Don’t worry, be happy. Yeah right…

Welcome worriers.

You will be pleased to know that finally, in the healthcare professions, worry is now being looked at in a different way. Once the territory of; eccentric aunts, uncles, grandmothers, bank managers, midwives and lawyers. Worry now has it’s very own clinical name:- “Generalised Anxiety Disorder.” 

“What does that mean in plain English?” worry_bone

Bones appear to be the best way to illustrate what I mean. In English we have “Bones of Contention” resulting in long-standing arguments. Then if there is an ‘issue’ in the house this is announced by one of the individuals stating, “I have a bone to pick with you!”.

And here you have a dog, ‘worrying at a bone.” Imagine him going from one end to the other, turning the bone over and going back the other way. (Eloquently described by C.Paolini in his book Inheritance)

“Always he returned to the same set of doubts, worrying at them like a dog with a bone, only with nothing to show for it other than a constant and increasing sense of anxiety”

“A working Definition of Worry” – Crystal Ball Gazing

Worry is the prediction of negative catastrophic outcomes.crystal ball worry

Every worry thought takes you spiralling into imagined scenarios of absolutely terrible events. You feel as though you will never manage, that you will be out of control. The final outcome will be disastrous. But!!! Remember all of these throughts are based on predictions created by your fear based imaginations.

Focus on the word ‘prediction”. Is it true that you can read the future, is it true that any crystal ball gazers can read the future, no! Otherwise instead of having this look on his face he would be happily cruising the Carribean having had a lottery win.

Believing you can read and predict the fuure is not based in fact and it is not rational. Anxiety creates room for irrational thought and irrational thought creates anxiety, Remember to stay focussed in what is Fact, Truth & Reality. Worry provides you with nothing, it is not a friend.

“The Gifts of Worry.”

“Nothing isn’t quite right. You can have a whole collection of the following bonuses. Yes, all of these can be yours. Just keep worrying”.

  • depression
  • stomach and bowel problems
  • ulcers
  • excessive anxiety
  • muscle tension
  • fatigue, feeling wound up or restless
  • concentration difficulties, irritability
  • difficulty sleeping (don’t forget sleep in the brain’s food)

NB: There are of course medications that can help with sleep, but these are really only recommended in the short-term. Learning how to switch your mind off and not worry is better for you, especially in the long-term.

Many people experience anxiety over certain things; health, finances, what other people think of you. However, there is a difference between appropriate concern and worrying. Concern is associated with action, worry is a never ending cycle with no apparent outcome, taking you nowhere.

worry chair

“Just stop worrying!”……”Yeah Right”

If you are reading this, to help you understand a loved one who worries themselves sick. The first thing to learn about worry is that there is no point at all, anywhere in the universe, in telling a worrier to stop worrying. Let me demonstrate to you WHY.

worry camels

All the while you are reading this paragraph, I do not want you thinking about camels. You must focus and not visualise any images you have seen of camels. Including National Geographic covers, cushion covers, travel brochures, camels in or out of the zoo, camels sauntering past pyramids. Nothing just focus.

Right, I think I have got that point across, you can’t trick the brain in that way. This is why I have great difficulty with the New Age school of positive thinking. The assumption being that if you tell yourself to stop worrying and just feel at one with the universe, that all will be well in your world. Again, “Yeah Right!”

Remember the Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t Worry Be Happy” (Great youtube clip) when you listen to the lyrics a little closer the main message is: that worrying does not help fix anything.

“..In every life we have some trouble..

When you worry you make it double, don’t worry be happy…

In your life expect some trouble, but when you worry you make it double,  don’t worry, be happy…” Bobby McFerrin (1989)

shoes worry

The sentiment being, life is full of difficult and painful times, that you will have to deal with. So wait and deal with them when they are real not part of your fear driven imagination. In the words of the French philosopher Michael de Montaigne

“My life has been full of misfortunes most of which, never happened.”  animated worry

“Worry Beliefs, Myths & Fairytales.”

However, there are a lot of reasons WHY people continue to worry and are not prepared to give up worrying. You see, there is a lot of mythology attached to worrying, it is like a superstitious belief system. Worriers worry that if they stop worrying this will ensure that something bad will happen.

One of my favourite quotes from a client of mine goes a little like this. She was worrying about her teenage daughter going out in a car with boys to a party. When I asked her about the purpose of her worrying she stated,

“Someone in this family has to worry. God knows what would happen if I didn’t worry, the whole family would fall apart. It’s not that I want to do the worrying, but given that her father refuses to worry I have to!”

Then what happens to cement the essential nature of worrying is when the worry and the universe collide. Let me explain. Teenage daughter goes out with friends, older boys driving and they are off to a party and there will be alcohol.

Visualise mother at window worrying, father in bed asleep or watching sport on television.

woman worry

Father says, “Relax, you know those kids are responsible, the parents are there, they have a designated driver, stop worrying.”

Then as circumstance would have it the teenagers are involved in an accident not of their own making. So the content of the worry and the event collide. The worrier then receives further ‘evidence/reinforcement”- perceptually speaking – that there was and always will be a need to worry.

When in reality ‘worry’ is a thinking process and last time I looked thinking cannot move matter, nor can it control what occurs in the world. You could be planning a wedding, and worry constantly about whether it is going to rain or not, but no matter how much you worry, you will not impact on the weather.

The example above does illustrate how worry is maintained and the belief in it’s importance. But this is “superstitious behavior”.


Testing the effectiveness of worry.

Try this: Put a glass of fluid in a glass on the very edge of a bench or tabletop. Stare at the glass and worry about it falling off, the bright water worryorange soft drink staining the carpet, glass shattering and going all through the carpet. Then imagine that it is one of the most expensive glasses you have in the house, and breaking this one would spoil the set. Keep looking and keep worrying.

Q: Has the glass moved?

A: Of course not, because thought will not move an object.

Suggestion: Now move the glass with your hand into the centre of the surface, where it is less likely to be knocked, bumped or fall.

Observe how much more relaxed you feel.
You were concerned and you acted upon that.
Action not thought, prevents.

Yes, but “What if?” I can hear you thinking this from here.

What if? we just sit back and don’t worry about the kids at all, and don’t worry about money.what if

Then, what if we lose the house because we are not worrying about our finances? Recognise this thinking?

It is easily recognisable as worry. Essentially “WHAT IF?” is the mantra of the worrier.

Those two magical words “What if?” are tone of the main triggers of worry. What if this happens? What if that happens? Oh my Goodness, what if they? What if she? What if? What if? What if? All this thinking will do is exhaust you as you continue to produce adrenalin in response to your worrying. Breaking down your immune system with each additional What if?

You are continuously switching on your flight/flight mechanism, for imagined threat not real threat, which is what Mother Nature designed the response for:- jumping from the burning building, killing the Sabre Tooth tiger at the cave entrance.

The internal workings of Worry.

I like the use of spirals to explain patterns of human thought. Particularly when discussing worry, for those of you that are masters of worry you will of course relate to that constant going around and around, particularly at 3 or 4 in the morning. Going nowhere, changing nothing, just round and around the ‘worry spiral.’ Just like these dominos. Flick your thoughts into a negative gearing and they will continue to tumble in that direction. As a client once described to me, “like watching water go down a toilet bowl.”

domanoes worry

What activates this phenomenon is “What if?” Nothing in the external world needs to occur for the worrier, the whole process can be activated by one thought. “What if?…. Then predict a negative catastrophic outcome and away you go, spiraling down

In summary the thoughts would look like this:


For the worrier, there is always something to worry about and if there isn’t, the other gift the worrier possesses is the ability to create something to worry about. For instance, they are able to worry about how much they are worrying and if they’re not worrying, they can worry about having forgotten something that they should be worrying about! Whew!

 Now, what was that you were worried about?


Did you know that:

  • 40% of our worries never happen.
  • 30% are about pleasing everybody (not possible).
  • 10% are about health, but we are not doctors.
  • 12% are water over the dam, or under the bridge.
  • Therefore, only 8% could possibly be helpful.

Thomas S. Kepler

Apparently the origins of these statistics are anecdotal. However, they have a certain resonance about them. The one I draw your attention to is that no matter how much you worry, it will not cure ill health, it will not pay your expenses, it will not keep your family safe. Worry accesses information, from your over active, fear-based imaginations.

A common form of worry is ‘Health Anxiety’. Used to be called hypochondria. People will spend hours on the Internet researching and fuelling worry. If you are not feeling well, go to your doctor. Worrying as I have said many times will not help or change anything. In fact there is research to suggestion that the strain on your system caused by worry can work to make things worse.