I’m a worrier, and it stresses me out. This is not new. Actually, I do better now than I used to.
And yet, I still worry far too much. In some ways, I feel like I took the scout motto to “Be Prepared” much too personally. I’m constantly peering into the shadows trying to anticipate which monster will come out next. Maybe I read too many mystery novels when I was young and impressionable.
It takes a lot of energy to try prevent all the bad things that could possibly happen at once. “Don’t talk to strangers. Or people you know. Or walk too close to cars. Or groups of kids. And look out for dogs. And powerlines…” The warnings I want to give my middle schooler before he walks a block to school in the morning are endless. Usually I manage to limit it to one or two. Sometimes I just drive him to school.
I unplug small appliances before I leave the house and worry about the larger appliances that are too big to unplug. Every time the phone rings, I worry it’s the school calling. Bee sting? Broken arm? The sky falling? They haven’t happened yet, but this could be that call.
Early in our marriage, my husband stopped our newspaper subscription. I was reading the paper cover to cover, and I can still, twenty years later, remember the details of some of the scary stories I read. “It’s stressing you out,” my husband said.
“I need to know what to watch out for,” I told him.
And yet, without the newspaper to warn me, we survived living in that city, and the other cities we lived in. Some bad things happened, but some great things did too. I didn’t miss the newspaper… okay, I did. But I didn’t miss my daily dose of fear.
The internet has tried to provide that with its newsfeeds and Facebook, but I try to be wise and only read a few stories here and there. It’s like a security blanket. If I can just predict the bad things, whatever they are, I can defend against them, right?
But I think that the worry can be a bad thing all on its own. There is a point where it ceases to be helpful, and starts taking too much energy, time and space. I’m tired of worrying.
I will probably never leave my toaster plugged in when I leave the house. I don’t think I will ever ride a rollercoaster without imagining that this is the time it will go off the tracks. That said, I am trying harder to worry less. But how do I worry less after all this time?
Science says that the best way to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. This article explains it well: https://www.inc.com/melody-wilding/psychology-says-this-is-how-you-change-a-bad-habit-for-good.html
So what is a good replacement for worry?
In an Ensign article in April 1986, Gordon B. Hinckley said: “I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.“
And later in the same article, “I have little doubt that many of us are troubled with fears concerning ourselves. We are in a period of stress across the world. There are occasionally hard days for each of us. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. Do not let the prophets of gloom endanger your possibilities.”
Bad things do happen, but good things do too. Why not spend my energy preparing for the next big opportunity? Why not notice and recognize the good things that happen? I think it would be a better use of my time.
I’ve started keeping a gratitude journal. I try to get out and help other people. It really gives me a lot of perspective. Somehow, it’s easier to do hard things when I’m doing them for someone else. I am developing my talents and trying to share them.
I may always be a worrier. But, I hope that I can continue to improve. I want to stop seeking out storms and instead enjoy the sunlight. While wearing sunscreen. And a hat.
Do you worry a lot too? What are some things you do when you can tell that you’re starting to worry?