Do you find it irritating when people say that? It sometimes feels like an empty sentiment. What do they know about your life and your concerns?

I would have to class myself as a worrier. And you’ll get no argument from my husband. Being the opposite he marvels at how wound up I manage to get about things that most likely will never become a problem.

That’s where the heart of the issue is for people who are habitual worriers. It’s one thing to worry about something that is a problem. It’s when you start to worry about things that could become a problem that the fun starts. Let me give you an example and see which class you fall into.

My husband Steve is an audio/video engineer. A few years ago there was a super yacht docked in Auckland harbour that was having trouble with its entertainment system. They called my husband’s company for assistance and Steve – clever bunny that he is – was asked to board the yacht and ‘sort it out’. He had two days before it sailed.

After the first day he arrived home late shaking his head and saying the problem remained a mystery. Steve then went to have a shower and twenty minutes later I found him upstairs settled comfortably in bed watching Live at the Apollo and laughing his head off.

I was astonished. I said to him: “Aren’t you worried about tomorrow?”

This was his reply: “There’s no point worrying about it at the moment. If I can’t fix the problem tomorrow I’ll worry about it then.”

How marvellous. In contrast, I would have had a sleepless night endlessly turning over every scenario in my head, giving particular attention to the worst-case. Of course, it would have been a complete waste of energy because the ending to this short tale is a happy one. My husband fixed the problem on the second day. The yacht sailed, everyone on board happy – as well they might be sailing around the world on a super yacht!

So why do we do it? If, like me, you’re a worrier, think back over the last few years to things you’ve agonised over. Now think about how many of those situations turned out absolutely fine and there had been no need to worry.

It sounds simple. But reforming yourself seems to be anything but simple.

I think back to my younger years and try to remember if I was more carefree. Do you worry more as you get older? In exploring this let me give you another example.

When my husband and I were living in the UK some years ago my parents did a tour of Western Europe. We met up with them for a week while they were touring Austria and Switzerland. My parents had just come from Italy.

My mother told me of her disappointment in missing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Apparently they had planned to go for the day but my father didn’t want to drive their rental car because he was concerned about where to park. Instead they drove to the nearest train station but once again my father was worried about where to park the car for the day and couldn’t’ find anyone who spoke English that could help. So he scrapped the whole thing.

In response Steve and I told my parents about our trip to Tuscany. We had driven to Florence for the day and parked in a dedicated area above the city. We couldn’t work out at the time whether we needed to pay. We checked the other cars, couldn’t see any tickets on display and so decided to take the chance and left the car. We didn’t think any more about it and had a fabulous day in Florence. When we returned for the car hours later it was sitting quite happily in its parking spot with no ticket.

My father was horrified on hearing this story. What if we’d got a ticket? What if the car had been towed? How would you know what to do or who to call to sort it out?

Not entirely unmerited concerns but at the time we were happy to take the chance.

Here’s the thing – would we be happy to do that again today, now that we’re not so young and slightly less carefree? An interesting question. Youth is a wonderful thing.

Every year one of my New Year’s resolutions is to worry less. As the cliché goes – ‘cheer up, it might never happen’. Remember that many clichés only come into being because they have proven over time to be true. Worrying generally ends up being nothing more than wasted energy.

It’s a great pity that such knowledge doesn’t seem to make it easier to stop. But I’m determined to keep trying. If you’re a worrier, how about joining me in my quest?

 

Published by Tracey O'Brien