Worry myths

It’s rarely, if ever, helpful to worry. Learn fact from fiction when it comes to worry.

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What is worry?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines worry as, “to think about problems or unpleasant  things that might happen in a way that makes you feel unhappy and frightened.”

Notice the definition doesn’t end at thinking about problems or unpleasant things. Of course, we must think about them. Avoiding problems or unpleasant things can actually lead to more stress as we strive for control. We need to accept that the world is unpredictable and learn to adapt to situations in a healthier way. 

In our professional and personal lives, we can’t avoid problems or times of stress. But, while we can’t always control our uncertainty, we can try to control how we respond to it. We want to respond in a way that reduces our feelings of unhappiness or fear.

Worry myths

Below are some myths about worry. Consider which of these you believe:

Worry shows I care

Example: My repetitive negative or fearful thoughts about a loved one’s health demonstrates that I care about them.

Ask yourself: 

  • Does my worry improve the situation for this loved one? 
  • Do I know other people who care about this loved one, but don’t stress or worry as much? 
  • Is my worry causing me and/or the loved one stress?
  • How else can I use the energy from worrying to show I care? 

Instead of worrying, you might focus your energy on:

  • Spending time with your loved one and creating good memories.
  • Discussing what they’re willing and wanting to do about their health.
  • Advocating for their health care if they want you to.
  • Preparing nutritious meals.
  • Helping out around the house if they want you to.
  • Running errands for them.

Worry drives success

Example: When I worry about my success, I’m motivated to be more successful 

Ask yourself: 

  • Does my worry actually improve my performance, or does it add more stress and pressure?
  • Are my standards for performance reasonable?
  • Do I know others who’re successful, but who don’t worry as much as me? 
  • How can I use the energy from worrying to support my success? 

Instead of worrying, you might focus your energy on:

  • Asking how success will be measured so you know if you’re meeting goals.
  • Asking your leader how you could improve your performance and applying their suggestions.
  • Taking classes or training to improve your performance.
  • Shadowing more successful performers to learn their techniques.

Worry prevents bad things from happening

Example: If I constantly consider negative outcomes, I can work to prevent them. 

Example: If I don’t worry about my money, I’ll end up broke.

Ask yourself: 

  • If I stop worrying about something bad happening, will something bad will happen for sure? 
  • When something bad happened in the past, did it happen regardless of how much I worried?
  • Will worrying ensure my financial well-being? 
  • Can I maintain financial well-being without worrying?
  • Is this worry preventing me from enjoying life today?
  • How else can I use the energy from worrying takes so that I can build my financial security?

Instead of worrying, you might focus your energy on:

  • Creating a budget and savings plan.
  • Finding inexpensive or free ways to enjoy life, like hiking or meeting up for coffee rather than dinner.
  • Learning to make things that would otherwise cost more money, such as clothing, furniture or gifts.

Choose action over worry

When we challenge our beliefs about the value of worrying, we can choose more helpful responses to stress and uncertainty. 

Nothing in life is certain. We can’t always control our personal lives, our professional lives or the lives of others. But, we can control our reactions to situations as they arise. So, challenge yourself to handle whatever comes your way, even when it doesn’t always turn out the way you wish it would. 

Worry without effective action may just perpetuate more stress in a world full of uncertainty. Perhaps it’s time to embrace the whirlwind of life and focus on how we can best navigate it in a way that serves us.

For more help dealing with stressors you can’t control, Explore your options walks you through many different strategies.


Contributors include.articlesMary Ann BayntonSami PritchardWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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