The surprising upsides of worrying

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Anxiety can be exhausting, but there is often a reason for it – and there are some surprising benefits to certain kinds of worrying.

“I’m a near-professional worrier,” admits Kate Sweeny ruefully. She’s struggled for much of her life with anxiety over things she can’t entirely control – including, these days, whether her parents are following social-distancing guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A constant hum of low-grade worry affects many people, but what’s distinct about Sweeny is that it partly motivated her career choices. As a health psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, she specialises in understanding worry and stress.

“Not everybody uses their own life as fodder for research,” she laughs, but she’s found inspiration in her own experiences. One of her surprising findings has been that worrying can be beneficial in a variety of situations, from waiting for exam results to safeguarding health.

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