I’ve always been a worrier, maybe even from birth. I’m sure I came out wondering if my thighs were too fat. (For the record, they really were. I was a fat baby).
When I was 7 years old, I would go to my neighbor’s house under the false pretense of seeing their new baby boy. My true motivation was the decorative baby bottle filled with blue candy on the baby’s dresser. I would slither up there and gobble up the candy, while glancing sideways at the baby laying all cherub-like in the crib. He never blew my cover, thank goodness.
Around that time, I found out I had to have surgery to fix a malfunctioning tube in my kidney. I didn’t tell the doctors, but I knew that tube was all clogged up with the forbidden blue candy. I prepared myself for the inevitable. The doctors would get in there, scalpels a-ready, and find the stolen goods. Then, they would tell my parents, who would look at me with disappointment and disgust in their eyes and contemplate giving me up for adoption.
I worked myself into a tizzy of worry, all for naught. This tendency toward tizzy has continued throughout my life.
Now, fast forward to the present, at 40 years old, my worries are starting to manifest themselves in (some minor) health problems. In the last year, I’ve had acid reflux, an ulcer in my mouth, and my hair stylist confirms my hair is indeed falling out. Soon, I will just be one big bald, acidic, open wound.
I worry about my job, my kids, and day-to-day realities and responsibilities. I’m actually worried about this post on worry as we speak. I’m truly exhausted by my circling mind.
Science backs me up. Cognitive psychology research says it’s a vicious cycle: the more we focus on our worries, the worse we feel, and the worse we feel, the more we worry.
Ernest Hemingway said, “If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.” Truly, worrying is a waste of effort and time! When we’re anxious, we’re stuck in that murky, adrenaline-soaked fear zone. We’re literally sitting in our own cognitive swamp, fishing around in our worst-case scenarios. Nothing productive happens in that swamp. Making decisions from a place of fear is never going to get us where we are called to be.
Worse yet, worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen. Oprah Winfrey said, “What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.” Oprah has a net worth of 3 billion dollars and a house in Maui that overlooks crystal blue waters. I’d like to focus on whatever she’s focusing on.
So as Ernest suggested above,can we train ourselves not to worry?Can all of us chronic worriers hand over our worries and do as suggested in Philippians 4:6: Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything? Can we unburden ourselves, consciously casting off the anxious thoughts, and simply have faith that things will work out? Can we be grateful NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS in our lives?
I ask myself three questions when I’m sitting in my own anxiety swamp. What is the worst that can happen? What is the best that can happen? And what is the most likely scenario that will happen? I remind myself that the odds are in my favor that the most likely scenario will materialize. Generally, the worst case scenario is not that bad (and may have unbeknownst blessings down the road).
From there, I’m working on letting go of controlling the outcome. If I have faith that things will work out exactly the way they’re meant to (although maybe not exactly how I planned), I can feel some peace.
I don’t want to roll around in my own anxiety anymore. I don’t want to leap to the worst conclusions by default. Instead, in a single bound, I want to be grateful for the blessings in my life and embrace all the twists and turns. I think I’m just going to be happy being plain old (balding) me: a great mommy and wife, a loving friend and daughter, a supportive boss. A non-worrier in training. Ernest would be so proud.