Living Well In A World of Worry by Gary Roe, Hospice Brazos Valley Chaplain
Posted on 04/17/2017
LIVING WELL IN A WORLD OF WORRY
We live in a worry-filled, anxious world. We’re naturally concerned about a multitude of things - the future, kids, grandkids, health, finances, possessions, our home, our country, the world. Worry is infectious, and can lead to fear. When fear takes up residence, overwhelm is not far behind.
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, Larry’s daily 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. In fact, he was well known for his perpetual grin.
During one visit, I was distracted by something that happened earlier in the day. I looked up at one point and found Larry gazing intently at me.
“Gary, you look worried. Is something troubling you?” he asked.
With a sigh, I said, “I’m sorry, Larry. As a matter of fact, yes.”
“Worry is bad stuff. It will eat your mind,” he said, shaking his head. Then he promptly changed the subject.
Larry was right. Worry is terrible stuff. It sneaks up, and then preys on us. It fills our mental spaces with “what if.” It dupes us into expending vast amounts of energy trying to keep something bad from happening.
Worry can gobble a life.
Worry is not our friend
In fact, I can't think of a single positive thing to say about it.
We are, of course, naturally concerned about the people and issues in our lives. As long as we can take some kind of action, worry can be kept at arm's length. When we begin to ruminate and mentally spin in circles about something that might happen, worry gains a foothold. Once it enters, like a virus it can quickly spread and wreak havoc.
In addition, we all have a past. We have events and situations back there we would rather forget, if we could. Old wounds can easily be triggered by present circumstances. Unresolved hurts often resurface to plague us as current troubles. We can feel like we're right back in the old stuff again, or like we haven't made any progress. "I'm stuck," is a common expression of our frustration.
"Let it go," someone might say. That's quick and easy advice, but not so simple to do. Yes, we need to release things, but how? What does "letting go" look like?
I'm well-acquainted with worry. My anxiety baseline is probably higher than most people. I've battled this unwelcome invader almost my entire life. I wish I could say I've conquered it, but larger and more alarming concerns seem to pop up every year, challenging me to dig deeper and release quickly and more fully.
In other words, we won't be able to stop worry from coming. It's how we respond when it comes knocking that matters.
How do you deal with worry? Here are some suggestions:
Realize that you’re vulnerable.
We all are. We're human. No one is impervious or impenetrable. All of us have our soft spots and shaky areas. Expecting ourselves to be superhuman only adds to our already heavy burdens.
Yes, I'm serious. Breathing in deeply through your nose and then out through your mouth activates your parasympathetic nervous system and initiates a calming response throughout your body. It slows down the mind.
List the things you’re concerned about.
Don’t just think about them, but get them out of your mind and down on paper. The process of writing (or typing) helps keep the mind from running ahead. There’s something about seeing our fears on paper (or on the screen) 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. Which concerns do you have some control over? Of these, which one 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.
Take action on one item, and then, when you’re ready, 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.
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 the months ahead, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve released and how much action you’ve taken.
One thing, one day at a time.
I’m reminded of a story a speaker told at a conference. His father owned a chain of grocery stores and was an astute businessman. One day his father came to him and said, “Son, I need you to go behind the store and unload the semi-truck back there.”
When the son raised the door of the truck, he was nearly flattened by the stench. The truck was stuffed with bags of rotten potatoes.
He ran back to his father and exclaimed, “The truck is full of rotten spuds! How do you expect me to do this?”
His father smiled, gently grabbed his son’s shoulders, and replied, “One bag at a time, boy. One bag at a time.”
Worry stinks. Handle it one bag, one worry, at a time.
Worry has stolen enough already.
Worry has stolen enough of our lives already. As Larry said, “It will eat your mind.” It’s time to take action. Make that list. Work through it. You’ll be glad you did.
One stinky bag at a time…
Gary Roe is an author, chaplain, and grief counselor with Hospice Brazos Valley. His latest book, Shattered: Surviving the Loss of a Child, was a #1 Amazon Bestseller in February. Visit Gary at www.garyroe.com, or contact him at 979-821-2266 or firstname.lastname@example.org