Facing Worry And Anxiety

Used with permission: https://unsplash.com/photos/rzCi3mD-6ho

Used with permission: https://unsplash.com/photos/rzCi3mD-6ho

The year of 2018 has started off with some incredibly positive and life-affirming moments. But, in the spirit of full disclosure, there’s also been a struggle that has resurfaced for me. Lately, I’ve found myself struggling with the nagging issue of worry.

Amidst many good and joyous things, there’s been this prolonged and consistent battle. So, I’ve been learning, yet again, what it means to confront worry and anxiety in my life.

The truth is, I’m no stranger when it comes to dealing with anxiety and worry. None of us are–am, I right?! It’s a natural part of life on planet earth; a reminder that we humans often struggle with keeping the main thing the main thing, and easily fall into patterns that can cripple us.

I know our ancestors dealt with these issues too, but in the world of 2018, it seems, we are bombarded and surrounded with copious situations and scenarios where worrying is compounded everyday.

Perhaps we fear the future.

Perhaps we reflect too ardently on the past.

Or, we find ourselves caught in the perpetual land of “What ifs” and it’s defeating labyrinth of everything-that-could-go-wrong outcomes. I know I’ve been down this bumpy road many times and found myself frustrated and worn out.

It’s been analysis paralysis on steroids.

In His famous sermon on the mount, Jesus gave us some simple but powerful advice for dealing with worry. He said, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34).

Jesus was saying and doing many things in that famous sermon, but perhaps an often overlooked part of his message was the shift in perspective He shared. He was offering us a new focus: Live in today.

So often our bouts of worry and anxiety are hypothetical. We conjure up situations that haven’t happened, but could, and run the gambit in our mind overusing our mental and emotional energies on things that are not even real.

This is the damaging and sinister impact of worry.

Jesus’ advice is simple, really: Don’t get lost in your head. Today is enough for you to handle, so don’t go peering down the road before you get there. Just take it one day at a time.

Peace comes not from trying to get ahead of ourselves, but in living for today. There’s a calm that ensues when our focus is in the right place.

In my recent journey with worry and anxiety, I’ve also found comfort in an old book by Dale Carnegie called “How To Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life.”

Admittedly, the book sounds very self-helpy and slightly corny, like something you’d find in your grandparents spare bathroom, or at the bottom of a barrel of used books.

And yet, this book has been so incredibly helpful. As I think through my own issues with worry and anxiety, this old book has time and time again, offered helpful exercises and perspectives on dealing with the complex issue of worry.

I’ve found myself underlining and re-reading chapters as I mull over the advice in its pages. Moreover, the book has reminded me of an important lesson: It’s never too late to work on yourself.

Carnegie offers these little tidbits with such flare and magnanimity, that he often sounds like what I’d imagine Willy Wonka would if he wrote a book.

“The worried person must lose himself in action, lest he wither in despair.”

“Think and act cheerful, and you will feel cheerful.”

“Count your blessings, not your troubles!”

Amidst stories of war heroes and presidents and celebrities I’ve never heard of, he intertwines quotes and impactful one liners, reminding the reader of the success others have had in the realm of worry.

It’s been surprising and affirming and incredibly insightful.

My recent worry journey has also reminded me of the importance of honesty.

It’s true–every person will battle some form of worry and anxiety. However, there are some of us who are more prone to these issues. And if that’s you–like it is me–we might have to work a little harder to find victory and freedom.

But let’s not forget that it’s a gift to find healing. It’s a gift to realize that even in our struggles, there’s beauty and life and lessons to be learned.

Our minds can become crowded places when worry and stress are involved. But we can also look for practical ways to fight against it and find peace in the midst of the struggle.

We can choose good actions that put our focus off of the anxious thoughts, and center on what is good, worthwhile, and constructive.

I love the apostle Paul’s thoughts in Philippians.

He writes in chapter four that our minds should be focused on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, what is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8).

Paul was onto something here. Our thoughts matter. Fix them on subjects and matters that are excellent.

And as Carnegie says in the book, “Our thoughts make us what we are.”

I’m still trying to learn how to not worry about tomorrow. I’m still learning the ins and outs of strategies for dealing with anxiety when it comes around.

So far, I’m coming up a little short, but I’m thankful for helpful tools and the various voices of those who have gone before who illuminate the path before me a little better.

The light helps break up the darkness, and bring clarity to the winding road ahead.

So, my friends, you have no need to worry.

Because all that concerns you is today.

And that’s enough for now.

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