Learning a second language helps me see the world in a new light. I have known a phrase in Spanish for a while, “no te preocupes,” which means “don’t worry about it.” What blew my mind was learning that it is based on the word “ocupar.” Let’s break it down.
“Ocupar” means to take up space, to spend time, to take a seat, to fill, to invade, to hold, to live, to be placed in, to keep busy, to hire, to seize, and to utilize. When made reflexive, “ocuparse,” it also means to tackle, to deal with, to be in charge of, to take responsibility, to look after, and to take care of.
“Preocupar” means to cause concern, to worry, to be concerned, to be interested in, and to bother about. The reflexive, “preocuparse,” means to get anxious and worry.
Adding “pre” or “before” to “ocupar” makes it “before taking responsibility and dealing with something, we worry.” Mind blown. Before we take action, before we tackle something, before we take responsibility, we are worried and anxious.
Maybe it is necessary?
Maybe being worried is the impetus of our action. Like anger is an indicator that something is wrong and needs to be dealt with, perhaps worry is our call to action. As there is good stress and bad stress, perhaps there is good worry and bad worry. I am currently planning an international trip. I am concerned about the new protocols due to the pandemic. This worry is making me act; to research what is needed and taking the steps to have my paperwork and testing in place. Worry is helping me navigate the world. It is a call to action. It is helping me focus on what needs to be resolved. This is good worry.
How much is enough “pre”?
When worry falls into the bad or unhelpful category is when we get stuck in the worry and we never act. Are we consumed by worries day and night? Are we replaying scenarios which may never play out? Have we made our worry so large that we don’t think we have the power to act? Are we so focused on the problem that we can’t find the solution? Are we missing out experiencing the moment because we are focused on our fear, worry and concern? A little worry may be a motivator. A lot of worry can stifle us.
Using action to stop worry
Lately I have been learning how to defeat my worry by taking action. When I notice myself focusing on my worry, I make the active choice to act. Sometimes it is taking action against my worry – doing research, asking a friend for advice, doing something to resolve the issue. Sometimes it is taking action, any action. I wash the dishes. I walk the dog. I meditate. I do something, anything, except worry. I find that my movement and action break me free from worry.
What is your relationship with worry? It is a helpful indicator? Does it keep you stuck? Does it give you a reason to act? Where is worry helping or hindering you?