"Sometimes I don't understand how anyone can watch the news and not get upset," says Samantha. "I worry that I'll be bitten by one of those mosquitoes carrying encephalitis. I worry that one day the group of guys who sit at the last table in the back of the cafeteria will think it's a cool idea to come to school with a gun. I worry that global warming will kill off half the planet before I have kids. You pick the topic, I'll find something to be a worrywart about."
"I don't usually worry about things till I lie down to go to sleep," explains Cathy. "Once I start being a worrywart, I can't stop. It starts with I have to get that paper written this weekend...then onto what if my mom gets mad about me not going to grandma's with her on Sunday...skipping right over to I'll never get into college if my grades don't improve. My one little worry blows up into a heart-breaking TV movie."
"Being a worrywart is genetic in my family," laughs Hali. "My mother worries constantly about fighting the signs of aging. My dad is afraid he isn't going to have enough money to send us all to college. My sister always worries about fitting into the popular clique. And me? Pick up any magazine and see how many pages are devoted to appearance. I love reading them, but they make me crazy. Today I'm worrying about why my skin is breaking out."
Living in today's world can be anxiety-producing for most anyone. Crime, violence, disease and sad events join the social pressures, academic standards and body issues in a teenage girl's life to make these years particularly difficult, and can turn anyone into a worrywart. To clarify exactly what's worth being a worrywart about, we answer your most commonly-asked questions.
What does it mean to be a worrywart?
If anxiety is coming attractions of bad happenings, and depression is the movie review of bad happenings, worry is the anxious anticipation that some awful, scary unpleasant event is going to happen. It is an upsetting activity that's difficult to stop once you begin. Often being a worrywart involves trying to think of ways to avoid these happenings. Unfortunately what it leads to is imagining more problems than solutions.
What do most people worry about?
Forty-percent of us worry about things that never happen. Thirty-percent are about pleasing everybody, an impossibility. Ten-percent are health-related. Twelve-percent are "water over the dam" issues that are over and done with. Maybe eight-percent of our worries could be helpful. No surprise that teenage girls suffer more then teenage boys. Before the age of 11, girls and boys worry more or less equally. By the time they're 15 however, girls are frantically trying to understand what's going on in their lives. They spend way more time mulling over their problems than boys do.
A study in England showed that more than half the teenage girls polled were unhappy with their appearance, one in three were stressed out by school, and nearly forty-percent were concerned about their families. When not worrying about their parents and siblings, they anguish about friendship.
What can you do if you are a worrywart?
Try any of these suggestions if worrying is taking up too much of your life:
- Set aside a time (maybe half an hour each day) and a place for worrying...and only worry there. Be aware of when anxious thoughts intrude and make them wait until your "appointment."
- Focus your thoughts immediately back to whatever you were doing when the worrying began.
- Writing your worries in a journal sometimes helps clarify the problem and put it in perspective.
- Try any activity that relaxes you—from aerobic activity to meditation—that will reduce the pressure to think.
- If you're a worrywart about making a decision, make it and move on.
Remember, most worries are a useless waste of time. And you have better things to do.