One leads to the other, and then back and forth.
Life is tough. Our hearts get hit. Losses abound. If we’re not careful, fear can take up residence. Worry can paralyze us. We can’t afford that.
Worry can gobble a life
Larry was diagnosed with MS in his early thirties. He adapted courageously for more than twenty years, then declined quickly. When I first visited as his hospice chaplain, his life consisted of sitting motionless in his recliner, dependent on others to move even the pillows under his arms and behind his head.
Yet, he still managed a smile every time I walked in.
During one visit, I was distracted by something that happened earlier in the day. I looked up at one point, and Larry was gazing hard at my face.
“Gary, you’ve got a worried look. Something troubling you?” he asked.
With a sigh, I said, “I’m sorry, Larry. As a matter of fact, yes.”
“Worry is bad stuff,” he said, shaking his head. “It will eat your mind.” Then he promptly changed the subject.
Larry was right. Worry is terrible stuff. It preys on our fears. It fills our mental spaces with “what if.” It dupes us into expending vast amounts of energy trying to keep something bad from happening. It gobbles up our life.
Some suggestions on dealing with worry
When you’re hurting, worry is definitely not your friend. In fact, I don’t think it ever is.
How do you deal with it? Here’s some suggestions:
- Realize that you’re vulnerable. You’re enduring a loss. Life isn’t what it used to be. Pain and grief are fertile ground for worry. Your heart is naturally more vulnerable.
- Breathe deeply. Breathing in deeply though your nose and then out through your mouth activates your parasympathetic nervous system and initiates a calming effect throughout your body. It slows the mind down.
- List the things you’re concerned about. Don’t just think about them, but get them out and on paper. This too keeps the mind from running ahead. There’s something about seeing our fears on paper in front of us that unplugs some of the terror.
- Which concerns do you have no control over? Write a big “NC” (no control) by them. These are the ones that your heart will demand that you let go of, sooner or later.
- Of the things you DO have some control over, which one of them is bugging you the most? Put a star next to it. Ask yourself, “What action can I take here?” It may be as simple as talking to someone about it.
- Once you take action on one item, go to the next most troublesome one and do the same thing.
And so on…
Take your time and pace yourself
Take your time. Life saps us and sometimes leaves little emotional energy for conquering the big stuff. Pace yourself.
And keep your list. Each time you look at it, let the “NC” labels be a reminder that you’re not in charge of that one or in control of it. This will help you release it over time.
Add to the list as needed. More things will come up as time moves on. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve released and how much action you’ve taken.
Worry has stolen enough already
“Worry is bad stuff. It will eat your mind,” Larry said.
True. Worry has stolen enough of our lives already. It’s time to take action. Make that list. You’ll be glad you did.
Question: What have you found helpful in dealing with fear and worry?