Worry is futile, but hard to avoid.
Media coverage of cases of Zika virus in North America and elsewhere is causing many people to worry unnecessarily.
For people in Canada and the Northern states of the USA, it is a good example of dramatic reports in the media causing widespread worry.
Only pregnant women (or those planning to become pregnant) intending to visit South America have real cause for concern.
The facts are:
- The virus is spread by a mosquito species, Aedes aegypti that does not survive cold winters.
- All those infected in North America (except one by sexual transmission) contracted the virus elsewhere.
- The virus can cause microcephaly (small brain) in the human foetus.
- The effects of the virus on most humans are mild, only 20% show symptoms.
- In rare cases, symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome can develop.
Like the widespread concern over the Ebola epidemic in 2015, this is another case of worrying over something that has almost no chance of affecting the average North American.
It is also something over which we have no control – other than cancelling visits to South America.
I am reading the book Stoicism Today- Selected Writings which quotes the ancient Stoic philosophers, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus among others.(Amazon affiliate link)
Epictetus’ thoughts on worry and problems are as comforting today as when they were written centuries ago.
He proposes that there is no point in worrying about things over which we have no control.
Nor should we worry about things over which we do have control, which is only our thoughts, our choices and our actions. Situations – opportunities, threats, dangers, disappointments or inconveniences will come into our lives. We should do our best to benefit from opportunities and protect ourselves from the others.
Once we have made the best choices and taken the best action we can, we should be indifferent to the outcome.
No amount of worrying will change that outcome.
James Shelley recently published a post about Two Kinds of Problems on his blog. It makes good reading.
Why Do We Worry
We worry because as humans, we have the luxuries of rational thought and imagination. They set us apart from animals. That’s why we can develop complex technology and create brilliant art.
If we let our imagination stretch our thought processes in new directions we create new things. If we let imagination override rational thought when faced with challenges, threats or setbacks, we worry.
I have been around large and small, domestic and wild, animals most of my life. Both prey and predators respond to an immediate threat, take the best fight or flight action, then get on with what they need to do, generally eating or sleeping. They do not worry about what might happen tomorrow, next week or next year.
It’s easy to tell you not to worry. In the past, I have spent as many hours as most worrying. I have spent many sleepless nights worrying about both about things I cannot control and those I can.
Two things have helped me stop worrying about both types of problems:
- The life experience that comes with age.
- Overcoming many adversities, some life threatening, a few life changing.
Surviving situations and events that had caused chronic worry before they happened, taught me that the expectation is usually far worse than the reality. I wrote about it in this post.
Acknowledging the worst that could happen, accepting that it might and choosing to get over it when it did.