Worry affects us all. We can sometimes fill up our brains with it, making it hard to function on a productive, daily basis.
As I get older, this worry often frustrates me. I should be better equipped now to cope with whatever comes my way. After all, shouldn’t I be wiser at this point? Shouldn’t I understand the verse, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34)? And yet, sometimes, I feel like my worry and anxiety have often become worse as I’ve aged.
During a recent visit to my counselor, when I’d expressed some anxiety or worry, she asked me, “Is that how you really feel about it or is it just a habit you keep repeating?”
A habit? What did she mean?
It turns out, we can actually thwart our own efforts and progress by repeating and clinging to unhealthy habits like worry. Because, let’s face it, isn’t is simpler to do the same thing we’ve done for years and years than try to change? We cling to those “easy” habits even when they actually increase the stress and anxiety.
For instance, I cry whenever I hear “Amazing Grace” because it was played at my grandmother’s funeral (and many others). It reminds me of her and so I cry. My mom does too. However, the song isn’t really a sad one – it’s a supposed to be a joyful hymn. But when the strains of that first chorus hit – I cry. It’s a learned habit. It’s a repeated pattern. It has nothing, in actuality, to do with the song itself. I’ve assigned sadness to it because it was played on one particularly difficult day in my life. But it’s been played many times on joyous occasions too. I just don’t remember those days as vividly.
I needed to break the habit. So now when “Amazing Grace” plays, I tell myself, “It’s not about the song.” I don’t let my mind go off on its own path – I direct it to more peaceful places. I still sometimes get choked up – habits are hard to break – but I’ve gotten better.
I think we all fear change. Even if the change might be better for us than how we’re currently doing things, we rant, rave, and rail against it simply because of the fear we feel. We don’t know what the other side holds. We do know what this side holds – anxiety, fear, worry. Even though those things aren’t fun, we know how to cope with them. But, sometimes, we’re even doing that wrong.
Some of us like to eat when we’re stressed. Eating only temporarily relieves anxiety and then we worry we’ve gained too much weight and are unhealthy. Do you see how our fears and worries can often just keep snowballing? It’s a never-ending cycle – or so we think. We can change it, but we have to be willing to break out of those habits. By being mindful of what we eat, we can avoid eating just because we’re stressed, therefore eliminating the other causes of stress. Instead, we can turn to God, read His word, pray, or talk it out with a friend.
And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you. (Romans 12:1-2 TLB)
It’s time to break the cycle. It’s time to change our habits that we label as worry.
I’m ready to not be so stressed – aren’t you? I’m ready to shake off these old habits and not let them define me anymore. I’m ready to be a new person. I’m ready to be transformed, not conformed. I’m ready to show I am a child of the King, a new creature, and I will no longer be held back by worries, anxieties, or fears.
How about you?