I worry about the strangest things.
My husband is forever shaking his head (and maybe even rolling his eyes) over some of the stuff I get worked up about. We even have a favorite movie scene that gets bantered back and forth between us:
Mrs. Bennett: Have you no compassion for my poor nerves?!
Mr. Bennett: You mistake me, my dear. I have the highest respect for them. They’ve been my constant companion these 20 years.
(from the 2006 version of Pride and Prejudice)
So yeah—that’s me, Worrier Extraordinaire. And it’s not that I don’t know all the truths about worry—how much it doesn’t accomplish, how it’s bad for my health, how most of the time what I worry about doesn’t happen, etc. I can acknowledge those truths, but it’s still a battle sometimes to not let worry overtake my everyday life. Can anyone relate?
Through the years, I have learned a few methods for fighting the battle and I’d like to share them with the hope that maybe one of them will be helpful if you too are fighting the battle with worry.
Don’t suffer (worry) in silence.
You might think it’s too embarrassing, but there’s something about sharing what’s worrying you with a trusted family member or battle buddy. This actually seems to lessen the intensity of its hold on you. I have a group of friends who know my tendency to worry and they are the ones I send a group text to on the days I’m really struggling. Their encouragement through the years has been priceless.
And as much as my husband may not understand why I worry over the things I do, when I express my thoughts to him, he is my steady sounding-board and can (usually) bring a measure of calm to the churning thoughts.
If worry becomes a debilitating factor in your life, consider talking with a counselor. As Army wives we have a variety of helpful resources like MFLC counselors, Family Life Chaplains, and Military One Source. Take advantage of what is offered!
Do things that relax and distract you.
It might not permanently take away the fear, but doing something that is relaxing and fun for you can be enough to take your mind off the worry. While obviously not a “cure,” an evening with friends, a relaxing bubble bath, or a movie night with the kids can provide some much-needed relief from the stress of worrying.
Mentally shake yourself.
This sounds strange but there are times, when my thoughts start spiraling out of control, that I actually say “Stop!” out loud and envision a good head shake to stop the continuation down that particular mental path. It’s not easy, but deliberately setting your mind away from the worrisome track it’s on and onto something else is a good habit to learn, develop, and get good at!
If you’re a person of faith, spend time in prayer, read and memorize scriptures, sing worship songs, or meditate on helpful truths. Learning how to let faith and trust replace worry is a process, but a worthwhile one.
Remind yourself that most of what you worry about will never happen.
I don’t remember the exact statistics, but I seem to recall that a pretty low percentage of what people worry about actually takes place. (Do bad things happen? Obviously, yes. I don’t need to go into details—you’re Army spouses, you know this.) However, the majority of what we spend emotional and mental energy worrying about never happens.
I had a counselor tell me one time that worrying is like “shadow-boxing.” Here was his explanation:
Imagine yourself standing in a boxing ring, gloves on, ready to fight. Only you can’t see the opponent. In fact, there’s nothing actually there. It’s called shadow-boxing, and there’s no way to win. That’s how it is when we try and fight those “what if” fears. Because those pesky “what if” worries are only hypothetical happenings, dwelling on them always means a lost battle.
His encouragement, when you find yourself playing the “what if” game, is to visualize yourself taking off the gloves and stepping out of the ring. Refuse to shadow-box.
Are you a worrier? What methods have you used to deal with worry? I would love to learn from your experience! Please feel free to leave a comment.
Want to check out more resources to help you conquer worry? Check out these posts: