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The Price of Worry

I close my eyes and take a deep breath before I start writing this blog. There’s a lot of shit going on in Manitoba (and the world) right now and sometimes it’s hard to catch my breath and find where I exist in it all. It’s hard to take the advice I’m about to give, even though I know with absolute certainty that it is the best possible advice.

Don’t worry about it.

That’s right, covid, climate change, educational reform, racism, the drug crisis, poverty… all of these disasters that are gripping humanity at the moment are not worth worrying about.

That’s not to say that they aren’t important. It’s just to say that worrying doesn’t help anyone. You can sit at home and worry until your blood pressure is soaring and your anxiety is unmanageable and you haven’t done anything to help any of the above mentioned disasters.

Worrying (along with shooting each other) might just be one of the worst habits that humans have picked up along our path of evolution. There is nothing worth worrying about because worrying does nothing.

Actually, that’s not quite true. It isn’t that worrying does nothing. It’s that worrying does nothing positive or proactive, unless you are trying to avoid some kind of sudden, deadly and temporary threat. What perpetual worrying does is degrade your body and erode your happiness and sense of well being. Worrying is a parasite that will suck the energy you need to actually make a difference.

There are a few incidences in life where a fear response is actually quite beneficial. If you need to get out of a burning building or save your toddler from a hungry cougar, then the blast of adrenalin that you get from being afraid could be the difference between life and death.

Unfortunately, you can’t outrun, fight or hide from covid or climate change or any of the other disasters I mentioned. The fear you’re feeling is still real and powerful, but it has nowhere productive to go. The longer you stay worried, the more strain there is on your heart, your immune system, your digestive system and your hormones.

I have to remind myself of this every day. Everytime I find myself spiralling on something like the inherent deliberate racism in the educational reforms being pushed through in Manitoba, I take a deep breath and tell myself it isn’t worth worrying about.

And, even though I’ve been telling myself that for quite a long time, I still feel a little burst of anger everytime. I still want to answer that, “Of course it’s worth worrying about!”

I don’t know about you, but for me, worrying feels productive. It feels like I’m giving my time and energy to something that I obviously care about and that the copious amount of time it spends spinning through my thoughts will somehow make things better.

Isn’t that what we ultimately all want? A way to make things better. Worrying isn’t the way. It won’t fix things. Ever.

I’m not going to tell you that every problem is fixable, but I am going to try to plant the idea that you probably have more power to make a difference than you think. It’s all a matter of perspective. Even if all you can do is a small action that helps make a small improvement, you’ve done much more than you would have accomplished in a lifetime of worrying.

For instance, if catching covid is occupying your worry well, focus on improving your immune system (eating more fruits and veggies, more time outside, regular exercise). This isn’t revolutionary, but if you’re falling down the online spiral of stories about covid, instead search an immune boosting recipe and use that to give yourself something productive and potentially beneficial to do.

If you are worried about the impending climate disaster then start to look at where you can cut down on your use of plastics, use more locally made products, or plant a small garden around your living space.

For some, I’m sure that Manitoba’s bill 64 isn’t even on their radar of worries, but as a parent and teacher, the dismantling of the education system by a conservative, short-sighted government is never far from my mind. When I feel the familiar pull to start to stress over this, I instead try to put my energy into action. Informing myself and others, letting my elected officials know that I am opposed to the bill and joining with others to add more depth to our voice of opposition is all much more worth my time than worrying.

Sometimes it’s just a pit of generalized worries that weighs me down and my mind wants to jump from one end of the world thought to another. In these times, I find that connection is my most powerful ally. Calling (yes, actually calling is better than texting), a friend or family member and taking the time to step out of my mind and connect with their lives can improve the state of my inner world.

Walks in the forest, yoga, meditation and reading are some of the other avenues I use to escape my worries. It isn’t a perfect plan, but it’s better than the alternative. The price of worrying is high and the return is nothing. Now, close your eyes, take a breath and remind yourself that you are so much more than the sum of your worries.

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