Don’t Worry!

It was one of those dull, gray Monday mornings earlier this week when I was sitting in my doctor’s office being administered a medication via IV for several hours.  Unfortunately, I had neglected to find a good book to accompany me on this boring morning in a cold, geriatric environment.

Therefore, I had a lot of time to think.

Without anything available to distract me, worries pushed themselves to the forefront of my mind:  Health concerns, financial challenges, and the ultimate anxiety-provoking question- Am I a good enough parent?

I thumbed through the pop-culture magazines in a nearby rack, however the latest Hollywood gossip couldn’t quite capture my attention.  As the bubbles of medication continued to drip through the catheter, I tried to catch a few zzz’s, but the nurse kept checking my vitals every thirty minutes, thus sleep seemed to be a pretty futile pursuit.

So, I grabbed a pen to jot down a couple of thoughts- polished them up a bit, and here they are!

If you expend quite a bit of energy on excessive worry, read on!  If you don’t, pat yourself on the back, and share your tips below!

From the moment we bring our baby home from the hospital, and place our hand over his angelic face to check on his breathing, parental worry begins.

We worry when they learn to ride a bike, start rollerblading around the neighborhood, and take driving lessons.  We have all experienced the heart-stopping anxiety when we nearly lost our child in a busy shopping center.  Every cough and each fever is yet another reason for deep fear and endless worry.

The holidays are a terrific time for additional worry; too much sugar, not enough sleep, too many parties, and video-game addictions!

Here a few tried-and-true tips to eliminate the majority of your worries:

1)  Recognize that some problems are out of your sphere of influence.

If you can do nothing about a specific problem, then it is no longer a problem, it is a ‘situation’.  When you refer to something as a ‘problem’, you are implying that a solution is possible.

The best example is the weather.

Why lie awake worrying about a party that is scheduled for the same evening as the snow storm?  Assuming that you have made all reasonable arrangements, know that further worry about the climate can only aggravate yourself and your loved ones!

2)  Accept that the human condition is such that problems are a part of life.

We have all met people who will be happy as soon as this circumstance has changed or that situation has ended.

Understand that your job is to solve problems to the best of your ability, and to learn to live with the unsolvable ones!  The ‘Serenity Prayer’ comes to mind:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

3)  Let the bygones be bygones.

Look at life like as an hourglass.  The sand at the top is the future, and the sand at the bottom represents the past.  The tiny point in the middle- where the sand is currently passing- is the present.

We can learn from the past, yet we can never change it.  “I should have, I could have” thoughts promote stress about an impossible feat- changing the actions of the past.  The energy that is utilized by reliving old mistakes can drain us of the energy which is necessary to be applied to the present time.

4)  Don’t create “self-fulfilling prophecies” with needless worrying.  It is possible to bring about certain situations by thinking and obsessing about them.

You may start to read nonexistent meaning into certain situations and have your confidence plummet by imagining the worst scenario over and over again.

Replace the negative “what if” thought with a new hobby, plans for an upcoming party, or anything which requires your intense concentration.  You can’t think about two diverse subjects at the same time, so the solution is to find a replacement thought, rather that to attempt to vanquish the “what if” worry on its own.

A final parting thought:  Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow; it only saps today of its strength.

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Comments

  1. Thanks, Ellen,

    I have been suffering from dizziness for a couple of weeks and my doctors can’t find any reason why, so I keep imagining the worst scenario. This is exactly what I needed- I’m going to print this out.

  2. Amy Hughes says:

    Thanks so much I needed to read this today! It has changed my whole outlook on things!

  3. I just had surgery on Monday and I was doing the same exact thing as this person in the article while I was awaiting for my anesthesia I was WORRYING. I worry about so much that I spend almost every moment of my life doing that and not living. I think GOD must have sent this email to me today because I was worrying all day about my oldest sons court date today and fines and bills and my health and my first day back to work tomorrow and my other sons sick today and so on and so on it never ended. I am tired from all that worrying and needless to say I didn’t have a very good day and I didn’t accomplish much becuase I was too busy worrying. Thank you for this much needed wake up call. Regards Laurie

  4. The last tip is exactly what I needed. I am a single mother of 3. My middle child, (Jaylen) 2 years old, is going with his father to NY for a week during the holidays. I have been stressing about something bad happening on this trip, and I don’t want to ‘self fulfill that prophecy’. The day has come and the worry is still there. I am an artist and I haven’t done any artwork since Jaylen’s birth. I will do this for the week whenever I have downtime. I already feel some of the worry lifted. Thank you!

  5. An excellent book regarding the power of our thoughts to change our lives is, “You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought: A Book for People with any Life-Threatening Illness-Including Life.” by John-Roger & Peter McWilliams. One of my favorite quotes (source?) is “Worrying is the interest paid on a debt you may not owe.” The book is filled with wit and wisdom and you can just grab it and read part of it..you don’t have to read it front to back so it works for busy parents. Since I come from a long line of worriers, I have been quite skilled at it and find that books like this help get me back on a more positive, worry-free track. Hope it helps!

  6. Thank you, I really needed to hear that. I love this site and my parenting class, it is such peace to know I am not alone!! I am a total worrier, from birth!! It runs in the family, my Grandma is the queen. This gives me perspective and incentive to change my thoughts and pass that on to my child.
    Worrying is at its height right now, when you think about it, the holidays are gone as fast as they come. Just enjoy, that is what I will do. Thank you again.

  7. I totally agree with #1…whenever I find myself confronted with a situation or problem, the first question I ask is, “How much control do I have over this?” If the answer is not much or none, I choose not to worry about it. Why worry about something you don’t have any control over? I LOVE the final quote, and will be sharing that with others. Happy, Worry-Free Holidays!

  8. It is wonderful that we can encourage each other with sayings that help put things into perspective. The Serenity Prayer has meant a lot to me in dealing with many afflictions (and moving toward healing). I also like to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ said, “Take no thought for tomorrow; sufficient for the day is the evil (challenges) thereof.” So, we know we have a choice all the time. I couldn’t have made it through the years of parenting six, now 29 – 15 without being able to commit them to our Heavenly Father at every fearful thought. May His comfort be yours as well.

  9. I’m a worrier too, and this quote always gives me a chuckle…

    “Don’t tell me worrying doesn’t do me any good. The things I worry about never happen.”

  10. Hi Ellen:

    The beginning of your entry today caught me, as I just had my IV meds administered at the Dr. today, I have R/A. Makes me very tired, but…I appreciated the comments on unnecessary worry, I try hard to “not sweat the small stuff”. I use the serenity prayer daily. Thanks for a website that is thoughtful, helpful, positive and just what I need. Robin

  11. # 3 really hit home. I have a tendency to always dwell on things that are over and done with as I always second guess myself. I always ask myself the same questions after the fact… did I make the right choice?…should I have done it differently?…etc… On this past Thursday I drained myself of so much of my time and energy as I dwelled upon the holiday cards that I sent to my friends and family. The cards have already been signed, sealed, and delivered yet I kept looking at all the proofs of the pictures, over and over again, wondering if I liked some of the other pictures better than the one I had selected. Then as if I would stop at that, I started looking at the many borders that I could’ve chosen instead. In retrospect, I do realize how I wasted my time. I’ve had so many sleepless nights due to worry. I even blame every new strand of gray hair on my head on worry. Thank you for these helpful tips for all of us worry warts. I’ll try not to worry so much (or at least just worry about fewer things).

  12. While the same prayer came to my mind at first, it is the 4th line that stays with me.
    Best antidote I’ve found against “worry” or PREoccupation is activity or occupation.
    Interestingly you mentioned riding bikes roller-blading and driving. I’ve taught my daughter the first 2 (also by learning roller-blading myself) and have started to teach her driving as well.
    When she’s unwell (unusually) WE tend to go into the subject matter and learn about it.
    Although we can impact on our kids only to a certain extent, my intent is to pass onto her the love of learning and trying things out before saying it is too difficult. Perhaps, being “actively involved” in my kiddo’s life, which works wonderfully for us, is a recipe that others can use too.

  13. Thank you for your letter about the Serenity Prayer and worring as a parent. I never thought I would be in this pace as a parent. My beautiful,over-protected, sweet daughter (19), has been seduced by her youth pastor. He has a wife and a newborn child. We now find out that he has a history of starting inappropriate relationships with young women. My daughter doesn/t believe us, somehow she believes him, even though he has been lying to his wife, the church and us, she thinks he’s telling the truth. He is a masterful manipulator. My daughter had such a good head on her shoulders, now she’s confused and won’t believe the truth. My grief consumes me.I keep going to God, but I’m at aloss of what to do. I think she’s going to go with him. Please pray.

  14. Thank you, Ellen. I just returned from a late night drive around town. I had a brief argument with my husband and needed to find a place to have a good long cry (we have holiday guests here and there is no privacy). I realize the car is not the safest place to cathart, but it was my only option. My son has ADHD and has been going through a very difficult time. I worry about him constantly and do the same mental gymnastics you allude to: Am I a good enough mom? Anyway, your email was like a message from above. Thank you for all you do. Happy Holidays and best wishes for a joyous, peaceful and healthy new year!

  15. Thank you once again Ellen for the great words of wisdom on worry. I too come from a long line of worriers, I used to be one myself until I became closer in my walk with Jesus Christ who taught me the following:Job 1 “We learn here from Job to never give up on God, but also to know that Satan can do nothing to you without God’s permission. God, who is a God of Love, will only allow that which ultimately will work for your good! TRUST HIM!” and Phil. 4:6 “Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
    So maybe these scriptures will be helpful to others out there as well. I keep them on my kitchen table for quick reference and as a daily reminder. He will bring you peace if you just believe and Trust in Him. For through Him all things are possible. And remember, satan comes to rob, steal and destroy the goodness, love and peace that God wants to give to each of us.
    May God bless you and all your readers.
    Merry Christmas & A Blessed New Year to all!

  16. I just wanted to take the time to thank all of you who contributed comments. I was blessed by the tips, but even more so by hearing that I am not alone in my worrying and wanting to do something healthy about it. My family has been beseiged this year, with illness, death, drug addiction, loss of employment, etc. Big things -and I know that God is in control, but I keep trying to take the reins and worrying is a big part of that. I am praying that God will help me release these worries. I would appreciate the prayers of your readers also. Merry Christmas!

  17. Worry. It is the kick in the stomach that won’t go away. But this morning when the tree tops were covered in frost and a baby blue sky was the backdrop, nature at its best gives me an inner lift that stops the negative jammer jammer. It makes me feel like things are going to be alright if I can enjoy and let in that beauty.

    Some baseball player said:
    “Never pays interest on a problem till it’s due.”

    If I could only practice what I write on days that are cloudy.

    Pat

  18. Hi Ellen – I wanted to submit this quote I recently heard that fits in well I think w/your discussion and all the great responses. Not sure who originated it but I recently heard the actor Anthony Hopkins reference in an interview: “Today is the tomorrow that I so worried about yesterday”. Thanks so much for your outstanding thoughts, insights & creativity that you share w/all of us. Jim B.

    PS: I emailed you a few minutes ago but inadvertently put my more lengthy comments in the “website box” and I think it was lost. Just in case, I wanted to make sure you received this quote. Thanks Again, Jim.

  19. Before I got out of bed this morning I asked GOD to forgive me for ‘fear’, which can be another name for worrying when applied to the concerns of the past or future. I sit here in a very messy room–partially because I am exhausted from worrying and grieving about the past, lost my Mom two years ago, feuding among, and married daughter with five kids who wants nothing to do with us because I did not say what she wanted me to say….just an excuse to distance herself from Dad, Mom, brother and two sisters who live at home—–thanks for pointing out to me this is a ‘situation’.

    But the worst is worrying about my dear Husband, she was so disrespectful to Him and He was not even home when the incident happened—–He was hard at work, providing for the Family. He has cancer ——— I keep telling myself not to worry because He is not going anywhere until the GOOD LORD says so. Psalm 139:16″Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance;
    And in THY book they were all written,
    The days that were ordained for me,
    When as yet there was not one of them.”

    GOD used you to help lighten a heavy load.

    Diana, I copied your reply. It was precious.

    GOD bless you everyone and your loved ones,

    Jeannie

  20. Luann Woeltge says:

    Ellen,
    I loved what you wrote about worrying. Personally I am concerned about why you were receiving an IV. Your situation sounded all too familiar to me. I have Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and receive Retuxin by IV to keep me in remission. If we are surviving the same ailment, I am living proof you can survive, even thrive. If not, you are in my thoughts and hope all is well

  21. Ellen,
    Thank you so much for the positive writings…reading the replies to your post helps me remember am not alone in my worrying behavior, but simply humanly afflicted…thanks for the reminder to choose better alternatives to worry…
    Esther

  22. Sometimes life has a way of reaching out and making us stop and pay attention… I hope you are recuperating and healing.
    That Serenity Prayer is all the wisdom we need to carry with us. It is all there for anyone wise enough to stop and say it and listen to themselves…
    My kids hear me saying it on many days! It can be like a lifeline when life just gets too big and too fast!
    My best to you and everyone,
    Anne

  23. My thought and prayers go out to you and your family during your illness. Take all the time you need to get well. Focus on YOU and take care of yourself during this time and don’t be afraid to step back and let someone else carry the load. You deserve it!

  24. Thank you for you wonderful article. I just got to read it today – 12/28/07 because of the busy holiday schedule. My daughter is 12 years old – almost 13 – and worry is her middle name right now. I am very concerned with your emotional state because of this. She learned of a woman’s sudden death at school – a young mother of a 7 year old – and she has had fears of death ever since – hers and family and friends. I am an older parent – 56 – so that is only compounding the problem. We are talking a lot about it and I am arranging to go to see a counselor for her to talk through her fears.
    But it is amazing that she can verbalize that the fears and worry are the worst when “I have nothing to do” as she says. Out of the mouths of babes.
    Thanks again – I am in a 12 step program so the serenity prayer is a gift – when I remember to use it.
    After this article I think I will pay more attention to your e-mails and site.
    Blessings and Peace and Happy, Healthy New Year!!!!

  25. Worrying has been around for a loooong time. I think this is why it comes up so much in the Bible. I know our cuurent culture does not want to hear a lot of Biblical quotes, but I cannot help but think of the words of Jesus and Paul, when reading all of your insights. Paul says “Be not anxious about anything. But in everything present your requests to God, and the peace of God which surpasses understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” In my (hopefully) humble opinion, we cannot rid ourselves of worry in and of ourselves, but if we cast our worries upon He who cares deeply for each one of us, He promises us peace, and hey, I believe Him (although I struggle daily to do that).
    God bless you all.