For some of us, the weeks leading up to the first day of school are filled with worrying. The internal conversations in our heads speed up and become negative and punctuated with what-ifs. We feel alone in this. No one else seems to dread going back to school as much as we do. We worry that we worry too much.
Usually, worrying about the things in our lives is normal and healthy. As girls, we have ways of coping. Think about it—when you’re stressed, do you look for your mom or call your friends? You need reassurance, right? Someone else to tell you that your world isn’t ending. It’s just the way you’re wired. You’re there for your friends and they’re there for you.
But sometimes our tendency to clamp down on what we’re worrying about, hold it and ruminate on it, sends us into a spiral that affects all other areas of our lives. You’re not sleeping well, eating right, or concentrating. Your relationships become strained because you’re dealing with this ball of inner turmoil that won’t ease up on you and it seems the only thing you’re thinking about is yourself.
Ask yourself these questions:
Am I constantly worrying about minor things?
Is my worrying causing me to have an upset stomach, trouble sleeping, or other physical symptoms?
Is my worrying making it difficult for me to concentrate?
Is my worrying affecting my relationships with my family and friends?
Is my worrying making me procrastinate?
If you answered yes to any of these, it’s possible that worry is a problem for you. The good news is we have within us the power to change our behaviors and our thoughts so that we can put worry in its place. We all worry. It’s part of being human. But we can learn to live with it and even use it to our benefit—it can sharpen us and refocus us on what’s important in life.
If worry often gets you down, here are some simple strategies to use:
Stop grabbing every thought
When you’re in a web of worry and your thoughts are rushing at you, stay calm. Remember, this is normal. Let the worrisome thoughts drift in and out without giving them power over you. Your brain is an awesome tool—it can throw thousands of thoughts and impressions your way, but you can decide which ones to let linger and which ones to let go.
Prioritize those worries
Get out a pencil and paper and get specific. Write down the things that seem to be making you anxious. Next to each, write the worst that could happen. Sometimes just seeing that the worst that could happen really isn’t so bad takes the power away from that worry. Write down the other ways each worry could work out.
Face your fears
Are you worried about the speech class you’re scheduled to take? Practice with your friends. Sometimes dipping a toe into whatever scares you is all it takes to ease your fear. Psychologists call this immersion therapy and it works because it unmasks the bogeyman in your life.
Easier said than done, I know. When anxiety has you in its grips and your heart is racing and your breathing is shallow, it can feel like you’re in real danger. First, realize your body is reacting to a surge of adrenaline that has nothing to do with the situation you’re in. Breathe slowly and deeply. Hold that deep breath for a few seconds before you blow it out decisively. Close your eyes and imagine that you’re on an escalator that is taking you somewhere wonderful. Let yourself feel that anticipation while you breathe. The adrenaline will reabsorb in a few minutes and you’ll feel normal again.
Stay in the present
Worry tends to make us speed into our future, imagining all the horrible outcomes we could face. It can also make us obsess about the past. Stop. Think only about this moment. Focus on something around you that’s firmly rooted in the moment. Go outside and look at a tree. Watch how it moves in the wind. Listen to the leaves shake. Watch a bird circling in the sky.
Most importantly, tell God everything that’s worrying you. He can take it. He hurts when you hurt. It’s that simple.
There’s a reason we are told to meditate on scripture. It comforts us when nothing else can. Memorize one or two of these scriptures and repeat them to yourself when anxiety and worry take hold of your mind.
“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.”
“I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.”
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
“For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”