The “Worry” Gene
“Relaxation and Recreation-The most relaxing recreating forces are: a healthy religion, sleep, music, and laughter.
Have faith in God, learn to sleep well. Love good music, see the funny side of life and Health and Happiness will be yours.”
I have always being a very aware person. For some reason, I notice everything around me even when I am not trying to pay attention. It’s odd because one of the stories my mom used to tell about me was how absent minded I was when I was a baby. I was so distracted that when I was 3-yrs old she took me to a therapist to see what was wrong with me. They did a psychometric test on me and concluded that my knowledge was higher than the normal for my age and she told my mom not to “worry” about it.
Funny, how we worry about everything. If there’s a character trait I would definitely adjust in myself, it’d have to be the “worry” gene. I call it like that because one of my supervisors once told me that I had it. He said to me “you have the “worry” gene. You worry about everything and 90% of the time those things you worry about never happen and the other 10%, have a solution”. That statement was a shock to me but it is very true.
I often think about it. I have read and still read so many books about this topic. I want to understand where this excessive worry comes from. Well, all I can say is that my mom worried about everything. I really thought it was only me and my sister the only ones in the family that carried that gene. However, I think all of my immediate relatives got it too. It’s a well-discussed topic in family reunions. We can spend hours and hours telling stories about how each one of us obsess about something, don’t sleep well, make our kids and partners crazy, and find everyone else in the world not up-to-par.
I have to say though that there’s an upside to this behavior. People like us are usually very good planners, extremely responsible, well organized, great problem-solvers, and very aware of other people’s needs. Those are all great character traits that everyone around us benefit from. So, why they get the benefits but don’t tolerate the obsession, intolerance, and sometimes even the rage that comes with it? I guess it is because in some instances they can see how this worry makes us not enjoy all the many great moments that life has to offer and forces them not to enjoy those moments either.
I can sit down here and make a great case on how worrying makes you more responsible and makes your life better but I can also tell how much impact it has had on my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. After all of these years trying to be the “perfect” student, the “perfect” employee, and the perfect “everything”, I have realized that trying to have the “perfect” life is a waste of time. It’s like a never-ending marathon. The more you run towards the goal, the more the finish line moves away from you.
I’ve seen close relatives consumed by worry to the point that they had no energy. They didn’t enjoy the journey of life planning and worrying about the future and when that future arrived, they couldn’t enjoy it because worry had destroyed their health.
What’s the point then? Why do we have the need to have everything perfect so that we can have fun and enjoy life? Why do we obsess about having the house clean before going out? or why do we need the perfect car or the perfect husband or the perfect children? Believe me, nobody has the perfect anything.
I have come to realize that if we engage in this type of behavior, what seems perfect today, won’t seem as perfect tomorrow. There’s always somebody that is better at what we do. There’s always an unplanned event that occurs and makes our “perfect plan” not work. When that happens, people like me that have the “worry” gene, go crazy. It’s like the end of the world. We can’t enjoy ourselves and even worse, we make the people around us feel guilty if they try to enjoy themselves. Why? Because we need them to feel as bad as we feel.
So, how can we keep the benefits of having the worry gene and minimize the disadvantages? This is something I work on every day but that I am mastering more and more as time goes by. I try to use my “awareness” to fight my brain and my behavior (what I can control) instead of using it to fight external things (what I can’t control).
Anytime something goes differently to the way I’ve planned it, instead of getting angry, I try to see if it can be fixed. If it can’t, then I try to see if I can move on with a different plan and still enjoy it.
One of the things that upsets me the most is when it comes to people around me that don’t do what they are supposed to do. I personally find that my biggest struggle because I am always very aware of how my actions affect other people, therefore I often expect the same awareness and behavior back. That’s the most unrealistic expectation one can have. It is in those moments when I definitely need to work on myself.
I try not to create a “mental story” (phrase used by one of my relatives that has the “worry” gene) and just play along with it. When this happens I ask myself if it was done on purpose. That way I don’t take it personal. My first reaction is usually to take it personal and making it about me when most of the times people don’t even realize the effects of their actions.
The second thing I try to do is to take a moment to let my frustration go so that my feelings don’t get in the way (very difficult thing to do). Sometimes it requires a day or two before you can verbally articulate anything. Then, I just let it go and move on. Yes, move on. Wait, but why do I have to move on? Why can’t the other person do what they are supposed to do? Because the only person you can control is YOU! What if the other person never changes? Are you going to base your entire life and joy on that person’s actions?
Reality check: Your world is your world, not the other person’s world. Therefore, it’s not the other person’s responsibility to make YOU happy and it is not YOUR responsibility to make the other person happy either. You do what’s right and say what you have to say and move on. Believe me, that will take a lot of pressure off of you and will allow you to experience joy in your life.
Don’t get me wrong, I still plan and do my best and struggle with the worry and the expectations every day. However, I am really working on having joy in my life regardless of what the outcomes are. I tell myself all the time that I have to enjoy life, embrace the moment and go along with the present. I also tell myself that what others do is their responsibility. If I can help them, I will but if I can’t, I won’t feel guilty.
I try to enjoy the moment and be present. I try not to think about the past or worry too much about the future. I try to let my family enjoy what they are doing and not to plan things for them. I try to listen to what their plans are and respect them. I try not to intervene in everything I see. I try to enjoy silence and I try to lead by example rather than by words.
I try to allow myself make mistakes and not judge myself that much. I practice how to say “no” even when I can say “yes”. I give myself space to do “nothing”. I have allowed myself to love my body the way it is, my weaknesses, and my present. I don’t want to become a millionaire anymore. I work hard and take good care of my finances and I enjoy what I have enormously.
I am far away from my goal which is to have joy and express joy to everyone around me. I work on it every day and thank God and the universe for allowing me to understand the importance of this before it is too late. I hope that if you struggle with the “worry” gene, the same way I do, that you can learn how to stop worrying and start living!