“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” — Erma Bombeck
Erma Bombeck, one of my favorite authors, wrote “I’ve al-ways worried a lot, and frankly I’m good at it. I worry about introducing a group of people and going blank when I get to my mother. I worry about a shortage of ball bearings. I worry about the world ending at midnight and getting only three hours of a 12-hour cold capsule. I worry about getting in the Guinness Book of World Records under “pregnancy” world’s oldest recorded birth. I worry about what the dog thinks when he sees me getting out of the shower. I worry that my daughter will marry an Eskimo and set me adrift on an ice-berg when I can no longer feed myself. I worry about sales-ladies following me into the fitting room, oil slicks, and Carol Channing going bald. And I worry about scientists discovering someday that lettuce has been fattening all along.”
You know her list tops mine. We’re living in what the American Psychological Association has labeled the “Age of Anxiety.” The American Academy of Physicians has reported that at least two-thirds of all patients who occupy hospital beds are there because of stress-related illness.
While it is natural to be concerned about our well being, we often tend to heighten the anxiety to an unreasonable level. The high levels of worry sap our emotional energy, send our anxiety levels soaring and interfere with our productivity, affecting our daily lives.
Worry is like a rocking armchair. It is always moving but it never takes one anywhere. Very often we believe that we can take care of our problems. Yet sometimes, despite all our effort, we are unable to bring about suitable solutions. We worry about our future, focusing on “what ifs ” and worst-case scenarios in our minds.
Some things to remember about worry and anxiety:
- Sometimes anxiety can help you to recognize when things really matter to you (like the butterflies before a first date or job interview). When you feel anxious just ask yourself what your worries can teach you or show you about yourself or the situation.
- EAT CHOCOLATE. While sweets can cause you to have a sugar high and crash, researchers have found that a little chocolate can be beneficial for worriers. According to a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research, dark chocolate can help calm your nerves.
- The sooner we recognize and accept that we don’t have control over certain circumstances in our lives, the sooner we can recognize and accept that worrying about those things will not influence the outcome either. Sometimes all you really can do is let it go (cue the Disney Frozen soundtrack…)
- ENGAGE IN FOREST THERAPY. Walking in the woods and listening to the sounds of nature can reduce stress. Called shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bath” in Japanese, the practice lowers stress hormone levels compared with walking in an urban area.
- WRITE DOWN YOUR WORRIES. Getting your emotions down on paper sounds like it could fuel anxieties, but according to a University of Chicago study published in the journal Science, the activity has the opposite effect. Students who were prone to test anxiety were asked to write about their fears before an exam; those who journaled improved their test scores by nearly one grade point.
- Pray. Philippians 4:6-7 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 transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
So when you find yourself sitting in the rocking chair of worry, remember that you have the choice to remain there or to go out in to the world. Dear friend, sometimes the hardest part is putting your feet on solid ground, standing up, and seeing life from a different perspective. You can do it. Slowly get up out of that rocking chair. Even if you have to turn on the Frozen soundtrack and belt out “Let It Go” to make that first step.