Winning the Worry War
The heart of winning the worry war is believing the truth about God. Believing in spite of the evidence of the moment. Believing when circumstances look grim. Believing when there appears to be no answer to a problem. Believing when you need an answer and cry out, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24). He will and does.
But worry-free living is much more than just positive thinking. Worry does not go away by simply thinking good thoughts! Beginning with our belief in the goodness of God, we then can start tackling the thoughts that create worry. A study published in Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy concluded that 85 percent of the time our worst fears never actually materialize. Think about this for a moment: How much time and energy do we spend worrying about things that will most likely never happen? The more we dwell on those baseless worried thoughts, the more those thoughts feel real and repeat themselves over and over again in our mind.
Identify the Worried Thought
So what do you do? First, identify the worried thought. What are you thinking right before you feel worried? It's most likely a negative evaluation of yourself or the situation. A thought like I can't do this, or I'm inadequate, or I will fail, or People will make fun of me usually precedes worry. Other times experiences trigger the worry, such as seeing a car crash on the interstate, being late to work, watching the nightly news, or wondering what the biopsy will show.
When I treat people with anxiety problems, they often tell me that no thought precedes their feelings of anxiety. This is simply not true. They do have a thought but have yet to identify it. The key is to be more aware of what you think or feel before you worry. When you have a negative thought or experience, you need to pay attention to it.
Take the Thought Captive
To break the worry habit, as soon as you identify the worried thought, aim to answer it with a more reasonable or realistic thought. For example, if the worried thought is What if I don't make it in time for work?, you could answer it with a thought like I will deal with it, or My boss might get mad but I can explain what happened, or I can't control traffic and I will have to take the consequences. In other words, counter the worried thought with the confidence that you can handle the uncertainty or problem of the moment. And even if you cannot, reassure yourself that the world will not fall apart. Answer the thought with assurance that you will tolerate and survive the situation.