Worrying always overwhelms you just when you don’t need it. You want to go to sleep, but worrying keeps you awake. You need to prepare your youth sermon, but worrying keeps distracting you. You want to really ‘be’ in the conversation and listen, but worrying keeps drawing your thoughts elsewhere.
Worries about your youth ministry.
Worries about your financial situation.
Worries about your marriage, your family, your friends.
Worries about students, your small group members.
Worries about the future.
While we all have our worry moments every now and then, there can be times in your life when your worries really seem to take over. If you feel your life is being dominated by worries, here’s what to do.
1. Challenge your worries
This is a tough place to start, especially if you are an emotional person, but it really does work. If you become aware you’re worrying over something, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this problem real, or am I just imagining worst-case scenarios?
- If the problem is real, can I influence it in any way? What area is under my control and what isn’t?
- If I can influence it, what do I need to do to prevent my worries from becoming reality?
- If the problem isn’t real, how likely/probable is it that it will actually happen?
- What would you advise your friend if he/she has this problem?
It often also helps to talk this over with a good friend, preferably one who is not part of the problem or the solution.
2. Challenge your mind
Often we feel like our mind has a will of its own, but we control our minds. No matter how cheesy or self-help it may sound, you can actually determine what you think about. This sense of control is important, because it will make you feel less of a victim and more in control.
Worrying has a lot to do with and is often fueled by a sense of powerlessness. Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell calls this the basic equation of worry:
Heightened Vulnerability + Lack of Control = Toxic Worry
“The more vulnerable you feel (regardless of how vulnerable you are) and the less control you feel you have (regardless of how much control you actually have), the more toxic your worrying will become. Therefore, any steps you can take to reduce your feelings of vulnerability and/or increase your feelings of control will serve to reduce your feelings of toxic worry.” (Source)
3. Challenge yourself
Some worries are outside of our control and influence, but others we can do something about. If you worry about the repercussions of missing a deadline for instance, that’s inside your area of control. So challenge yourself as well: what can you do to prevent real worries from arising? Procrastination is a major source for worrying!
Worrying can also easily lead to scenario thinking: you play all these imaginary confrontations out in your head. You may fool yourself into thinking you’re preparing, but unless the situation is real, you’re not. You’re worrying.
4. Let go
The last step you need to take, is to tell your worries, fears and anxieties to God. 1 Peter 5:9 says that we can and should cast all our cares upon Him, because He cares for us. God wants us to share our worries with Him and He wants to listen.
We all know this to be true in theory, but we practice it so little. I’ve learned to do this after studying the Psalms, there are so many Psalm that are basically ‘worry Psalms’. Take Psalm 55 for example where David complains about his friends betraying him. He is literally pouring out his heart to God with every emotion that comes with it. And then he says this:
“Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22)
The trick is to not just bring your worries to God, but to leave them there. That again takes a decision of the mind, a constant reminding of yourself that you have done everything you needed to do about this worry (which is why it’s good to not just tell God your worries, but do the other three steps as well). And now it’s up to God to care for you and sustain you.
And I promise you: He will.
What are you worrying about right now and what steps do you need to take to stop worrying?