You probably know the sound. The familiar voice that says… “Hurry, you have more to do. Why are you so slow? Don’t forget about that one thing. What if it doesn’t get done? If it doesn’t get done, you’ll be a failure. What about your finances? What if there isn’t enough to pay your bills? What if your next check bounces or the card gets declines? Oh… and your relationship with so and so, they didn’t text/email/call you back. Maybe they are mad at you? And he, he was short with you this afternoon. Maybe he is unhappy with you. What if you did something wrong?”
You know that tape that plays in your head that is like a black hole that draws you in until you don’t know which way is top from bottom. Every possible subject becomes a matter of worry. As your mind reels about all of the possible things that may go wrong, your stomach muscles clench and butterflies form anxiously flitting about. With each flap your pulse gets higher and your lungs struggle for air.
Or maybe it’s the late night to-do list that is running through your mind as you collapse on your pillow. As the list grows into a monster inside your mind, it takes life and swallows you up. You become restless and sleep leaves you. Tomorrow’s worries steal today’s sleep as you chase them into the new today. As you drag yourself out of bed, longing for the next moment you will find yourself there. Secretly you wish your day away believing that sleep is the best escape from your anxious reality.
These are the sounds of worry…. and there are many more. But, I am sure you know the tapes well. I do.
Worry, when multiplied becomes stress. And stress steels. It robs peace, joy and presence in today. Stress takes from the very life and fixates on every problem, and possible horrific outcome and spins a web that says “Control will fix this. Do more, accomplish more. Success= happiness.” Stress lies telling you that life begins when the To-Do list ends (which is never, by the way).
But what’s worse, is stress can and will manifest itself in your body when it becomes high enough. When the pressure builds and worry reproduces, it will make itself known. It hates being ignored and will make a scene.
This my friends is where I found myself a month ago.
Every worry, problem, possible problem, assignment (I am in grad school), to-do became so huge that nothing could console me. The stranger thing was I was coping to the point that I was in denial that I was stressed. I ran from task to task and was exhausted and hardly productive. My mood would swing violently as more was added to the list. When unexpected events would come about, it was more than I could bear. The burden was crushing me. I longed for my bed and cried every morning when my alarm went off, I would avoid getting up as long as I could. My heart, mind and body was looking for rest. Finally one day, I found myself in the doctor with my limbs literally burning and my head pounding and the tests began.
I should mention that medical tests do not help stress. In fact, it makes it worse. And so as the doctor waded through the possible reasons, I felt worse. The interesting thing is after all the tests, the conclusion is I am stressed. Oh really? The pain and burning was coming from my neck and back that were clenched because of worry.
Why does the body react to worry? Someone said to me that stress, which is the product of worry, actually is fear.
Maybe my body is literally bracing itself for impact. Fear that tragedy, hardship or whatever the figment of my “worry tape” is playing at any given moment will actually happen. And so my body reacts to what is in my mind by clenching my muscles in fear that I will not be okay.
And so my friends… I have begun the journey to find peace in the midst of a chaotic world that in fact does produce reason to worry. In a culture that demands constant activity, I am looking for rest. And with my “always have a plan five years out” personality I am learning to enjoy the journey.
So will you come with me as I follow my Father, my Lord and Savior to a life with less worry?
photo credit: iStockphoto. by Jennifer Goodman Linn