When I was about 13, I started keeping a list called “What to worry about.” I’d write down everything I deemed important that I had to accomplish. Most of my worry list centered around homework deadlines, papers and tests, but I also worried whether I’d get a part in a Youth Group production or whether Neil Maltz liked me in eighth grade.
I felt better every time I crossed something off the list, but invariably added something else that was worry-worthy.
I stopped writing out worry lists when I was in my 20s, and started keeping them in my head. I’m surprised my brain didn’t self-destruct. I worried my way through my thirties, forties and into my fifties. My worries were all over the lot, from whether I’d make my budget when I was a publisher to whether my husband was dead when he didn’t come home on time.
Something miraculous happened in my late fifties: I started to worry a great deal less and finally accepted that it didn’t accomplish—or change—a darn thing. I didn’t stop worrying entirely, and probably never will, but I worry with less intensely and for shorter periods.
I just read in USA Today that I am not alone. “After 50, daily stress and worry take a dive and daily happiness increases, according to an analysis of more than 340,000 adults questioned about the emotions they experienced ‘yesterday,’” the article said.
The research, which will be published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that young adults experience more negative emotions more frequently than older adults. Stress and anger consistently decline with age, but worry stays constant until around 50, when it drops precipitously. *