Learning to Be CALM When You Struggle with Worry
by Barb Roose
Why did I let my mind go there AGAIN?
There I stood in my kitchen, swiping at the tears rolling down my face. Was I crying about something that had just happened? No. I was sobbing over a horrible mental movie generated in my mind about one of my girls getting into a fatal car accident while she drove to her friend’s house.
That movie was so graphic, so real, that I could have won Academy Awards for best actress, screenplay and special effects. I felt like I was at the accident scene and could see myself running and screaming toward a mangled car with hazy smoke rising from the wreck. I could feel the EMTs pulling me away from my child as they said, “Ma’am, she’s gone. Let her go, ma’am.” I heard my screams in my mind. Why does this feel so real even though it is only in my mind?
Then I snap back to reality. My heart is pounding and there are real tears running down my face. I’m worn out. I feel guilty and foolish. Guilty because I’ve imagined something that has really happened to others, but not me. Foolish because I should know better. “C’mon, Barb! You’ve made yourself upset over something that wasn’t even real.”
Do you ever make up horrible movies in your mind about getting in fatal car accidents or losing your kids at the zoo? I do. Author Lenore Skenazy calls our tendency to jump to the worst-case scenario “worst first thinking.” As a Christian woman, I knew that I should pray and not worry, but I still worried anyway. Why didn’t “just pray about it” work for me? If I’m being honest, sometimes, I felt like a bad Christian.
Over the years, my fears and worries often manifest themselves into a few different kinds of behaviors. Here are four different kinds of worriers. Which one fits you?
Silent Sufferer – Stuffs fear and worries and doesn’t say a word
Mother Hen – Persistent phone calls, texts, long lectures and nagging
Control Freak – Strongly suggests, overpowers or manipulates others
Busy Body – Can’t leave anything undone, so overworks to feel calmer
I’m a recovering combination of control freak and mother hen. This means that not only did I try to boss people around to make myself feel better, but I almost alienated my loved ones because of my helicopter parenting and nagging. All my worry-driven behaviors didn’t make me a bad person, just a woman who really needed God’s victory over worry. And God is so good! Years ago, He stood by my side during an uncertain and painful marriage crisis that I couldn’t control. I had to learn how to turn my worries into worship by trusting in God’s power and presence in my life and circumstances.
We all know that worry doesn’t work, but we do it anyway. Perhaps you’re familiar with Van Wilder’s quote: “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it isn’t getting you anywhere.”
In Matthew 6, Jesus is preaching His famous Sermon on the Mount. In verse 27, He poses a stunning question that would’ve stirred the hearts and minds of His listeners: “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
What are some of your favorite moments? Some of my favorite moments include the first time my husband kissed me, the day I graduated from college as a young wife and mother, the first time I held each of my children and the moment I held my first book in my hands. I could list a thousand favorite moments from my life, and not one of them would begin with, “The time that I worried about….”
Worry never adds to our lives; it only takes away. Worry steals our focus from the present. It makes me sad to think about all of the times my children wanted to play or cuddle, but I missed those precious moments because I was worried about finances, my career or other situations I couldn’t control.
Are you tired of letting worry steal the best and precious moments of your life? What does the path away from worry look like? The answer is worship. Here’s what I’ve learned in my worry battle: The difference between worry and worship is who you are talking to.
In Winning the Worry Battle, I share my CALM technique I use whenever I start obsessing about worst-case scenarios. This technique slows down my racing heart and other physical symptoms of worry and helps me to reconnect with God. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Count to five by inhaling on the number and exhaling the word Mississippi.
Step 2: Acknowledge God’s presence by saying, “God, I know that you are here with me right now.”
Step 3: List where you need God’s help.
Step 4: Meditate and repeat the following, “God is here, and He will take care of me/this.”
I use the CALM technique when I can’t find my keys and am running late or when my 17-year-old daughter is driving out of town on her own. If the difference between worry and worship is who I’m talking to, then my best chance to avoid worry happens when I stay connected to God’s power and acknowledge His presence in my life.
If you are tired of being stressed out all day or walking the floor because you can’t sleep at night, God has a better way forward for you. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re fighting a worry battle, because when you are ready, God is waiting to give you victory!
Here’s one final thought: Today is the last day of my life that I need to be hopelessly stuck in fear and worry.
Excerpts adapted from Winning the Worry Battle, © 2018 Abingdon Press. All verses from New Living Translation.
Barb Roose is a popular speaker and author who is passionate about connecting women to one another and to God. Her goal is to equip women to win at life with Christ-empowered strength and dignity. Roose enjoys teaching and encouraging women at conferences and events across the country and abroad. Her latest book is Winning the Worry Battle: Life Lessons from the Book of Joshua along with the companion Bible study.
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