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Better to Be Concerned Than to Worry


Because I believe that self-talk determines our mood and actions, a while ago I started replacing the word “worry” with “concern.” So, instead of thinking, “I’m anxious we may need a new roof” (which we do), I’ve turned it into, “I am concerned we may need a new roof” or even “I have a concern we may need a new roof” which brings more detachment from my thoughts because it’s something I “have,” not something I “am.”

Concern shows that something is important to you and you want to put attention on it. It matters enough to think about; it’s on your mind. It’s on one end of a continuum whereas, “worry” or “anxiety” is on the other. It’s a mental note of something to consider.

Worry ratchets up concern to a higher level. It’s concern on steroids. Whereas concern shows fleeting and mild attachment to a thought, worry makes it a full-time job. When we have concern, we feel no great pressure about managing an outcome. With worry, it’s all about controlling what happens and making it go our way to reduce our agita.

I’m not saying there’s not a place in our lives for worry or anxiety. Sometimes it gets us to act to prevent poor outcomes. For instance, take our roof. We’ve had it patched many times and it’s especially concerning during Florida’s torrential hurricane season. If I were to see a leak in the ceiling, my concern would bump up to anxiety. But because the roof has held up through hurricanes, I’m still maintaining a level of concern.

Another example is a client who was worried about his teenage daughter’s comments about ending her life. If that fear doesn’t justify worry, I don’t know what does. Saying he was concerned about her comments would be absurd and neglectful parenting. Another client was anxious about getting to an appointment at a place she’d never been before. Does such a matter really warrant anxiety or would she be better off with concern? After all, anxiety is only going to cloud her ability to problem-solve if she does get lost, whereas concern would keep her clear-headed. 

The problem with these words occurs when you’re anxious and worried about just about everything. All that happens in your life gloms together into one category and you no longer exhibit the ability to sometimes be concerned and sometimes be worried. Everything is a catastrophe. Every potential happening holds equal weight and must be controlled. Every negative possibility is viewed as the end of the world.

Try replacing the word “worry” with “concern” and see if it decreases your anxiety level which in turn might help you do less stress eating.