I grew up in a family of worriers. Not just my immediate family, but my extended family as well. Sure, I do worry about some things like my kids and family and what is happening in my life, but I try very hard to let worrisome thoughts leave my mind as quickly as they come.
I have to admit, it’s not always easy to do that, but I have learned over the years that worrying doesn’t solve any problems. Worrying steals your joy and for some, causes useless grief and suffering. I do know one thing for certain, that God is in control, so worrying is a waste of time. Why worry when it will not change the outcome of what you are worrying about? If you trust God, then worrying is pointless.
Let’s look for a moment at the origin of the word “worry”. It comes from the Old English word “wyrgan”, which means “to choke or strangle”. Over time, the word has evolved into the meaning we have today. Here is how “worry” was defined through the years:
*1550 – “to harass by severe treatment”
*1670 – “to annoy, bother or vex”
*1822 – “to cause mental distress or trouble”
*1860 – “to feel anxiety or mental trouble”
It is interesting to me that the first definitions of the word “worry” was used to describe severe behavior. I mean strangling... choking….harassing…isn’t that really what worrying does to a person? When you are caught in the trap of worrying about everything, you can definitely feel as if you are being choked or strangled for sure! You can read about the origin here: http://www.etymonline.com/word/worry
TYPES OF WORRIERS
I have thought about it and believe that there are different types of worriers. Perhaps you fall into one of these categories:
1. “Right Now” Worriers
These are people who worry about little things in the moment and once it is figured out, they move on. For example, I have nothing in the pantry, what am I going to make for dinner? Or…we are short on money this week, how are we going to pay this bill? And my own personal worry…why hasn’t Tyler (my son) called me back or answered my text yet? These are usually passing thoughts that are gone as quickly as they come, but to me, they are worries nonetheless. This is the category I place myself in.
2. “Past Event” Worriers
These people spend so much time worrying about things they did or didn’t do…in the past. Things they said or didn’t say…in the past. The people who wish they could turn back time and change a situation. They spend so much time worrying about past events that they miss the joy of the here and now. I admit, I used to look back and worry about things, but I refuse to do so any longer.
3. “What If” Worriers
These worriers consistently think about everything that could go wrong. Their favorite question is “what if?” Yeah, what if…what? They don’t realize that they cannot control the what-ifs in life so they stress about outcomes, whether real or not. The truth is, moat of the time, none of us can control the outcome, so why worry about things that may or may not happen? What if the worst does happen? Does worrying change the outcome? It doesn’t. It just leaves this person with a whole lot of stress and anxiety and that “strangling” feeling mentioned earlier.
4. “Full Time” Worriers
We all know them and love them. These are the people that do not feel normal if they are not worrying. The weather, the holidays, relationships, what they say, what they do….seriously, everything. They are the people who stay awake at night, their minds running in circles about everything. I would venture to guess that peace is not something they will find very easily until they are ready to let go.
WHAT DOES WORRYING ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH?
In Matthew 6:25 – 27 Jesus tells us “…don’t worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food, drink and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not” (NLT).
It’s true. What does worrying actually do for you other than cause stress and anxiety? It doesn’t solve any problems or make things easier. It doesn’t provide answers or make us feel better. It’s actually quite the contrary, including physically speaking. Worrying can cause many adverse physical symptoms. Here’s a list of the physical effects of worrying according to WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/how-worrying-affects-your-body#1
The fact is that the side effects of worry and stress can actually be worse than what it is that you are worrying about. In the end, can worrying really bring us more money or heal a sickness or keep our kids safe when they are out on their own? No, it can’t. Worrying really doesn’t do anything but steal the joy that life has to offer.
Worry is a feeling based on a person’s fear and/or the unpredictability of things that could happen. There are obvious reasons for worry like losing a job or failure of a relationship; and then there are deeper reasons for worry like not having control over a situation. The good news is that there are things you can do starting now, to decrease worrisome thoughts.
THINGS TO DO TO COMBAT WORRY
These ideas are simple, but they all work for me when my mind starts to wander into worrying territory.
Prayer does so much for me. It alleviates stress and calms me down. It is an awesome feeling to know that “…whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” Mark 11:24 (NIV). This a promise from God to all of us. If your prayer is to be free from worry, God will answer your prayer. All you have to do is ask and believe.
Journaling is a way to keep all of your thoughts in order and gives you a place to go back to and read how you were thinking during a specific time and season in your life. I find that writing down my feelings helps me feel better. I recommend journaling if you do not currently do so.
Talk about it
My husband and I talk about things that are going on in our lives all the time. We help to keep each other positive and hold each other up when either one of us feels like things aren’t going as planned. I also talk to my family and friends when I need to. It always helps to get things out rather than hold them in.
Do something creative
I cannot stress this enough…do something creative to keep your thoughts clear. Draw, paint, sew…create something. There are so many options for creativity today, all you have to do is visit your local craft store and I promise you will find something that interests you. Plus, it is a great stress reliever.
Think it through, then let it go
If you are one who keeps to yourself, think through the issue that is keeping you up at night. Weigh both the pros and cons and the possible outcomes. If you have to, write down your thoughts. Once you come to the realization that no matter what the outcome COULD be, accept it (hopefully the positives) and let it go. You cannot change it, but at least you did your due diligence about the thing that worries you.
Turn negative thoughts into positive ones
I know this is tough for some people. Someone very close to me always asks me “how can I stop my thoughts?” My advice is always to look at all of the positive aspects of whatever it is that you are worrying about. Refuse to look at anything as negative. I don’t think there is a way to stop your thoughts, but I do know that is there a way to change how you think.
You have to train your mind to see the good in every situation, even when it seems impossible. For example, when my son totaled my car a few last year in a roll over accident, yes, I lost my car…but praise God, I did not lose my son. This accident for me, was also a wake-up call that my children are in God’s hand and that He has them protected. I truly believe that knowing God is in control, I don’t have to worry so much about my children’s safety, for example.
There is so much joy in life to experience. When you worry about things, this joy gets lost in the thoughts and stresses that worrying brings. Remember, you cannot change the outcome of situations, especially ones that have yet to happen. What-ifs in life are just that…what-ifs. They don’t mean anything if you don’t let them. Don’t let worrying consume your mind. Train yourself to see the positive aspect in everything and you will slowly see the joy shining through the clouds of worry.