As any self-identified worrier will tell you, our stress levels can peak at any given moment. A paper cut can bring on a wave of anxiety about whether or not our health care coverage is adequate. A spilled coffee on our laptops can instantly remind us that we’re unprepared for life’s many surprises. Surprises that include unrelated events like hurricanes and you know, alien invasions.
Basically we stress about being stressed. And while this habit is generally looked down on, one study has has another perspective.
According to a new scientific paper published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, worrywarts need hide their true selves no more. Those who worry are far more likely to prepare for the future. Worriers prepare for worst case scenarios and tend to make healthier lifestyle decisions. It’s basically what we worriers have known all along.
“I think there’s a lack of understanding when people are made to feel bad for worrying, or told to ‘just stop worrying about it,’” said author Kate Sweeny Ph.D., an author of the study, to Health magazine. Sweeny is also a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside.
Health also noted that those who tend to fuss about the future also make better problem solvers and perform better in school and at work. Which makes sense, who hasn’t experienced that decidedly chill friend who assumes you’ll be the one to make brunch plans? Or that team member who never seems to pitch in during a group effort?
Though, like anything, there is a fine line: you can absolutely worry too much. If your prepared-for-everything mindset send you into a tailspin of depression or consistently triggers a fit of anxiety, then you’re not reaping the benefits.
“I think the primary message is that when you’re feeling worried, take a minute to think about whether those thoughts are productive — maybe there are things you should be doing and preparing for to prevent bad things from happening — and in that case it’s a good thing,” Sweeny said.
Therefore: productive worrying is good; poring over details about an important event or preparing for things that are in your control is a great thing. Consistently worrying about every worse-case scenario every hour of each day, of course, is not.