We worry because our brains haven’t evolved to handle modern day living. Life is drastically different today than it was a 200,000 years ago, and our brains are still trying to catch up. So, it’s not entirely your fault that you worry even though it doesn’t do much good.
It’s accepted among animal experts that animals don’t suffer from chronic stress like humans are prone to do. Think about a typical white-tail deer. Deer are among the most skittish of animals, but they don’t worry a lot. When faced with a stressor, they deal with it in the moment and quickly calm back down. • If thirsty, they get a drink. Problem solved. • If hungry, they find a plant to eat. Problem solved. • If threatened by a predator, they run until they feel safe. Problem solved. Being an animal might not be so bad after all! Why we worry: 1. Our brains are still wired to deal with immediate issues. Our brains are still wired to deal with short-term stressors. Unfortunately, much of our life isn’t short-term. We have to worry about putting a new roof on the house next year, saving up for college tuition, or when we might need to replace the car. ◦ These aren’t problems that can be solved by just taking a single action over the next few minutes. These are chronic challenges. 2. SInce these problems can’t be solved in the immediate future, our brains worry. In the distant past, anxiety resulted in taking an action that would relieve that anxiety. Now, that isn’t an option. But our brains believe that maintaining the discomfort will eventually work. This often results in chronic stress. In a nutshell, we’re too primitive for the society we’ve created. It’s important to develop techniques for dealing with worry and anxiety, since removing the source of the discomfort isn’t always possible. Use these strategies to minimize your worries: 1. Remove uncertainty when possible. Be certain you have something to worry about. Uncertainty drives us crazy, so do what you can to minimize or eliminate it. ◦ If you have a pain in your stomach that concerns you, go see the doctor. ◦ If you’re worried about your car, see a mechanic. ◦ If you think your friend is upset with you, ask them. 2. Shift your anxiety to daily actions. Rather than burning up all of that energy on worry, spend it on something productive. ◦ If you’re worried about your retirement, spend some time each day earning more money, or make an appointment with a financial advisor. ◦ If you’re worried about your health because of your weight, focus on eating healthy foods and getting to the gym. ◦ Spend your time and energy doing things each day to address your concerns. Worry about getting those things done, because you can control them. For example, if you’re worried about not working out, you can work out and resolve that issue. It’s under your control. As soon as you take action to resolve an unfavorable situation, your brain relaxes and backs off that worry. Even while the situation isn’t completely resolved yet, you worry less whenever you move from thinking to action. An optimistic attitude that your plan will work also helps! Worry is unproductive. It never solves anything. Use these ideas to make yourself take an action that moves you toward where you want to go instead of your current situation. You’ll worry less and have less to worry about as well!