I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my life worrying

Nancy is a worrier. When she was younger and still working, worrying did have its little advantages. She would always keep everything under control and in order. But now that she’s 63, she regrets having spent so much time worrying and feels like she’d missed out on life.

“I regret that I worried so much about everything,” admits Nancy who said that if she was given a single “do-over” in life, she would like to have all the time back she spent fretting anxiously about the future.

“My mind was constantly worrying about things that could happen like what if robbers entered the house, what if a car gets out of control and I’m in it’s path, what if I get a terminal illness and become too sick?” said Nancy.

Nancy isn’t the only one who played questions on her mind leading her to not achieve most things on her bucket list.

Worry is an enormous waste of your precious and limited lifetime. It is an unnecessary barrier to joy and contentment.

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John Alonzo, 83, was a construction worker who had to battle financial insecurity his entire life. He said, “Don’t believe that worrying will solve or help anything. It won’t. So stop it.”

James Huang, 87, said, “What possible difference did it make that I kept my mind on every little thing that might go wrong? When I realised that it made no difference at all, I experienced a freedom that’s hard to describe.

“My life lesson is this: Turn yourself from frittering away the day worrying about what comes next and let everything else that you love and enjoy move in,” Huang said to HuffPost.

Worrying is a crippling feature of our daily existence and we should do everything in our power to change it. Why is excessive worry such a big regret? Because, worry wastes your very limited and precious lifetime. By poisoning the present moment, you lose days, months, or years that you can never recover.

Luckily there are ways to reduce worrying.

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According to Eleanor who has had much to worry about in her long life, we should avoid the long view when you are consumed with worry and to focus instead on the day at hand.

She said, “Well, I think that if you worry, and you worry a lot, you have to stop and think to yourself, “This too will pass.” You just can’t go on worrying all the time because it destroys you and life, really,”

“But there’s all the times when you think of worrying and you can’t help it — then just make yourself stop and think: it doesn’t do you any good. You have to put it out of your mind as much as you can at the time.

“You just have to take one day at a time. It’s a good idea to plan ahead if possible, but you can’t always do that because things don’t always happen the way you were hoping they would happen. So the most important thing is one day at a time.”

Worry is endemic to the experience of most modern-day human beings, so much so that following this piece of elder wisdom may seem impossible to some of you. But what the elders tell us is consistent with research findings.

The key characteristic of worry, according to scientists who study it, is that it takes place in the absence of actual stressors; that is, we worry when there is actually nothing concrete to worry about. This kind of worry — ruminating about possible bad things that may happen to us or our loved ones — is entirely different from concrete problem solving. When we worry, we are dwelling on possible threats to ourselves rather than simply using our cognitive resources to figure a way out of a difficult situation.

Do you worry a lot?