The benefits of healthy worrying


When people think of worry they may associate it with the extreme end of the spectrum where it keeps you awake at night full of fear about things that haven’t happened yet and may never happen – according to research about 85% of what we worry about doesn’t happen!

We all worry to some extent and when you begin dating it is natural to be cautious and hesitant about meeting people who are strangers at first. As long as worry doesn’t become so debilitating that it stops you from going on dates, or living life fully, there are some benefits to it – here are a few of them.

It is a protection mechanism

When we worry we are using our imagination to try and foresee possible dangers and then develop strategies to avoid them. It is good to worry if you are taking part in a high risk activity like paragliding – the worry makes you double check all the safety procedures – the day you aren’t worried when partaking in a high risk activity is probably the day you shouldn’t do it!

Meeting people online isn’t in itself a high risk activity but going on a date with a stranger can be and just like paragliding there are certain safety procedures that need to be in place – letting someone know where you are going; having a fully charged phone and enough money to get yourself home and not getting too drunk etc – if you weren’t worried you may take unnecessary risks and think these things weren’t important.

It is part of the learning process

If you have been hurt in the past then it is natural to worry that the same thing may happen again in the future. This is a good response and is actually how we learn – when a child hurts themselves by touching something hot they learn to avoid doing the same thing again.

When it comes to the area of relationships it all becomes far more complicated because we often take painful lessons of the past  and form general rules to help us avoid the same kind of pain in the future e.g. men in their 20s can’t be trusted not to cheat or good looking women are only interested in money. Obviously not all young men are cheats and not all good looking women are gold diggers but if that has been your experience once you may start to believe it; if it happens twice you are likely to worry that it is inevitable that it is going to happen again and begin to avoid that type of person altogether. For some people this means they start to avoid dating or when they are on dates are very defensive and shut down which makes it difficult for them to connect with anyone.

In order to get the most out of the dating process it can be helpful to look at what it was about the past relationship that hurt you and break it down into specific things you want to avoid in future rather than generalisations. By really looking at what went wrong, and seeing the role you played too rather than just what the other person did, your worries will lessen and become more focused on what you can do to reduce risk rather than avoiding risk altogether.

It calls you to action

It can be helpful to imagine your worries are a small child – what do you need to say or do to reassure them that everything is going to be alright? If you are worried about meeting a date because they are a stranger then you should take all the safety precautions necessary e.g. meeting during the day at a public place; telling a friend where you are going and arranging to call afterwards etc – then you will be more able to relax and enjoy the date.

Whatever your worries are it can be really useful to ask – What can I do about this? As soon as you start taking your own worries seriously rather than trying to dismiss them or beating yourself up for having them you will be in a position to take whatever action is needed to help reduce them.

A problem shared ….

Is a problem halved. Whatever your worries are they will be reduced if you talk to someone you trust about them. Not only will this help you to get a different perspective but it is an act of trust to open up and share your worries with someone else – something that will benefit all your relationships.

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