Worry. Anxiety. Sleepless Nights.
I’m a Type A Perfectionist, and I’ve spent too many nights, waking up:
- hoping my plans for the next day go OK
- wondering if I offended someone with what I said
- worrying about the safety of my loved ones
- pondering over exact details of this and that
- And on and on and on.
And what did all the worrying accomplish? Zilch. Nothing. Nada. Just many tired days filled with yawns, Diet Coke, restless legs and cat naps.
From the time I was a teen, I can remember counting sheep and memorizing scripture to try to soothe those worrisome thoughts. Now that I’m in my 50s, I’ve gone through a period of transformation. I’m working to be the person God made me to be. I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m trying to live a life of joy, peace and mercy.
Here are four life practices for “setting myself free”:
1. Focus on work and activities that bring me joy.
My identity was always placed on my work. What was I accomplishing? How was I advancing? But much of that work placed me in stressful positions that didn’t bring me joy.
What brought me joy was working with students. Teaching. Motivating. Encouraging. One of my favorite days of the year is graduation, and I always reflect on what my students have accomplished and how they have matured since they walked into class as freshmen. That brings me happiness. So I gave up several directorial roles (and the additional salary) and went back full-time to the classroom. I’m poorer financially, but much richer personally.
2. Stop trying to please other people.
In addition to my perfectionist tendencies, I’ve also been a people pleaser — trying to please anyone and everyone around me. That’s hard work — and it’s impossible.
Now I focus on pleasing those I’m closest to. Sure I would like everyone to like me. But as much as I’ve tried, that’s impossible. Other people have their own issues, their own backgrounds, their own insecurities — and not everyone is going to like me. So my goal each day is to live with integrity and to support those near me. That’s doable!
3. Enjoy a prayer walk several days per week.
Oh my goodness. This practice has truly changed my outlook. I walk. I think. I pray. I meditate.
I’ve made this practice a priority. In cold weather. In hot weather. When I tell myself, I don’t have time, I make time. Being still and meditating is difficult for a Type A person like me, but a walking meditation works.
I try to “see the sky,” which helps me put life into perspective. That nagging worry becomes the cardinal flying in the sky. I don’t focus on the cardinal flitting in and out, up and down. I focus on the permanence and beauty of the sky.
As I walk, I pray for those who are suffering and grieving. I pray for my daughter to make wise decisions in her life. I pray for family and friends. I pray for myself to stop and “be” and not just “do.”
4. Control my thoughts and rest in God.
I’ve learned that anxiety is a lifestyle. It’s a habit, an addiction, even a sin? Over time, I’ve learned to rely on the following techniques to change my thinking.
I memorize scriptures, such as:
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5-8
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6: 25-34
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer…” Philippians 4: 6-7
“Do not let your hearts be troubled….” John 14: 1-4
I reflect on quotes like these:
“If you pray why worry. If you worry, why pray?”
“Worrying is praying about what you don’t want to happen.”
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
Truly all that has helped, but nothing has helped me more than resting. Resting in the promise of God. I surrender. I unclench my hands and open my palms to the sky. I rest in Him. So now when worrisome thoughts enter my head, I address them with, “No. Not today. Not now. I rely on my God.”