Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. ~Author Unknown
I believe most of us know that worry does us little good. And yet as we look around the world today, our world today, we see so many things that concern us: our children, our health, our finances, our physical security, will I keep my home, will I have money to retire on, can I ever retire, will I find meaningful work?
I have heard it said that most of us spend half of our time regretting yesterday and the other half of our time worrying about tomorrow. What about Now?
So many of us are so preoccupied with then and later that we don’t focus on today.
Yet we know we only have today. We know the concept of one day at a time, or at least we have heard of it but practicing it, not so easy.
I know someone who believes worrying is helpful; he claims by worrying ahead he has a storehouse of worry.... that perhaps by worrying ahead he will be ready for every contingency.
There is some truth in that. We will explore that in a moment.
You may be someone who reviews and reviews, By review I don’t mean critique so much but more going over and over and over the conversation you had yesterday, the argument you had a year ago, the regret you have from 10 years ago. That kind of review isn’t helpful. We have a word for that ... It is called ruminating. Ruminating can be paralyzing for some, robbing them of today. Much of their time is spent in regret and past situations that cannot be changed.
Getting back to depositing worry....
Let’ s talk a little about our brains and how they work.
We may all know of the flight or fight syndrome... You encounter a potentially dangerous situation. Your body starts to perceive the danger to be real. Your adrenalin is kicking in, your pulse has increased, your breathing has quickened, your pulse is racing, your body is ready to deal with the danger. Our bodies get ready for flight. So in a real danger, having that response and being ready to flee is adaptive and necessary.
The problem comes when we operate as if many situations, warrant a flight response.
If we perceive a situation to be dangerous our bodies are wonderful machines that ready us to stay alive.
Perhaps you have heard of cortisol.
Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in the following functions and more:
Proper glucose metabolism
A small release of cortisol in your body has these benefits:
A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
Heightened memory functions
A burst of increased immunity
Lower sensitivity to pain
Helps maintain homeostasis in the body
While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress.
Impaired cognitive performance
Suppressed thyroid function
Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
Decreased bone density
Decrease in muscle tissue
Higher blood pressure
Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of metabolic syndrome, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!
To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs. You can learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, and you can make lifestyle changes in order to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. So although we can’t get rid of stress altogether, developing strategies to relax are great ways to return your body to a relaxed state.
Guided Imagery, Yoga, Exercise, Journaling, Deep Breathing,
I've developed a new philosophy... I only dread one day at a time. ~Charlie Brown
So how does this relate to worry?
If you are in a constant state of worry or anxiety, your body is overproducing cortisol. Your body is ready and waiting for the dangerous situation.
So am I saying all worry is bad, NO. Being prepared for troubles, being ready to act and respond appropriately are good things.
So let’s talk about how we can identify worry, reduce worry and enjoy each day a bit more.
The acronym is LLMP
Label Worry Thoughts
Some people see their worries as facts. Once you learn to recognize worry as thoughts and not as real life, you can learn to control these thoughts.
think about a time when you expected something bad to happen, perhaps you are hiking and you fear that you might fall. When anxiety is high you experience that thought as a reality not as a possibility.
2.Let go of control: slow down the fight or flight response and relax your body. I mentioned stress management techniques earlier. Easy ones that don’t require a lot of time or training are deep breathing, muscle relaxation, relaxing your hands.
Accept and observe your thoughts and feelings: You begin to view these thoughts as separate from yourself, you remind yourself that your thoughts are only that... Thoughts. The fancy term for this is cognitive defusion.. Your goal is to distance yourself from these worrisome thoughts.
Mindful of the present moment: This means getting out of your head and out of dread....and being aware of your immediate surroundings.. The point of mindfulness is not distraction but to help you learn to observe your thoughts, accept them as thoughts and not as reality. For some mindfulness takes the direction of meditation; for others it becomes a time for prayer.
Proceed in the right direction: If we focus on what could happen, we might not leave our homes. If we instead focus on conscious choices.. Choices based on our values..then we have a direction.
Values propel us forward, they give us rationale and purpose.
The more clarity you have with your values and your direction, the less you focus on society’s standards.
Values are what make your life worth living.
So how do you know what your values are?
Some people would say that the best way to determine what your values are is to look at your check book register... who writes checks... or check your online banking.
Where do you spend your time?
What do you spend your money on?
What occupies your thoughts most?
How much time do you spend doing “nothing?”( TV and video games)
Here are some practical things you can do NOW-
a. Know you have a choice whether to entertain or “rehearse” worrisome thoughts. Rehearsal because so many folks go over and over a behavior, a mistake, a poor choice of words... they go over it and over it as if they were getting ready for a performance. When we practice a behavior that much, it becomes habitual. Our brains become changed as we practice or develop habits.
b. Keep busy in activities that occupy your mind. Things like cross stitch, small motor activities, working on a motorcycle, crossword puzzle, things that you have to concentrate on.
c. Focus on where you feel your worry, *
anxiety will grow if it’s not directed. Helping someone else is a great way to take your mind off of you.
d.Talking to someone can help: a good friend, a trusted mentor, a professional
Gratitude journal: a great daily practice - write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Do it at night. Be aware of the good around you. If you can’t see any good, counseling can help there, too.
If watching the news makes you fearful, STOP. and certainly don’t watch news before bedtime. It makes for restless sleep.
Courage is taking action in spite of fear. Do something positive.
Anxiety and worry are based in fear. The opposite of fear is faith.
But what happens when you struggle with seeing the positive, doubting your self, wondering why you are here, what are my values, why is life so hard.
Here is my God plug:
We have a loving and merciful God; despite what some of us may have been taught in our early years, the truth is God is bigger than all of our mistakes, all of our worries, all of our circumstances. There is no mistake or sin that we cannot be forgiven for. God’s grace is sufficient.
Let me tell you why my faith community is important to me:
It boils down to Grace. The ability to be myself and entrust my children to this group of people who aren’t biologically related to me is Huge. To know that the one thing we all have in common besides our brokenness is forgiveness. God’s forgiveness.
If I didn’t have my church family for encouragement, prayer, support, and at times financial assistance, I don’t know where I’d be. They are not perfect people; needless to say none of us are. I don’t expect perfect. I do expect God’s mercy reflected in them. I do expect them to extend me Grace the way that Jesus did. They do. I do expect that despite my sins, my failings, my brokenness, I am loved. I am accepted.
If you don’t have a church family, please consider finding one. I have several I could recommend.
If you don’t have a person to talk to about your worries and anxieties, consider finding one.
If you don’t know what your values are, consider talking to someone about what they are.
If you have been hurt by a church or faith community in the past, don’t let that stop you from pursuing a better fit for you. Like I said earlier, none of us are perfect and yet it might be time for you to try again.
If you are struggling with any or all that I have said today, give us a call at Houtz and Associates. We are a group of therapists who are able to provide Christian Counseling. We have many fine therapists who can walk you through your struggles. 805 794 4755.
Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you