I am a worrier. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true. In fact, it’s worse than that. I was actually diagnosed this past summer (2014) with depression and anxiety disorder. I was suffering from panic attacks. And though I’ve learned better over the past several months how to deal with my issues, the worry and panic can sometimes start to creep up on me. And lately, three questions have really helped me remain focused and deal with any issues that arise.
1. What can I do about this?
Sometimes, the answer is, “Nothing.” For example, I begin to worry because it’s snowing outside. What if it snows so much that the power goes out? What if we’re unable to get somewhere because of the snow? Then I remind myself: what can I do about whether or not it’s snowing? Nothing.
But then I can go beyond that to other, more constructive thoughts. What can I do about this? Well, I can make sure we’re prepared for a power outage. I can make a plan for what we would do if we had an extended situation without power. I can make sure that both of our vehicles are well-equipped to handle driving in the snow. There are small things I can do to help ease my worry about the big things.
2. What can I do about this right now?
Again, sometimes the answer is, “Nothing.” I’m sitting in a meeting at work, and I look out the window and see it start to snow. The worry and panic start to creep up, and there’s nothing I can do about the snow, and there’s nothing I can do right at that moment.
But sometimes I can go beyond that to other, more constructive things. If the meeting isn’t one that requires 100% of my attention, I can make a list of things that I can do to be ready for the snow when I leave work. I can leave work a few minutes early. I can start my truck before I get to it and let it warm up a little bit. I can plan to drive slower on my way home. And I can trust God to take care of me.
3. What should I be doing right now?
Very often, the answer simply is, “Something else.” For example, if I’m at work in a meeting, I should be focused on the purpose of that meeting and contributing well to it. If I’m with my wife and son, I should be giving them my attention, instead of giving in to worry and panic.
And sometimes, I take a few seconds to make a note for myself — either audible or written — so that when I’m in a time and place to take care of the issue, I can remember what my original thoughts were, and how to deal with them.
Then I come back to question number 3, “What should I be doing right now?” and do my best to give my full attention to the matter at hand. I’m training myself that I can set some things aside and deal with them later — I don’t have to deal with them right now.
These three simple questions have really helped me over the past few weeks, and I hope they will help you too.