I had a meeting the other day. Not just any meeting; an important one. I was really worried about it. So worried that I had trouble concentrating or focusing on anything else. It even kept me up at night. I was that worried.
Then it came, the day of the meeting. And you now what? Everything went fine. No issues whatsoever. I was so relieved I can’t tell you. The sun came out, the sky was blue, the birds sang. Hallelujah.
OK, so I am a little neurotic. But in my head, those concerns were real, legitimate. Whether they justified all that anxiety or not, all that worrying, I really can’t say. All I know is it happened and now it’s over and done. Thank God.
But here’s the thing. I think everyone’s becoming more and more like me. I think we’re all starting to worry way too much. And that is not a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong; there are certainly things worth worrying about.
Finding out your spouse has cancer. Losing your job and having no idea how you’re going to pay the bills. Finding out that you don’t have enough money socked away for retirement – after you’ve retired. Wondering if we’re really going the way of Greece.
Those are all worth losing sleep over.
But you know as well as I do, it doesn’t stop there. Sure, we have all sorts of little missives like “don’t sweat the small stuff” and “accept the things you can’t change” to help keep our worries in check. To keep them from consuming us.
That may have worked back in the day, but no longer. The world has changed. Today, we’re all “on” 24×7. And we’re all paying a heavy price for it, whether we realize it or not. There’s simply too much to worry about. It’s an epidemic.
If you wake up and your Internet is down, it’s like the end of the world. Like millions of people who work from home or telecommute, I depend on that connection. But so what? If you miss a few emails and posts, does it really matter?
Have you ever left your house without your smartphone? I did once and had a mini panic attack, as if I’d gotten halfway to work and realized I’d forgotten to wear pants.
Anything you tweet, share, like, or post can doom your reputation. Once it’s online and Google caches it or someone takes a screenshot of it, you can never take it back.
Everyone’s a germophobe, these days. Never mind that germs are good for you. They help you build immunities so you don’t get sick.
We worry constantly about our kids. God forbid they should break out of the house and have a little fun or get into some trouble.
Perhaps the most toxic epidemic is political correctness. Now we’ve got to watch everything we say for fear it’ll make someone feel uncomfortable, offended, or not included.
We’re all obsessed with our hair, our skin, our clothes, our diet, our libido, our health. Meanwhile we’re in worse shape than ever before.
So what’s really wrong with all this worrying? Three things:
1. It’s addictive behavior. We’re all becoming compulsive, neurotic, constantly reactive to outside stimulus, permanently distracted, and out of touch with ourselves.
2. It takes all the fun out of life. It’s not good for your health, your relationships, your career, or your business, for that matter.
3. If you spend all your time and precious neurons worrying about all sorts of minutiae, you have no brain cycles left for all the important things you should be concerned with.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should waltz through life in a permanent state of Zen-like bliss. And I certainly don’t expect you to toss all your stuff and become a Buddhist monk.
Just don’t let all this nonsense consume you and make you nuts. Take a little time to disconnect. Spend some time alone with yourself. Get out in the country with the spouse and kids. Play in the dirt. Have some fun. And leave your gadgets at home.
Try it. You’ll be amazed at how happy it makes you. How much less there really is to worry about.
A version of this post first appeared on my Critical Thinking column on Fox Business.
Image credit Holly Clark via Flickr