The children’s book Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes tells the story of Wemberly, a little worrywart. The book says:
Wemberly worried about everything. Big things, little things, and things in between. Wemberly worried in the morning, she worried at night, and she worried throughout the day. She worried about the tree in the front yard (what if it falls on our house?), the crack in the living room wall (what if it gets bigger and something comes out?), and the noise the radiator made (what if there’s a snake inside?).
Wemberly worried about spilling her juice, about shrinking in the bathtub, even about snakes in the radiator. She worried morning, noon, and night. Worry, worry, worry, her family said. Too much worry. And Wemberly worried about one thing most of all: her first day of school. But when she meets a fellow worrywart in her class, Wemberly realises that school is too much fun to waste time worrying!
Worries and Worriers
I have an idea there are a lot of ‘Wemberley’ worriers out there, and not just those little kids going to school. You may have heard Glenn Turner’s popular quote, “Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere”. So what are you worrying about today? We can worry about:
- everything in tiny detail, as if worrying about it will lessen the blow, or make whatever we are trying to avoid not happen.
- whether or not we are going to get old, sick, die, or any variation on this theme.
- poverty, the job market, our social standing and any variation on this theme.
- the country, the planet, our towns and villages.
- not being good enough, being too good, being rejected, ignored, noticed and any variations on those themes.
I know some people who wake up each morning feeling anxious about the day and what awaits them. I do that sometimes myself unfortunately. A doctor from Johns Hopkins University said, “We don’t know why it is, but worriers die sooner than non-worriers and that is a fact.”
Worry is contagious. It can affect the attitudes of our family and friends.
In Guatemala many Indian groups make use of the worry dolls. There are six of these colourful dolls and shoppers can find them in the market places. The Indian tradition is that worriers could tell each doll a worry before going to sleep. The doll would work on solving the worry while the owner slept. The next day all of their worries would be gone.
Maybe you’re worrying about retirement—will I have enough money? Can I afford to retire?
This is a real question. There are many life issues that can disturb us and cause us to be anxious. If you’re preoccupied with ‘what ifs’ and worst-case scenarios, worry becomes a problem. Unrelenting doubts and fears can be paralysing. They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your daily life.
How to Deal With Worry
Some experts give advice to chronic worriers:
- Create a ‘worry period’: Choose a set time and place for worrying. It should be the same every day (e.g. in the living room from 5:00 to 5:20 pm) and early enough that it won’t make you anxious right before bedtime. During your worry period, you’re allowed to worry about whatever is on your mind. But the rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.
- Make a brief note of it on paper and postpone it to your worry period: Remind yourself that you’ll have time to think about it later, so there’s no need to worry about it right now. Save it for later and continue to go about your day.
- Go over your ‘worry list’ during the worry period. Reflect on the worries you wrote down during the day. If the thoughts are still bothering you, allow yourself to worry about them, but only for the amount of time you’ve specified for your worry period. If the worries don’t seem important any more, cut your worry period short and enjoy the rest of your day.
All this helpful up to a point—positive suggestions are OK. But I want to suggest a better way.
The Bible has some wonderful advice for the worriers. Proverbs 3:5-6 says: “With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgement. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow”.
And in the New Testament there is a tremendous verse we should memorise and think about every day: “Casting all your cares on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
(Read What are you Worrying About? – Part 2)