I once met a bloke who was preoccupied with the idea that he may get hit and killed by a meteorite.
It was his single biggest worry - almost to the exclusion of all other worries.
Sadly, his preoccupation was misguided and largely crippled his capacity to be constructive in most other areas of his life.
There is a theory that suggests that we all have a metaphorical "worry pool" in our head that contains the things we worry about.
It can literally become full in a way that, mercifully or deceptively, may limit the number of things we can worry about at any given time.
It is a bit like pouring water into a jug.
When the jug is full, any additional water added simply runs over the side and away.
So it is with worries.
If you want to put new worries into a full worry pool you, will first need to let go of some of your old worries to make space.
If you consider that people have a finite ability to worry in this context, it is clear you can manipulate the competition for space in the worry pool.
You can fill it with less overwhelming - or even frivolous - worries, and thereby ignore more important - and perhaps scarier - issues.
Some worry or stress can be a motivating component in the formation of constructive responses to genuine threats.
It is important, though, that this worry does not misdirect our focus or become overwhelming.
Successful politicians instinctively understand the power of creating fear in the community as a means of both motivating and distracting people.
They may downplay, exaggerate or fabricate issues and fears in the attempt to consolidate partisan sentiment around their own agendas and distract people from more complex and, arguably, more pressing issues facing society.
There is a risk in this politicking that people may individually or collectively fail to understand the real threats to their future, and fail to act appropriately to mitigate them.
This may also be compounded by the natural cap on what they can worry about at any given time.
There is a saying that 95 per cent of what you worry about doesn't happen, and the last 5 per cent is rarely as bad as you think it will be.
As a young man, I took great comfort in this.
Today, I understand that this saying does not account for the compounding risk arising from worrying about the wrong things in the first place.
The story of Chicken Little is an age-old and relevant fable, describing the misdirected worry of a little hen who didn't see the imminent threat of a fox because she was preoccupied by the flawed idea that the sky was falling.
Our sky may not be falling, but it is increasingly pernicious.
In the midst of unsustainable population growth, changing climate, a pandemic and a profound lack of political integrity - here and abroad - there are a great many things to worry about.
In the end, there is little value in worrying about things you can't control. But it is also essential that we underestimate our ability to influence outcomes on the big issues that worry us.
We need to constantly re-evaluate the issues occupying our worry pool, to be sure that individually and collectively we are worrying enough to do something about the ones that really matter.
- Peter Mailler is a Boggabilla farmer and a Farmers for Climate Action supporter
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