Ok, that’s a lie. I am not a worrier. I can’t exactly explain how I got that way, or whether it’s a good idea or a not-so-good one.

Worrying is a form of self-protection.  It’s an important and instinctive emotion that morphs into action so that we take reasonable precautions.  If we’re concerned that it might rain, we grab an umbrella.  We install an alarm system so that we’ll worry less about a break-in.

What happens, though, when worrying gets out-of-hand?

Coming from Southern California, I’ve experienced my fair share of earthquakes.  I’ve also known people who have uprooted their families in order to escape the possibility of the next “big one.”  I certainly don’t question their decision, and I don’t have the right to consider their relocation to be a “reasonable precaution.”  After all, we each define “reasonable” in our own way.

How many of us know someone we consider to be a hypochondriac?  Do you have a friend who runs to the doctor with the “disease of the month?”  Worrying about our health is legit.  Taking reasonable precautions, such as making better food choices, getting more exercise, hand-washing, and quitting smoking are some of the steps we take to morph our worry into positive action.  On the other hand, obsessing about germs, calories, fat grams, and taking 10,000 steps may not be considered reasonable if the worries interfere with our day-to-day life and the lives of our family and friends.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do you worry about things that aren’t immediate or real threats?
  2. Do your worries impede or prevent your ability to enjoy normal activities?
  3. Are you more anxious than relaxed?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you might consider taking some steps to relieve yourself of some of your worry-burdens.  Without ruling out the availability of anti-anxiety mediation, which is irrefutably helpful to millions of people, there are many other ways in which you can give yourself a break.  In one of my all-time favorite movies, “What About Bob,” the brilliant Richard Dreyfuss, psychiatrist to the equally brilliant Bill Murray, writes a prescription for Bob to “take a vacation” from his worries.  This makes a lot of sense to me, and not just because thinking about this movie makes me happy (which is exactly the point.)  If what you’re worrying about is truly out of your hands, take a break from the worry by doing something to relax, even if it’s just for an hour.

If a band-aid isn’t enough, take a look at why you’re worried.  If you can’t remember a time when you didn’t worry, maybe your inherent insecurities and/or pessimism have turned into fears and anxiety.  A trained therapist will help you understand the underlying issues, and provide you with tools for managing them.

Whatever the route, if the destination is improving the quality of your life, I urge you to make the effort.  Figuring out what’s worth worrying about and what isn’t is a really good idea.