Worry – endemic in our culture | Sunday Observer

Worry – endemic in our culture

23 January, 2022

Is there anything to worry about in life? Dr. Wayne W. Dyer says, “There is absolutely nothing to worry about in life.” However, some of us worry about our future, children’s education, or our place in society. Worry is defined as being immobilized in the present as a result of things that are going on or not going to happen in the future. We should not confuse worrying with planning for the future.

Our society fosters guilt and encourages worry which begins with caring. If you care for somebody, you are bound to worry about them. It shows that worry is endemic in our culture. Almost everyone spends some time worrying about the future. Will I get through the examination? Will I get a job? Will I be able to go abroad for higher studies?

The only problem with such worries is that they will not make things better but worse. When you fall in love, you worry about your partner’s loyalty. When you get married, you worry about your children’s affairs. Are we not going around a vicious circle?

Today we have so many reasons to worry about. Gas explosions, high prices of vegetables, shortage of essential food items, and the Coronavirus are real causes to worry about. However, when you walk into a supermarket, do you see worried faces of customers? Except for a few, most customers are not worried about anything happening in the country.


Those who worry all the time find something to worry about. During the JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) insurrection, people were worried about the future of their children. When World War II was raging, people were worried about the scarcity of food. All such worries are no more with us. Now we have new worries. That means worrying has become a permanent malady. Unfortunately, we do not realize that circumstances will not change simply because we worry about them.

Most of us worry about things over which we have no control. For instance, we cannot prevent or postpone death. Sometimes the catastrophe you worry about may be less horrible than you had imagined. If you lose your job, that is not the end of your world. When one door closes, another will open. Therefore there is no need to worry about losing your job.

There are compulsive worriers. Harold, one of my colleagues, was always worried about something or the other. When I met him recently he said he was worried about his ageing parents. In order to look after them, he has postponed his marriage several times. Being a middle-aged man now he complains of knee pain and constant headache. You may have met such compulsive worriers in society.


I asked a cross section of the people why they worry. The responses I received were varied. Most of them were worried about their children. Elderly people were worried about their deteriorating health and impending death.

A retired English teacher told me, “What will happen to my children if I die?” Some people employed in the private sector were worried about their job security. In short, I did not meet anyone who was not worried.

When a problem arises, an intelligent person should be able to come up with a solution. While worriers sit around and think about their problems, a doer is always up and about.

He knows that worry is a clever device to keep him inactive. A friend confessed that he had too many problems to worry about. Some of them, he said, were things he should do, could do, or ought to do or what might happen.

All day he deals with the little worries, but at night the big ones plague him. The ultimate result is that he is thoroughly exhausted at the end of the day. You may have heard that exhausting problems adversely affect millions of people.

Although we should plan for the future, excessive worry is an unnecessary burden. Psychologists call it “Toxic worry” because it is a disease of the imagination. When you are afflicted with it, toxic worry diminishes your capacity to enjoy life.

Toxic worry

Toxic worry is generated from a misreading of reality. When you come to know that you are going to be dismissed, you lose all hopes. Instead of dwelling on pessimistic feelings, try to look for another income avenue.

Sometimes you get stuck in traffic and worry about missing an important meeting. Instead of cursing the Traffic Police or other road users, try to snake in and out of congested lanes. For this you need a little bit of imagination.

Our psychology lecturer taught us one of the most valuable methods of dealing with worry. He said, “Never worry alone.” According to him, worrying alone intensifies the worry. When you explain worry to another person, you begin to regain a perspective on it.

In a busy working environment you will find it difficult to find a person with a sympathetic ear. The only alternative is to talk to yourself. Aaron Beck, an innovative psychiatrist, has developed a novel technique known as “Cognitive therapy” in which a person restrains his habits of thought. Instead of thinking that you have come to the end of the road, probe different routes that will make more sense.

Very often we get bad news such as the death of a close relative, failure in an examination, or rejection of your admission to a university. On such occasions you have to monitor your automatic thoughts and examine them closely for errors in logic and alternative hypotheses that may be more logical. When you get the facts correctly, you can base worry on reality rather than on fantasy.


Never think that you are a loser or an underachiever. Certain incidents in life do not happen the way you want. Christians believe that their lives are guided by God’s will. You can revamp your worry-ward approach to life. This is because cognitive therapy is based on hooking you up with the truth and disengaging you from self-created distortions.

It is a good practice to record your worries in a notebook. This is one way of lessening the mental burden. Psychologists have given many other tips for dealing with worries. One way to get rid of worries is to play a game of cricket or tennis. At the end of the game you will feel a tremendous relief. Even other exercises such as brisk walking, swimming or cycling will reduce tension, drain excess aggression and frustration.

Any physical exercise will give you a sense of well-being. It will also improve your sleep and concentration powers. According to psychologists, exercises are probably the best natural anti-worry agent.

For those who cannot engage in exercises, deep and controlled breathing will reduce their worries. This is something easy to do. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Repeat the process several times for better results. In Yoga there are several advanced breathing techniques to help manage worries.

Avoid living alone without any contact with your family members, friends and well-wishers. By increasing your social connections you will enhance your feelings of strength and reduce your sense of vulnerability. Whenever possible, have your meals with family members. Maintain a good relationship with your neighbours.

Always try to do something you like. If you do not like your job try to find your dream job elsewhere. Limit the amount of bad news you consume every day. Keep away from drugs, alcohol and smoking. They are the root causes of your worries.

Listen to music before going to bed. Smile with everybody you meet and do not be shy to cry.

A torrent of tears will wash away most of your worries. Laugh as much as you can. Although we are living in hard times, follow your dreams and enjoy life. karunaratnersgmail.com