The Bible says, "Do not worry about tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34).
But I've always been a worrier. Perhaps it's part of being an introvert. And as the oldest child, I was never able to follow in anyone's footsteps; I always felt like I was heading into "unknown territory" alone, with no one to ask questions of or rely on. Maybe I was being fanciful (or maybe it was part of my "worry first" personality), but it made me feel that I had to anticipate and figure out everything ahead of time so I wouldn't mess up. It made me pay attention to details and become a problem-solver, but it also made me a nervous perfectionist.
Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom said that worry doesn't solve the problems of tomorrow, it simply deprives us of energy for today. A University of Cincinnati study showed that what we worry about happens less than 15% of the time, which means we're letting our positive energy be drained for very little purpose.
When we give up worrying, not only do we remove a great part of the tension that fills our days, we preserve our strength for dealing with the issues that actually do arise, making it more likely that we will handle them successfully.
10 Tips to Help Conquer the Habit of Worry
1. Make space.
I give myself plenty of time to get where I need to go and do what I need to do – not by rushing, but by leaving white space on my calendar. Try dropping one commitment and see if your time feels more expansive and your mind less anxious.
2. Reduce decision-making.
I've decided not to get bogged down with quite so many details. I wear a capsule wardrobe. I've established some fixed routines such as waking and sleeping times, weekly meals (Monday meatloaf, Tuesday tacos, etc.), certain days for laundry and cleaning, and the like. Free your mind to focus on tasks that require more energy and innovation.
3. Reduce clutter.
When my environment feels like a constant to-do list (clean that up, put those away, find a spot for that, sort through the other), it's hard to avoid feeling burdened. It's true that home maintenance is never-ending, but trying to care for a home that is chaotic and over-full is even harder. An uncluttered space is more peaceful, with fewer tasks and a lot less hassle. There's magic in owning less.
4. Look after key relationships.
My husband, children, and grandchildren are my support system. Cherish your partner, your children, parents, grandparents, siblings, and closest friends. You need them, and they need you. Prioritize those relationships.
5. Watch your diet.
For me, anxiety leads to overeating. For others it's the opposite. Neither situation is great for your physical well-being. Be sure to eat regularly, and avoid processed foods and large amounts of sugar. Pay attention to your alcohol use as well.
I need to remember that sleep is not the enemy of productivity; it is not what you do when there's nothing good on TV. It's essential. It repairs your body, improves your memory, and just makes every day better.
7. Don't be a news junkie.
I know that news outlets increase viewership by making every situation a crisis that demands attention. And I've learned that constant scrolling through Twitter and Instagram isn't healthy either. I read books, fiction or nonfiction, that let me focus on something else. It's a wonderful release.
8. Add music.
I listen to my favorite music regularly. It's especially rejuvenating when it gets me moving or singing along. And it's even better to make music. Play that instrument you haven't touched in so long, just for the fun of it.
9. Enjoy nature.
A growing body of scientific research indicates that time spent in nature relieves anxiety and depression, boosts the immune system, and inspires creativity. In an increasingly mechanized world, we all need doses of nature more than ever.
10. Do something kind for someone else.
Worry is self-centered. It keeps me inside my own mind and places my problems front and center. Anything that jogs me out of that insulated mindset is good, so I've made kindness a daily practice. Being helpful and generous gives me a purpose beyond worry.
Bad things do happen, but living each day expecting the worst does nothing except weaken me and make my life a burden. Worry is a habit, and I can replace that bad habit with better ones.
Photo by Richard Jaimes on Unsplash