interactions with other people. I would replay conversations in my head on a loop, long after they had gone down.And then share that loop with my husband, poor guy. I now know that this is called ruminating and it isn’t healthy. It is no way to live. And yet, sadly, this was my reality for many years.
A worry expert
My worry wasn’t just allocated to other people’s opinions. I fretted about a whole host of things – the future, my job, money, health, safety, friendships, and family. I worried something fierce about the people I loved. Like all the pent-up stress inside me would keep them safe. And as if that wasn’t enough, I would sometimes find myself worrying about worry! I had become a worry expert during this time of my life.
Here is what worry IS
1) Worry is a prison. I am incredibly thankful that I have finally been released from the prison that worry creates! Fretting consumes an enormous amount of time and energy and keeps us from doing meaningful things we could otherwise do. It puts you in an emotional prison. There is no way I would be able to accomplish all the things I do now in the frame of mind I had in my 20’s. This blog, where I open up about my failures and mistakes? No way! I would have been too worried about how people would view me. Besides, I was so drained physically and emotionally from being consumed with worry, I barely had the energy and wherewithal to take care of the basic things in life.
Just so you know, here are some things worry is NOT
2) Worry is NOT productive. I dare you to name ONE thing that you have been able to change by worrying. The future is not ours to control and worrying about things does nothing but make us sick. Lest you disagree, let me be clear, planning and worrying are not the same thing.
3) Worry is NOT concern. Maybe like me, you have justified your worrying as feeling concern for the people you love. I get the temptation. But let’s be honest with ourselves, we can love and care and want the best for someone WITHOUT worrying over them. We can show concern for them WITHOUT fretting.
4) Worry is NOT normal. It is easy sometimes to dismiss something as “normal” or “human” so that we don’t have to deal with it. Right? Maybe we react to someone in a way we shouldn’t. Instead of admitting that and saying we are sorry, we might excuse it by saying we are only human. In the same way we can dismiss worry in our life. But worry isn’t a normal, whole way to live. And viewing it that way can actually be harmful. Because…
5) Worry is NOT healthy. It causes our body to react in the same way it would to danger. And while we want our body to respond with fight or flight when facing something truly dangerous, like a grizzly bear in the woods, responding this way on a day-to-day basis (in my case, hour-by-hour) is not good for us. Stress hormones regularly circulating through our bodies is a recipe for disease.
I FINALLY kicked the habit of worry
Living a worry-free life feels like an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I can’t even tell you how incredibly freeing it has been to let go of this bad friend! And as a bonus it makes things much healthier for my relationships in life. A whole person, not driven by the winds of worry, makes a better spouse and parent and friend and employee. I have more energy reserves for the people in life I love the most because I am not wasting physical, mental, and emotional energy worrying.
But like many of the Life Practices I share about on this website, this hasn’t happened without some work on my part. Although it is more than worth the effort! There is so much freedom in a life not burdened with the shackles of worry. The freedom to be ourselves and pursue our dreams. The freedom from the drain on our time and emotions that worry places on us. The freedom to respond to life in a healthy way and to have thriving relationships. All of these things, and many more, make pursing a worry-free life worth every bit of the effort.
I am working on a follow-up post where I will share the things I have done to help me unfriend worry! The best way to make sure you don’t miss the next post is to subscribe below.