How to Be a Grown-Up

Growing old takes time, growing up takes work

The Worry Wart's Manifesto

Trading in worry for faith.

I had an emotional breakdown as I cleaned every inch of my bathroom last week.

There was sobbing and scrubbing. There was crying and Clorox. There were tears in my toilet.

You’re probably waiting for an explanation, so here it is: I realized I’m not good at being happy. And that made me very, very sad. (No, I’m not hormonal and pregnant– I just act like it.)

A huge obstacle to happiness for so many people– myself included– is anxiety about the future.

And these days I’ve got lots of it. My husband and I are taking lots of big risks in the coming months (details soon), and these risks make us sick with fear. Every night one of us inevitably asks the other, “Are we going to be okay?”

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

But those of us who struggle with anxiety and worry can’t solely blame our unhappiness on circumstance. We dwell on the worst possible scenario so often that worry has become the default setting of our brains. Through lots of practice, we’ve trained our brains to automatically imagine terrible scenarios and exaggerate their consequences. And this is no bueno, man. No bueno.

Fellow worry warts: we’ve got to break this bad habit. Because if we can’t decrease unhealthy levels of worry, we’ll never make room for peace in our lives. We’ll never quite feel okay, even when things are (relatively) fine. And we sure as hell won’t take any necessary risks in our careers, relationships, or life in general.

The Trade-Off

Given all that, let’s talk strategy. You can’t permanently eliminate something like worry without replacing it with something better. So what can worry be replaced with?

The answer: Faith. (Either the religious or non-religious kind, take your pick.)

You should take my word on this, especially since I don’t actually want faith to be the key to happiness. Faith is hard, damn it! Faith means you can’t solely rely on worrying, planning, and hard work to get you where you want to go. Which sucks. Because it’s a lot easier to Go!Go!Go! than it is to develop some intangible virtue that we typically equate with Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and our favorite grandma.

Faith is an unnerving paradox. It’s about letting go in order to receive. It’s painful yet freeing. It suck balls, but it will help you grow them.

So for the sake of our own well-being, we MUST find a way to believe that there is greatness just beyond the bend. We must develop in an inner knowing that no matter what life looks like right now, everything will be okay.

Faith In Action

My bathroom breakdown was Phase 1 of my attempt to trade in worry for faith. It involved mourning a part of myself that I must abandon — the fearful person who holds a silly belief that if she worries a little more, maybe her anxiety about the future will go away.

(This pattern of thinking is so inherently part of me, I don’t know who I’ll be without it. Probably someone who feels happy or something.)

Here are some activities and exercises I’ve been doing to take the edge off when I’m feeling particularly worried or anxious:

  • Reframing scary situations and gaining a healthier perspective as a result
  • Reviewing my day and taking note of the things I am grateful for
  • Silence and deep breathing
  • Prayer

Wish me luck. And I’ll be wishing for yours as well.

YOUR TURN: How has worry affected your life? What helps you worry less?

Copyright Kimberly Eclipse

Read more of this writer's PG-13 antics at A Brave Life.

Kimberly Eclipse, M.A., M.S.Ed., a Visiting Nurse Service bereavement counselor, teaches psychology at Nyack College.

more...

Subscribe to How to Be a Grown-Up

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.