I’m a worry wart. I worry about everything and anything. I justify the worries by saying that there are risks and they need to be calculated in order to be mitigated.
Our world is quite confusing, I find.
When I was working, our in-house training taught us to focus on finding risks and mitigating them, especially during the financial crisis. We had all these financial models and we spent the most time analyzing the “what-if” scenarios and worst-case scenarios in order to find ways to protect our own interests even before the scenarios have happened. In law school, we had to pre-empt all the arguments the other side might make – “what if” the defense said this, then how should we rebut?
Yet in life, many people advise that we have to face our fears, and just do it, without thinking “what if”. So what if the world falls down? Well, I guess then we all die and all this ceases to exist as we know it.
Perhaps within a framework of business practices the “what ifs” has it merits, and there’s a point in buying insurance since there is always a probability the plane would crash when we are in it.
However, calculating risks is one thing, over worrying is quite another.
This habit of worrying had always been in my life. I remember times when I was a teenager, that I was too concerned that someone would break into our apartment that I’d get up in the middle of the night and go unlock the door the gate, so I could lock them again – thrice.
With my depression, worrying actually became a threat to my mere existence. I’d have a thought in my head, that leaving the house I would encounter bees. I get nervous that the bees would sting me for some reason. My shoulders and neck tense up because I’m trying to fight off the worry. But it seemed so real, this life endangering episode should it occur. With a tense neck and stringent shoulder muscles, my head muscles collide, the blood vessels fire off exaggerated warning signals for a fight or flight response, and expand. My head starts thumping, my body tremors, my hands shake, and I cannot move my body at all, petrified by a simple, innocent thought of bees.
A migraine hits, and I want to tear my hair out. I vomit, and in my dizziness I throw myself against the wall. My fear was blown out of proportion. Deep down I knew I was worrying about something that wouldn’t happen. My reality however, I wasn’t strong enough to control.
Thus I did not leave the apartment. I did not – could not – go to work. I was unable to meet my friend for a coffee and talk to someone about my fear. I wrapped up every single inch of exposed-skin to avoid bees and literally sprinted the 8 steps from the lobby of the apartment compound into a cab to go see my doctors and my psychologist. When a buzzing fly found its way through the window cracks, I leapt in utmost panic and horror. I’d get startled from my sleep by nightmares of bee brigades hunting me down.
My shrink taught me, through cognitive behaviour therapy, to identify my negative thoughts and worries, and to challenge them. I’d have to write out the reasons behind my worry, and to pinpoint any evidence to show that such a worry might become reality. Obviously, most of my little frivolous concerns had no backing and probability of happening was close to zero.
Other times, the worries simply were not constructive and did not add value to my existence. Rather, they took a drain on me and assimilated my irrational, negative thoughts.
To illustrate my silliness, here are some of the ludicrous worries I have – and want to get rid of:
- what other people might think of me
- my blog has no readers
- my writing sucks
- I will have a miscarriage even though I’m far from being pregnant
- I will be a tiger mum and my kids will hate me – I probably will anyways so no point worrying about it
- I will have nowhere to live
- my bears will die from cancer, but oh wait, they are not actually living beings
- bees will sting me
- stray dogs will devour me
- butterflies will bite me
- people will hate my cooking
- Bamboo (my dog) will die
- Bamboo doesn’t love me
- Bamboo will chew on my shoes even though she has not once tried
- I won’t find another job
- I won’t have any money
- the plane will crash
- my nose is too big
- I will fall off the scooter
- my family-in-law doesn’t like me
- Bamboo will fall off the chair lift up the Great Wall – but uh, I didn’t even take her
- Bugs will kill me
- Geckos will fall from the ceiling on me
- The tall building will be on fire and I have to run down 100 flights of stairs
- Customs won’t let me pass with my jewellery in the suitcase…
Basically everything that can go wrong, I’d think they would go wrong. Yet, how many of them actually do go haywire? Maybe 1%…?
So I’ve just wasted all that energy with needless worrying.
Where possible, an educated method of minimizing risks, such as that in investments, is sensible. Worrying about things that will not happen is a desecration of time.
And anyways, what is the worse that could happen if everything above did happen? Would it mean an end to me, my life, and my world? Well, if it did, then what happened wouldn’t matter so much either by that time, so why worry in the first place?
Trying to remind myself not to worry. Challenging my thoughts each time irrational thoughts come my way.
Is there any over-worrying you need to get rid of today?