Not me. Not as much.
I’ve composed this two-part blog in the hopes that my experiences might help you deal with the worrier inside of yourself. In the previous entry I admitted that I worry too much about too many things too much of the time. Today: the non-anxious side of my spirit.
After too many months of unhealthy worrying, I’ve come to the realization that I am also capable of setting worries in their place. Today I tell you how it’s possible, how it’s preferable.
The place to begin—as in most of life’s more vexing matters—is to begin with the assets that are available to me. I discovered that I am surrounded by them.
First and foremost are the people around me who have not fallen into the same mind-trap as me. They include my spouse Chris—whose integrity has always been rock-solid throughout our years together. She has always been insistent in naming my generalized fretting as unhealthy and essentially unproductive. She has remained a trusted example of a non-anxious person. Some friends and family members know how to keep honest critique from turning into full-blown despair. Their dependence on Scripture and prayer always calls me away from dystopian thinking.
Because of the influence of Chris and others, I have identified some behaviors that have kept me frazzled: Too-frequent checking of news bulletins on my smartphone, and too-intense viewing of television news commentary. Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, these two forms of communication seemed helpful at first, but then became destructive of my well-being.
The behavioral changes seem simple: When using the internet, do not click on every possible piece of information that dissects dastardly deeds and disaster. Do not perseverate about every news story and every ain’t-it-awful opinion. Do limit my news exploration to a morning newspaper and two nightly news programs.
To combat the feelings of powerlessness that accompany anxiety—or cause it?—I have taken on some new habits. Daily Bible reading and quiet prayer in the evening are two good examples. I try to steer clear of endless hand-wringing conversations, and monitor the ways in which I might infect others with my own disquiet. (One way to do that: looking carefully at the words and phrases that I use in describing current events.)
Because Chris and I had such a positive volunteer experience during the midterm elections, I have been considering how similar actions might help change my attitudes. For example, I have begun exploring how to engage in local environmental and political projects like tree-planting or training to be a voter registrar. I have read several uplifting accounts of virtuous people who are part of the political world. (My current favorite: Michelle Obama’s Becoming.) I am going to keep complaints and woeful utterances out of my personal journaling. I intend to keep writing these blogs, in the hope that there can be something positive that comes out of my word-smithing here. With Chris, I will continue to volunteer as an ESL tutor, and to participate in regular exercise classes. I will be careful not to over-caffeinate.
I think that this determined effort to reduce anxiety is paying off. I’m not experiencing as many of the symptoms, finding better uses for my time—e.g., hopeful reading, correspondence with old friends, re-entry into the life of our congregation—and feeling generally more hopeful.
I hope that somewhere in these two entries you’ve found some perspective on your own anxieties, and that you’ll take courage from what you’ve read here. Perhaps the next time you and I talk or meet, we’ll be able to say, “What, me worry? No way!”
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