What is worry.....and where does it come from?

what is worry and where does it come from|positively jane

The subject of worry and anxiety have been high on my radar lately.  My husband went on a solo kayaking trip recently. See that post HERE. Since then, quite a few people have asked me if I slept at night while he was gone. I was also asked if I was worried. And, when I said that I slept like a baby and no, I was not worried they had a lot to say….but, most everyone said that they would have been awake all night with worry and worried all day.

Now, let me explain here....I did think about him alot during the day. I prayed for his safety and that he would come home alive and in one piece. I was hoping he was having fun and his trip was not the slog I expected it to be. But, not a hand wringing ‘oh my’ type of worry. Did I have any control over his kayaking trip? Did I have any control of the alligators or snakes? The weather? The outcome?

I was talking to a friend yesterday about worry.  She told me that she is a worrier...that is just who she is. I hear that alot ‘that is just who I am’. Now, I don’t agree with that statement. Our thoughts and actions are not ‘who we are’. That’s like saying ‘I have a temper’ or ‘I yell alot’ or  ‘I am not patient’. Yes, those statements might be true but….think about it, as children, for the most part, those were not our character traits….they are what we have become - who we choose to be.  We are 100% in control of our thoughts. (Sometimes we have no control what thoughts come into our minds BUT we have 100% control how long they stay there.) Unfortunately, it’s the ‘stay there’ that causes worry, anxiety and harm. The ‘stay there’ causes us to sin. The ‘stay there’ causes us to lie, cheat and steal.

Another friend of mind has let fear, worry and anxiety completely paralyze her life.  She thinks about her ‘stuff’ all day, and then of course, can’t sleep at night because she is thinking some more.  She re-lives every action and word spoken.  Every wrong done. Every unfair situation. She is caught up in ALL the ‘what if’s’. Which in turn, lead to even more worry and then complete and overtaking anxiety. Her life is on a downward spiral and I hate sitting and watching it happen. It breaks my heart.

What do we worry about? Paying bills, grades in school, job interviews, losing our jobs, losing our spouses, illness, political correctness, saying and doing the right thing, friendships, our children, our parents…to name just a few. And why do we worry about….what we worry about?

What is worry anyway?

The root cause of worry, in a nutshell is, you want to be in control - and you aren’t.   Things are swirling around you and you want to grab them and tell them what to do, where to go, how to behave. Sometimes the things we worry about are our own fault (too much credit card debt, no savings, angry words).  Other times we are the recipient of the decisions of others (politics at work, drunk drivers, rude people, cheating husbands).

The dictionary says -  

Worry - verb. Give way to anxiety and unease.  Allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty and troubles.
Dwell - verb - live in.

Worry is allowing anxiety and unease live in your your mind. Is that you? Do you worry?  Suffer from anxiety? Are you fearful? Let me ask you this - does any of that change the outcome? Would my worry about my husband get him home safe? Keep the snakes or alligators away? NO! My worry would not change the outcome one bit.  The only person it would have changed was me.  My inability to enjoy myself.  My inability to live my days to the fullest. Worry would steal my joy.  Worry would steal my life.

How do you stop worrying?

You might be wondering what do you do about it? How can you change your thoughts? Your actions?

Well, there are different ways of thinking here - I just went to the internet and found some interesting things. Here are just a few - 

  1. Make a list of your worries. Create a ‘worry period’.  (Choose a set time and place for your worry).  Go over your list during that period.

  2. Breathe.  Slow and deep breathing is the cornerstone of calm.

  3. Drink more water.

  4. Get more sleep.

  5. Have confidence that this will work out in your favor.

  6. Take the best action.  Accept life as it comes. 

  7. Meditate.

  8. Exercise - hard core and/or yoga.

  9. Take your mind off your worry and visit friends.

  10. Accept your worry.

What do you think of the above list? Personally, I think those points are good in theory but not good in practical application.  I also think some of them are really dumb. I am NOT saying that none of the above ideas are valid. (well…maybe 2 or 3 or 5).  What I am trying to say, and I feel like I am not doing a very good job at it, is…..how will any of the above help?  Having confidence that everything will work out in your favor is good in theory….what if it does not - then what do you do? Accepting life as it comes sounds great and positive….what if it is not what you had planned or envisioned?  Then what? Exercise is great for the hour…what happens when you are home…and back to your thinking? Having confidence you will have money to pay your bills is great...what if you don’t…and you lose your house. I think #6 is my favorite. Take the best course of action….study hard for your exam and accept the pass/fail because you know you studied hard and did your absolute best. Take a course on budgeting and living within your means…you will save money and not have credit card debt. Accepting life in this manner…AFTER the hard work and preparation on your part, is a heck of alot easier and more satisfying than having confidence it will work out in my favor (confidence in what!?)

Can you change your way of thinking?

It is possible to change your way of thinking….about anything.  You can go from an impatient person to a patient person.  You can go from having a temper to a calm person. You can go from a worried person to a content person. But, the only way that I know this can happen and be 100% effective is to put your faith in Jesus.  Now, if you are not a Jesus follower please don’t quit reading now.  Instead, think about your fears, worry and anxiety.  Think about your life and how it is all going right this very minute.  Ask yourself if you are happy?  Content? Having fun?  Is worry crippling you?  If any of those statements are true, and you have tried a million ways to overcome your worry and nothing has worked…..than maybe, just maybe….you might like to test the waters and see if what I am saying is true.

I used to be afraid to fly.

Hand gripping, sweating, nauseous, anxiety ridden afraid to fly.  Turbulence would set me into a tail spin.  My eyes were wild and I just wanted to be on the ground!   Did I fly - yes, because I could not drive over the ocean.  Otherwise I would have stayed home.  About 15 years ago or so I flew by myself (I don’t remember where).  As I was in the plane I realized that I was not afraid.  Actually, I was pretty calm and happy.  Upon reflection I realized that I had put my faith in Jesus, had been reading the Bible (a great source of wisdom) and I was applying the wisdom that I was reading. I realized that God was my plumb line of truth. Not the world, the internet, my friends nor my family. Just God. He has it all under control - I need to control the inputs and He will take care of the outputs.

Here are a few things that I learned from God -

  1. Don’t be anxious for tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.

  2. Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

  3. 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 surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (the Greek meaning for anxious in this verse means ‘to be distracted’.)

  4. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

  5. And to which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

  6. Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

  7. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He might lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

  8. Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed, ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened’.

  9. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

  10. So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.

  11. Jesus died for me.  All of my sins (past, present and future) have been nailed to the cross.  Worry is a sin.

I also leaned that Satan wants you worried, fearful and anxious.  He wants you miserable.  He wants to destroy you. He wants you as far from God as you can possibly be.  He will lie to you, cast doubts on you, open opportunities for your failure (sure go ahead and buy that car, sure go ahead and have dinner with your secretary, sure go ahead and lie on your resume, sure go ahead eat those 3 big mac’s). He is crafty, tricky and terrible.  He wants you to live a defeated life.  An unhappy life.  A miserable life. An unbalanced life.  He wants you mired in credit card debt.  He wants you to be impatient, to have a temper, and to be a liar - just like him (isn’t there a saying….like father like son (daughter)).

What does God want?

He wants you to live a victorious ife.  He wants you content.  He wants you to experience joy.  He wants you to know that He loves you.  He will never lie to you.  He will provide opportunities for your success.  He wants you debt free.  He wants you calm, worry and anxiety free. He wants you married for life.

You are either in Satan’s camp or God’s camp.  Again, let me ask you - how is Satan’s camp working out for you?

Sometimes we have to right the wrongs before we are free from worry.  Have you amassed a bunch of credit card debt and now can’t pay your bills? (get a 2nd job, halt all spending and pay them off. I have a few budget posts HERE).  Are you afraid your husband will leave? (find out why he is unhappy, and make changes in your life if at all possible).  Are you worried that you will not have enough money to retire? (take stock of your finances, cut back on spending, sell your house and get a less expensive one, drive used cars, don’t think about what others have). Are you afraid the IRS will audit your tax return? (make sure you have all your receipts and have been honest in your deductions).

I found this on the internet many times while I was doing research for this post -

Worry is a futile thing
It is like a rocking chair
It will keep you occupied 
But it won’t get you anywhere

Does this apply to you? Are you getting no where? Maybe you can overcome for a short time and then it all comes back. Or, maybe you are like my friend, who is worse now than she was a week ago. Fear, worry and anxiety are terrible things. I pray that everyone reading this will put their toe in the water and test out their faith in Jesus. If you have no idea how to do that hit the contact button at the bottom of this post or the mail icon and send me an email.

As for me, I would always rather be in God’s camp. Does that mean that ‘life’ won’t happen to me and things will always go as I had planned/hoped? Absolutely not. But, I know He has my back and wants the best for me.

Please check out my ‘Who Does God Say You Are’ post. I believe it to be true and very helpful. Especially in times of worry. Grab onto those verses and hang onto them - especially when you are struggling!

As always - thanks for reading my blog and hanging with me on my life’s journey.

Big Hugs,