10 Ways Not to be Anxious about Tomorrow

10 Ways Not to be Anxious about Tomorrow

A single conversation almost fifteen years ago changed me.

I was at a professional turning point: would I enter my fifth year as a high school English teacher, or would I go on staff with an outreach ministry, as a mentor to high school students?

“I don’t know what to do,” I lamented to my friend, Holly, over steaming mugs of hot chocolate one afternoon. I didn’t want to make the wrong decision. I worried that somehow I’d make the worst mistake of my life, if I chose one path over the other.

Her reply to my monologue of worry and potential regret was simple:

“Cara,” she said to me, “God is with you wherever you go. It’s not like you’re choosing between a really good thing and a really bad thing: he’s in both situations, and he’s with both situations – because he’s with you.”

I nodded my head. I got it, and I began to loosen up. I started to roll more with the ebbs and flows of life, just as I started to lean into the belief that God really was before me and behind me, in me and with me. Eventually,I also began to not worry as much.

If you find yourself in the same worrying boat, here are ten ways not to be anxious about tomorrow: 

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  • 1. Take a trip down memory lane.

    It’s easy to forget how and where God’s shown up before, when we feel like we’re in the midst of a stressful situation. So, participate in the act of remembering. Flip open your Bible to the book of Isaiah, and remember God’s promises to the Israelites. Peer into an old photo album and see the different ways the Holy One has been with you over the years. Read through an old journal or diary, and notice how God showed up in your life. 

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  • 2. Take a deep breath and count to four.

    My husband and I laugh about how a simple song from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood makes a difference in everyday reactions to stress and anxiety. Oftentimes, when we take a moment to pause and breathe deeply, we’re able to calmly approach the situation differently. Momentary worries tend to dissipate as we enter into beauty of the present moment. 

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  • 3. Count your blessings.

    Although the phrase can feel trite to me, there’s something about writing down single sentences of joy. “The smell of fresh basil, growing in the windowsill.” “The stranger who smiled at me in the grocery store.” “The bubbles my son blew and delighted in this afternoon.” Make it your goal to count ten blessings every day, and see if it begins to change your worried outlook.

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  • 4. Meditate on the worry-free song.

    I’m not talking about “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” although that is a glorious, happy-go-lucky song. I’m talking about Psalm 37, the psalm many theologians label the worry-free song. Don’t fret, it sings. Trust. Commit. Be still. Wait. David’s verb game is strong, so get lost in the ancient, faithful text and let it seep into your soul. 

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  • 5. Take a break from social media.

    I don’t know about you, but the more time I spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like, the more I’m consumed in the worries of other people’s lives. And when this over-consumption happens, my brows furrow more than normal at my own life. So, I make it a point to take somewhat extreme actions: social media apps no longer exist on my cell phone. I break from all forms of the Internet from Saturday night through Monday morning, every week. And the result is often a worry-free, calm-filled existence. 

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  • 6. Practice the presence of God.

    Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth-century French lay brother, was right: our souls can engage, all the time, in conversation with our Creator. Author and speaker Jerusalem Greer attempts to follow the directive all the time, as written in At Home in this Life: “I pick up the conversation [with God] mid-thought; I talk out loud to him in the middle of the grocery aisle, and while I am driving, and when I am rummaging through thrift-store bins of cast-off silverware. I am the lady you see mumbling to herself in the dollar store and at Starbucks,” but this is the holiest sort of mumbling, for it’s directed toward God himself! See if your holy mumbles help calm your heart, too. 

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  • 7. Call a friend.

    Remember the show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? One of the options, when contestants got “stuck” was to use a lifeline and call a friend. Do the same thing, but with a catch: don’t project your worry onto their life. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen – like, really, actually listen – to their stories. Ask follow-up questions. Affirm what they’ve shared with you. Afterwards, when it’s your turn to talk, don’t. See if stepping into someone else’s life releases the burden in your mind.

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  • 8. Stare at the wildflowers.

    If you haven’t read the Sermon on the Mount in awhile, turn to Matthew 5-7. Pay particular attention to verse 6:30, when Jesus reminds his listeners how much God cares for the wildflowers – and how much more he then cares for you and me. Make scripture tangible, and step out into nature. See if you can find a patch of wildflowers. Stare at the herbs of the field, and think about how much he then loves and cares for every detail of your life. 

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  • 9. Shut your mouth.

    Harsh as it may sound, sometimes the best action we can take when worry grabs hold of our hearts is to stop talking about it. I should know: I’m a verbal processor, and oftentimes I’ve had to commit to not talking about worrisome situations with other people. I can spend so much time talking to other humans around me, that I neglect the One I should be talking (and listening) to in the first place. If it’s the same for you, consider not talking about your worries for a week, a month or even a year.

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  • 10. Remember that 85% of the time, worry yields nothing.

    I read the statistic years ago in Joanna Weaver’s book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (which is an excellent book, especially if you’re feeling trapped by worry). And the same holds true today: 85 percent of what we worry about never actually happens. In a further study, of the remaining 15 percent, “79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning.” So, what does this mean in the end? According to Don Joseph Goewey, 97 percent of what we worry about stems from fear-based exaggerations and misperceptions.

    So, what then can we say to close? Might you leave today a little less anxious about tomorrow. Might a Holly speak into your life, as she once spoke into mine. And, might you see and lean into and trust God just a little more, as a result of putting one or more of these exercises into practice. 

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    Cara Meredith is a writer and speaker from Seattle, Washington. A member of the Redbud Writers Guild, she is also an adjunct professor at Northwest University and co-host of the Shalom Book Club, a monthly book club podcast. Meanwhile, she spends most of her spare time trying to get her children to eat everything on their plate. You can connect with her on her blogFacebook and Twitter