Are any worries worth taking in life? Superficially, NO. Even Gaur Gopal Das, Indian lifestyle coach and motivational speaker, asks not to worry about any problems in life because we can either do something or not do something about it. However, on a deep and thorough perspective, maybe there are some worries that are worth scratching brains for.
After coming back home from a different-than-usual haircut, people around me had vivid perceptions – some appreciating the change, and some finding it harder to accept I spent my time and money for nothing. Some even asked why I was so worried about my appearance. I immediately wondered, “just because you are not interested in your appearance doesn’t mean I should not be worried about mine“. That’s when my mind hit this question – “Could there be worries worth taking?”
The Upside of Worrying
Kate Sweeny, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, claims that not all worries are destructive despite its negative reputation. Sweeny and her team led to a research that concluded with surprise benefits of worrying – when done in right amount, it may motivate people to engage in behaviors that are potentially beneficial to their health. Sweeney further suggests that it seems both too much and too little worry can interfere with motivation, but the right amount of worry can motivate without paralyzing.
Worry has been defined in both negative and neutral terms. Edward Watkins, a clinical psychologist and mood disorder researcher at the University of Exeter points out, “By worrying about something, we are more likely to think of reasons to take action and be motivated to do something.” Furthermore, researchers argue that there is a “finite pool of worry“, so anxiety about one matter can inhibit concern about others.
Sweeny points out that alike any emotion, worry also serves a function. Sweeney adds, “It’s a signal. It’s essentially pointing us towards something that might be coming and it’s drawing our attention there. It’s motivating us to ideally prevent the bad thing from happening or at least prepare for it.“
Sweeny says that flow has been especially useful for coping with the stresses of COVID-19. Flow is a state of absorption with moderate challenge and a means of tracking progress – “zoning in” rather than “zoning out”. In Sweeny’s and colleagues’ preliminary research on the mental wellbeing of Chinese people not yet quarantined, flow was associated with reduced loneliness and more health-promoting behaviours.
So could there really be worries worth taking?
Understanding the upside of worrying, we can conclude there could be worries worth taking – especially those worries that will help us to engage in behaviors helpful to us, but not at the cost of harming others.
When we worry about something, it might be telling us that it is important for us. When we start noticing about what makes us worry, or what worries usually surround our mind, we begin to understand how we prioritize and value that instance.
- If one can observe how much they have sacrificed their late night sleep for the latest edition of Euro Cup to support either Italy or England in the finals, they would understand how much they value football and entertainment.
- When someone works late night and worries about how their sales pitch in front of a big corporate client, it can be noticed that person really does care about performing their best and getting the deal.
- When someone continuously talks about buying a new apartment and moving out of their parent’s house, it can be understood that freedom and independence is of importance to them.
- If one can observe how many plans they’ve made to visit new places during the weekends, they can understand how much they value traveling and creating new experiences.
However, the important point here is while we would be worrying about these worries because they’re important to us, others might or might not be able to understand and relate it the same way. Hence they can easily discard our worries or find it difficult to contemplate why we are involved in it so much. It needs to be understood that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure .
For instance from the earlier evidences,
- Someone who has no interest in football wouldn’t understand why one is sacrificing their sleep for a game between two countries that has no connection to them.
- Someone who doesn’t really value their job wouldn’t understand why someone else is working late night and putting so much of effort to that sales pitch presentation.
- Someone who is comfortable enough to live with their parents wouldn’t understand why someone else is so bothered about finding an apartment and spending hard earned money just on rents.
- Someone who would rather stay indoors wouldn’t understand why someone else would like to go around new places and meet people they don’t know for the sake of just enjoyment.
This leaves us with a very important thought to reflect back:
What are we worrying often about? What does it tell us about ourselves as a person? And are we discarding others’ worries just because we are not invested in it? And the most important one – What are the worries worth taking?
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