By Dr. Amit Sood, Mayo Clinic
On most days I struggle with one or more worries. I worry because I have preferences. I worry because I wish my world to be safe. I worry because I can imagine adversity and would like to prevent it. I worry because I am human and I care.
Any species that has intellect, imagination and preferences, and raises children is bound to worry. My mind believes that my worries secure my safety. My mind isn’t wrong. Specific worries about specific issues with a focus on the probable and finding solutions has helped me many times. But worrying because I should be worrying hasn’t helped me.
Worry that motivates is useful, worry that paralyzes isn’t. Beyond a limit, worry is paralyzing Worry has impaired my ability to think clearly, making my family and me unsafe.
I can’t give up worrying. I don’t wish to. Instead, I should harness my worries. I should only worry about the issues that are worry-worthy – where the price I pay for worrying is worth the benefit.
My worries should only think of possibilities that can realistically happen. While it is possible that a hippopotamus could jump out of an aircraft above our home and crash onto our roof, the chances are quite low. I shouldn’t worry about that.
Finally, my worries should focus on those actionable problems where actions can make a difference.
With these qualifiers, worry is a friend that looks out for me. Without these qualifiers, worry is a buzz in my head that interferes with the music of my life.
Worry is the price we pay for our intellect and imagination. Let your worries focus mostly on those actionable problems that are worthy of your attention and where actions can make a difference.
Dr. Amit Sood is a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. He is also the director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, chair of the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative, and chair of the Student Life and Wellness Committee at Mayo Clinic in Rochester,