I wish a happy Fourth of July in which people are celebrating independence as a nation. Many countries around the world also have their own independence day to celebrate. In the United States, during this occasion there is much hoopla, with fireworks, picnics, and parades.
Most of the events are held outdoors, in backyards, parks, or along city streets. The main interest people have at this time of year are weather reports, whether on TV, radio, or on the internet. Their biggest worry is whether it will be too hot, or if it will rain or storm and wash out their outdoor festivities. Much of the celebration preparation is tinged with worry about bad weather. In some places, fear of tornadoes and thunderstorms threaten the celebrations. It is typical in life to worry about the future or things that might happen.
How Does Worry Cause Stress?
In the last few years there has been a great interest among doctors, researchers, and people in the field of psychology concerning the effect worry has on health. Worry is one of the causes of stress that can, in turn, create stress-related illnesses. It is interesting that the word “worry” comes from old English and originally meant to choke or strangle. If we think about the original meaning of the word “worry,” we find that it accurately describes what worrying does to us.
When we choke or are strangled, we cannot breathe. Our air supply is cut off and we struggle for life. While we may not associate choking with worry, if we think about it, when we worry we are actually cutting off our life. We may not shows signs of physical distress right away, but slowly over time, our body exhibits some form of deterioration. Stress produces hormones that were meant for escaping danger. We either run or fight. It sends hormones that pump up our strength in our arms or legs to run or fight. But when we feel stress without the necessity of running or fighting, those hormones circulate through our body. An excess of these hormones have the effect of causing long-term damage to different parts of the body. Although we do not choke or become strangled, they definitely cause physical illness over time.
Thus, doctors and psychologists have been focusing their attention on helping people avoid worry as a means to better health, both mentally and physically. Some of the research points to the fact that worry is a condition that arises from fear.
A study was done that analyzed the kinds of worry people have. More than one-third of what people worry about deals with things that never happen. Another one-third of worry deals with things that happened in the past that cannot be changed. The remaining one-third of worry is divided between worrying about things that concern other people and are not our business, things that deal with sickness that we really have or imagine we have, and a small percentage are real things about which we should worry.
Think of how often we worry about things tremendously, yet they never happen. For example, consider how many times in the past years that the weather reports spoke of heavy rains and thunderstorms that threatened to ruin plans over the Fourth of July holiday. Yet, the day turned out to be sunny and beautiful.
Our mind projects events into the future that cause us to worry, with some people even worrying themselves sick over some impending disaster. They may think about the perceived threat day and night. They may talk about it with others. Some people may even lose sleep over it. Most of the time, whatever they worried about never came to pass. The results are that all those days and weeks they spent thinking about their fear of the future has wasted much precious time of their life. It was as if they were choking on their fears. Those life-breaths allotted to them were wasted. The quality of their life was cut short due to worry.
How to Avoid Worrying
The next time we start to worry, we can consider whether it is worth the time of our precious lives to engage in thoughts about things that may or may not ever happen. If there is really a danger, then instead of worrying, we should make specific plans to avert the threat. If we take actions, we have done all we can do. We do not need to supplement those actions with worry. Taking action is useful, but worry is useless. We do our best, and then put in the remaining time to something that is going to be beneficial to other people or ourselves. In this way, we can eliminate one-third of our worries.
Another cause for worry is events that happened in the past that we cannot change. It may be true that what has happened in the past was not to our liking or to the liking of other people. Once the event is gone, it does no one any good to worry about it. What has happened has happened. Worrying about it will not change it; worry will only make us sick. Thus, we suffer doubly for the events of the past. We suffered once for the situation we did not like. But then we suffer repeatedly each moment we worry about it because it makes us relive that situation again and again in our minds. It is like replaying the same bad movie over and over. Isn’t once enough?
Learn from the Past but Don’t Worry about It
The value in thinking about the past is only to learn from it, take steps not to repeat our mistakes, and then move on. Worrying about it will not change it. Worry will not even make us avoid the same mistakes in the future. We should take a lesson from the past, and we should resolve to do better in the future. If we could forget the past, we could eliminate another large chunk of our worries.
Worrying about Illness
Many people worry about illness. There are two aspects to this. The first aspect is worry about illnesses that we have. Again, we should not worry about it; rather, we should take steps to do something about our illness. Either we should seek medical care or do what we know should be done to alleviate it. Worry is not going to cure us. Instead, worry may add to our medical condition by adding a layer of stress.
The second aspect is worrying about illnesses we do not have. Many people read articles about diseases and by the time they are through reading they feel they have that very disease. If we have the disease, then seek medical attention. But if we do not have it, why should we live in worry of contracting it? We only make ourselves sick with worry when we are in the best of health.
There are thousands of diseases we can catch. Why worry about them? We should definitely take steps to prevent getting sick by taking care of our health, avoiding things that cause sickness, and leading a healthy lifestyle. Those are positive steps. Yet, worry is useless. Worry alone is not going to prevent us from getting sick, and it will not cure us if we become sick. If we eliminate worry over our health we will find ourselves a lot healthier.
Take Action without Adding Stress to Our Lives
When we are through eliminating useless causes of worry, we find there is but a small percent of things that are worth worrying about. These may be financial problems, real health problems, job problems, relationship problems, and family problems. Again, worry is not going to solve our problems. Instead, we should take positive steps to solve our problems. While taking those steps, we should not worry about them, as that does not add to the solution. What we will find is that we can take action without adding stress to our lives.
When we think of the original meaning of “worry” as choking our life breaths, it can serve as a reminder to us to stop worrying. We should deal with each situation, and then leave the rest to God. In this way, we can make the best use of each life’s breaths. We will find our life is more under our control. When we take control of our life and stop worrying, we will have more time to devote to taking steps to attain our true goals of life. We will have better meditations, better times with our loved ones, and more peace in our lives when we stop worrying.
Trust in God
One of the best ways to declare independence from worry is to trust in God. Sometimes in life we go through good times and at other times, difficulties. When things are going well for us we believe in God. However, when despite our best efforts and goodness of heart we hit bad times, then we question whether there is God.
In our own lives, we can reflect on times when we worried that things were not going our way. We began to question God and how bad things could happen to us. Yet, later we realize that in the end it all worked out for the best. What seemed to be a setback actually was a blessing, because things in the end worked out better than we could have arranged them for ourselves.
We realize that God is always with us and looking out for us. Sometimes we cannot see it right away, but at the appropriate time we find out that God’s wisdom knew what was best for us.
On This Fourth of July, through Meditation, Declare Independence from Worry
One way to develop trust in God is to meditate. When we meditate and go within, we discover God within us. Then, there is no more questioning of whether there is God or not. We come to see God and all the wonders within. With this awareness, we no longer have to question God’s wisdom. We see God’s hand in all things and know that whatever happens is for the best for us.
As we celebrate this Fourth of July, let us also declare independence from worry by trusting in God in all areas of our life. We can do so through meditation, during which we experience firsthand the presence of God in our lives.