Only Human to Worry

Nov 21 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew

Sometimes, it is possible to wonder what a life free of worries would be like – aday where we go about our business, enjoy each moment, tackle whatever comes our way with determination and confidence, without the slightest of self-doubts. It seems that is the life.

Worrying is the brain's way of preparing us for the worst-case scenario or maybe even giving us a precautionary heads up for what could possibly go wrong. Life as we know it would have been completely different if worrying was out of the equation. This is even true of overworrying, because most of us over think, analyse and worry. Mostly we worry about our existence and incidents that can pose a threat to our existence. Even though we all know our life on this earth is temporary and limited, we somehow think we can add a couple of years by obsessing about what could be, could have been, and perhaps what will never be.

I envy people who can just let go and have faith in the universe or even higher power. On the other hand are some of us who cannot help but worry too much. I have caught myself worrying about my worrying and overthinking my over thinking on multiple occasions. The paradox about worrying, nonetheless, is that the more we try not to worry, the more we do worry.

Something that goes hand in hand with this is assuming the worst. I often obsess about the possibility of getting into a vehicular accident, especially if I am sitting in the front seat of a car –- not without reason, of course, considering that Ethiopia has one of the highest traffic accident rates in the world. I almost go crazy worrying that something terrible would happen to my son if I leave him home with just the nanny. Every time a family member leaves the house and stays unreasonably late, without informing me, I start to think that they may have gotten themselves hurt, perhaps fatally.

All of these are normal, but what makes them different is their degree and intensity. But like many people, my worrying stems from my fear of death. Everyone has this obviously, but some of us have it worse than others, sometimes to a crippling degree. In particular, it is the fear of losing the people I love; not getting the chance to say my goodbyes properly; living the rest of my life with what I could have done differently.

"What is wrong with you. How could you possibly think that?" the rest say to people like us.

We cannot help it. It is not lost on us that this kind of thinking could lead to anxiety and depression. People who think something terrible will happen to them every time they leave the house, for instance, could avoid going out and outdoor activities, thereby limiting their exposure. In the long run, this could lead to depression. Worse still, by worrying about unrealistic things, we are telling our brain to release cortisol, a stress hormone that may cause long-term health complications.

Why are we like this?

It is controversial, but most likely it has to do with some evolutionary need for survival and reproduction –- almost everything does according to contemporary biology. There is a somewhat more romantic psychological reason for worrying though. When we hold someone dearly, we get overly attached. We point to that love as a reason for our happiness, and the very thought of departing from that object of love terrifies us to the core. The slightest possibility that that could take away our happiness becomes an imminent danger to our being. Indeed, attaching our happiness to people or objects is the main source of disappointment. But at the same time, having no attachment makes life dull. It is another dilemma.

It is not a completely hopeless thing. We can alleviate some of our worrying by taking the time to pay attention to our thoughts and reasoning out with ourselves. Practising mindfulness in this regard seems to help; being in the present and focusing on the here and now keeps our mind from wandering off.

We should also face our fears. This makes us often realise that our fears are blown out of proportion, and it is actually our brains playing tricks on us. If these thoughts get out of hand, it is perhaps best to get professional help. But it is never wise to give up.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 21,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1073]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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