For many worry is a recurring and regular part of their life. From the time they wake up until they close their eyes again at the end of the day, worry is an ever present companion. Even the smallest issues in life can produce anxiety for them. It seems they just cannot extricate themselves from the grip that worry holds on them and we often affectionally call them “worry-warts.”
At the same time though, there are others who, while worry is not an ever present state, it does surface from time to time, particularly when the object of their worry involves a major event or decision in their life.
If I were to categorize myself into one of the two camps above, I would definitely not be a “worry-wart.” But I will confess there have been times in my life when anxiety or worry has surfaced. At one point in the life of my business, we were confronted with some serious challenges and I would frequently struggle to sleep at night. While this was not a normal response for me, nonetheless, I do recall it vividly. The anxiety that I was feeling and the hypothetical scenarios I had created in my mind, all seemed very realistic.
But regardless of whether you worry occasionally or often, is there a way to overcome this anxiety in our lives? I believe there is and to do so I’d like to suggest five questions that we should ask ourselves when we are either tempted to worry or we find ourselves already well down Anxiety Street.
Is the thought I am worried about a real possibility?
Whether you are facing an unknown health issue or obsessing over a potential business deal going south, how real is the fear on which you are dwelling? We often construct all sorts of fears and hypothetical scenarios in our minds but how realistic is it that the result I have created in my mind will actually occur? If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit the probability is so low that we might even chuckle at it if someone else were concocting such a fear.
Is there any action right now that I can take to make a positive difference?
As you head down Anxiety Street and find yourself dwelling more and more on the object of your fear and worry, is there anything you can do to make a positive difference to mitigate your concern? If there is, then by all means take action to do so. Your proactive efforts to take positive steps to address your worry will begin to diminish what you fear. On the flip side though, if there is absolutely nothing you can do to make a positive difference, then recognize this truth and move on to the next question.
What would I tell my best friend if they were worrying over the same issue?
As I’ve watched and interacted with people who I know that really struggle with worry, I’ve noticed they exhibit a very curious behavior. My friend Bill struggles with worry all the time as does Bill’s friend, Bob (names changed to protect my friends). But I’ve noticed that frequently Bob worries over the same types of things Bill does. However, I’ve also seen Bill seek to encourage Bob when Bob is worried by suggesting to Bob that the issue he is worried about is likely to never happen. Yet I’ve seen Bill, when he’s by himself, worry over the exact same issues. What I believe this illustrates is that when the worry is in someone else’s life, it’s clear to see how inaccurate one’s thinking can be and how unrealistic the fear is. So if you are tempted to worry, ask yourself how you would counsel someone else about the fears you are entertaining.
How reliable is my worry track record and do my worries come to pass?
No doubt everyone reading this owns a car. And it likely sits in your driveway or garage overnight. You probably seldom worry about the car starting when you head to work or run some errands. If you were to worry every morning about whether the car will start but for the last 365 days it has started, wouldn’t you begin to question your worry track record? Likewise, I’d challenge you to analyze the issues you have worried about. How often have the things you’ve feared come to pass? Frequently? Seldom? Never? If your answer falls somewhere between seldom to never, then can you acknowledge to yourself that worry in your life has no place or value?
Have I prayed about the issue I am worrying over?
Whether the issue you are worried about is big or small, or whether it poses a dire risk or could simply be a minor inconvenience, the fact that you are worried about it suggests that you should take a proactive step to address the worry. If you are someone who has a relationship with God, then I would suggest that one of the most effective steps you can take is to approach God in prayer about your concerns or fears. As a reminder, here is an encouragement from the Apostle Paul about the value of doing this:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve heard it said that 99% of our worries are completely unnecessary. If you are honest with yourself I believe you will find this fact to be true. Consider that you are in complete control of the worry button in your life. I’ll admit that if worry has become a natural default, then it’s not an easy habit to change. But it can be done. And in addition to using these five questions to help keep your worry in check, seek to replace your worry with positive and productive thoughts (like the verse above). And finally, find someone else that you respect and seek out their help as you strive to build a road block to Anxiety Street.