We all have moments in our life when we are worried, even fretful. But we live at such light speed that worry has become our national pastime.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”Corrie ten Boom
From the resurgence of COVID (which I am experiencing as I write this) to the vast unrest in the world, there’s a lot to worry about right now. The truth is that worrying does nothing to change the outcome. Absolutely nothing! It just keeps you stuck in a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and stress. But negative thoughts are part of our biology and while you may not be able to stop them from happening, you can learn to stop them in their tracks. Some solutions help you deal with them.
1. STATE THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO
We have heard so much about simply changing our mindset about stress and worry, but I’d like to offer what I believe to be a better alternative. What if we shift the context to deal with the fear, or worry in another way. It’s a new term I learned last month – recontextualization, which is the skill of describing a condition and circumstances in a way that gives you an empowering reality.
Worry often occurs when we are trying something new, and the stakes feel really big. As a result, this worry we feel is founded in the fear of running the show. And the way to get back to positivity and away from negative emotions is through extreme negativity– yikes!
Many, maybe most of us have been taught about the modern positivity movement, including me. I’ve discovered that positivity alone is not sustainable. Instead, we can implement an aspect of realism and deal with things logically and sensibly. The process is super-simple and wildly empowering to your soul.
Matthew Ferry, the author of Quiet Mind, Epic Life, gives a name to the negative voice in your head, your “drunk monkey” mind. “It thinks it’s psychic and can predict the future,” he explains. “Turns out, the drunk monkey only predicts negative futures.”
So, we need to confront this so-called drunk monkey. But how? Well, thanks for asking. Start by writing out the negative future you’re afraid of. Then create a plan of what to do if worst happens. Most folks write out the worried about situation and then make a plan to avoid it. But this only keeps the worry in place. Instead, be completely negative and make a plan for the worst. Don’t give up on me just yet! By doing this, You’ll create a neutral perspective and a sense of peace. If the worst happens, you’ll know what do. This takes the drunk monkey out of consideration and opens your mental state for less worry. BOOM!
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”Proverbs 12:25
2. PRAY OUTLOUD
No, I’m not kidding! I’m a pastor for goodness sake. I have seen prayer work thousands of times. I’ve seen it work physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve seen storms calmed, people healed, and children return home. I’ve seen marriages restored and relationships recovered. Yes, PRAY!
But here is the key. Pray and pray more. As the Bible teaches, “pray without ceasing.” pray specifically and pray with faith. The Divine promises to hear you, and He will respond in such a way that is for your good and His glory.
But please remember this. The Divine does not keep time as we do. He is not motivated by the same clock that we are. There is a reason that His ways are higher than ours. But you can trust Him in all ways, on all days. Pray, then pray some more.
But you might ask, “why should I pray out loud?” Here are two great reasons to pray out loud.
1. External declarations can change your internal dialogue. When we pray for things out loud, we change our inner dialogue and perspective. Praying things like, “Jesus, I know that You are enough” or “God, I know that You are greater than my grief” will build your faith and help change how you view things. I know this is true in my life.
2. Keeps you focused. Jesus reminds us, “Our spirit might be willing, but our flesh is weak.” If you’re prone to wandering during prayer, like me, praying out loud will help you remain focused. You’re more likely to stay in your zone with God through prayer when your brain listens to what your mouth is saying.
Then, ask others to pray for you. I genuinely feel like the simple act of humility of asking people to pray for you is one step in the right direction, no matter the scenario. PRAY!
3. Practice Gratitude and Generosity
Gratitude is something that we should practice daily, worry or no worry. Gratitude makes us aware of all the good things in our lives that we usually take for granted. I’ve written and said this at least 1,000 times – here’s to 1,001 – When you are grateful for what you have, what you have is more than enough!
Worry can make you feel sad. Things may seem amiss. How can you practice gratitude when you’re upset with everything that’s going on in your life? When you stop focusing on the things that are haywire and start looking at the little things that make your life worth living, you slowly experience a shift in attitude. Your general outlook towards life changes, making you a happier human. This happiness, in turn, helps relieve worry and eventually improves your overall mental health.
If you’re suffering from worry, you’re not alone. Worry and anxiety affect more than 18% of the United States population yearly. When you are fretful, it isn’t easy to find things you are thankful for. But trust me, they’re there.
Study after study has proven that gratitude increases neural modulation in the brain, in the prefrontal cortex, which regulates negative emotions. It also activates dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for making you feel good. The result is instant happiness, prompting you to engage in this practice repeatedly. Get grateful – get less worried.
By acknowledging that there are things in your life to be grateful for, you realize that your worries are irrational, and don’t deserve so much of your attention. This will ease worry and allow you to do the things you had been holding yourself back from doing. It seems like it’s worth a shot, right – dealing with worry and becoming a better human at the same time?
I’m convinced that if you write down three things you are grateful for every day, you will chase worry away!
Then activate generosity. Generosity is the natural response to gratitude. It might be time, money, service, or kindness. It might be a better attitude or offering a benefit of the doubt. Generosity can take on many different forms.
It sounds so simple. And it is, really. Generosity is good for our souls. It’s good for our mental, spiritual and physical health. According to an article in Medical News Today, “Humans thrive off social connections and benefit when they act in the service of others’ well-being.” Studying the brain, they discovered a direct correlation to targeted giving that impacts health. The study shows how the brain creates a neural pathway between the septal area and amygdala when support-giving to specific people we know who are in need. The article concluded: “Giving targeted support to an identifiable individual or organization in need is uniquely associated with reduced amygdala activity thereby may lead to health.” In short, when we give time or money to charitable causes, it activates regions of the brain connected to pleasure and trust, which creates that “less-worried” feeling.
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”—John Holmes
There will always be less worry in living more like Jesus the Christ. Jesus said in Luke 6:38 “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
There, now go work on that worry and turn your life into a grateful, prayerful, servant-hearted leader. That’s the life your Creator made to live.
Go in Peace, Chuck