MANY PEOPLE WORRY: Will I have enough money to pay the bills? Will I do well in school? Will I lose my job? Will we die in a nuclear war?

The list goes on and on, and so does the worry, a pervasive element of society. All are subject to it: Young and old, rich and poor.The corporate executive worries about a merger or losing a multimillion-dollar contract. And the working woman worries about balancing a career with a family life.

It can have a devastating effect or people can learn to cope and adjust to it.

"Worry can be like sitting in a rocking chair," says psychologist Michael Magee. "There is lots of action, but it doesn't get you anywhere."

Magee said people worry about a lot of things they can't control, which is not productive.

long-term worrying takes a lot of energy and often wears people down, leading to inaction.

"For some, worry serves a purpose that's not necessarily positive," said Rohe Eshbaugh, another clinical psychologist. "People are taught to worry. They do it out of their own psychological development."

According to psychologist Richard Walker Jr., "Worry is a function of personality and is a component of stress."

He says worry is increasing because, "There are more things to worry about. It is a more complex society than it was 10 years ago."

Eshbaugh doesn't see worry on the increase, but he does see a rise in the anxiety level. He makes a distinction between anxiety and worry.

Eshbaugh considers anxiety to be "a general fear of catastrophic events." He said it is "an emotion-driven experience with a vague reference."

Worry, on the other hand, offers a clearer view of a specific concern. People tend to be worried about things such as the loss of a job or the death of a loved one.

Eshbaugh sees two major risks in worrying: It erodes the body and can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Here are some suggestions on how to cope:

Rohe Eshbaugh

Be aware of the worrisome sentences you are thinking. Test them against reality. Are the sentences serving any purpose? The best thing to do is to find a constructive approach to the problem. Exaggerate the worry. That might help you see the humor in it.

Richard Walker Jr.

ChanGe the way you see things. Adjust your expectations. Figure out what's really bugging you. Define the problem. Engage in physical activity. It alters the chemistry of misery. Don't focus on the future. Take one day at a time.

Michael Magee

Differentiate your worries. Separate those over which you have no control (such as nuclear war) and those over which you can exercise some control (such as dealing with losing a job).

Know when worrying starts to adversely affect your day-to-day work. When you find yourself on the defensive, it could be a clue to seek professional help. Communicate with others about your problems. You may find your worries to be unfounded.

*Don Woodyard is a reporter for the El Paso (Texas) Herald-Post.