Wondering how to stop worrying? Fantastic, because people who walk around full of worry are consequently full of stress, which consequently increases their risk of being sicker and/or dying earlier than they would have had they not carried around the worry.
I may have already told the following story at some point on this blog, but it bears repeating.
When I was a freshman in college, a mid-term exam was coming up for my history class. The professor, a wizened elderly man, was trying to convince us that worrying over the exam wouldn’t help. Here’s what he said:
When you worry about something, you’ve got the worry in one hand, and spit in the other. After the thing you’ve been worrying about has come and gone, all you got left is a handful of spit.
How not to worry? In your mind, turn that handful of spit into lost time, strained relationships, lost money, etc.
In our house, when one of us is worried over something, I remind the offender, “You’re just gonna end up with a handful of spit.” (Yes, sometimes I’m reminding myself.)
Take my husband’s recent out-of-state trip to a funeral for an aunt. He went by himself because our son would have been bored out of his mind, he wouldn’t have been able to sit through the service, and he’d never met the aunt. I had only met her once before.
My husband worried so badly over the trip two days before leaving that he had trouble finishing his meals. He walked around bloated most of the day. He worried about getting lost. He worried about the awkwardness of seeing his semi-estranged brother and sister-in-law (long story that I’m not going to share; let’s just say they judged us harshly for leaving the institutional church a few years back).
He worried about people asking about our son’s education (he would be labeled as “A.D.H.D.” and “developmentally delayed” if he were in school, and J didn’t want to have to answer about B’s academic abilities and explain all that).
I kept telling him not to worry. Reminded him about the spit. But he despises facing awkward situations alone (another future blog post idea!), so telling him how not to worry didn’t do any good.
My husband found his way to the funeral – five and a half hours away – and back just fine. His brother didn’t make it to the visitation the night before, and J had a pleasant visit there with “younger” relatives. Nobody asked about B. Or me, for that matter, but J wasn’t worried about that. For some reason, explaining to people that I have nine novels published, a YouTube channel with close to three thousand subscribers, two blogs, and more novels coming isn’t uncomfortable for him. 😉
When J got home, I tried to keep quiet. I did. But it wasn’t long before the words forced themselves out of my mouth: “So, how much spit do you have in your hand?”
How not to worry? Imagine the worst-case scenario and prepare yourself mentally for it. All the while, keep reminding yourself that statistically speaking, the chances of the worst-case scenario happening is small. Believe in yourself that you can handle whatever comes your way.
Because, as Christopher Robin once told Pooh, you are stronger than you seem.
Most of all, remember that there is nothing pleasant about walking around with a handful of spit.