So many of us, even those strong in faith wonder how they can stop worrying. Living in a fallen world gives you lots to worry about, but living in a relationship with Jesus can free you from ever having to worry about anything. No matter what happens in your life, you don’t have to worry about it if you choose to rely on Jesus to help you manage it and find peace in the process.
So if you’ve been in the habit of worrying, let go of worry and embrace the peace that Jesus offers you. Here are 13 steps to stop worrying:
Step 1: Recognize how little worry can help you. Worry doesn’t have the power to prevent anything bad from happening in your life. Also, the bad things that you worry about may never end up happening, and many good things can happen instead. So worry is completely useless.
Step 2: Recognize how much worry harms you. Worrying doesn’t benefit you in any way, but it does harm you in many ways. Worry harms your health physically (such as by contributing to high blood pressure, causing insomnia, and suppressing your immune system), mentally (by sending a stream of negative thoughts into your mind), and spiritually (by encouraging fear rather than faith in God). Worry also wastes valuable time and energy that you could be using for better activities.
Step 3: Distinguish between worry and concern. While it’s healthy to be concerned about something, it’s unhealthy to worry about it. That’s because concern motivates you to do something to solve problems or plan helpful ways to cope with them, but worry keeps you stuck on problems and distracts you from planning any helpful ways of dealing with them.
Step 4: Identify what triggers worry in your life. You can begin to worry whenever: you encounter a situation that feels out of control; you feel vulnerable or powerless; you let your imagination run away with negative thoughts about what may happen in the future; or you experience a loss that’s traumatic, difficult, or unexpected. Once you understand what triggers worry in your life, you can begin to guard against worry in those situations.
Step 5: Make a crucial choice. No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop bad things from happening, because you live in a fallen world. However, you do have the choice of how you respond to whatever happens. You can decide to stop dwelling on worrisome thoughts after they enter your mind, and to pray about those thoughts instead, inviting God to work in the situation about which you had been worrying. Choose to pray instead of worrying.
Step 6: Trust God to deal with what worries you. Since God wants the best for you, is always with you, and has the power to do anything, you can trust any worrisome situation to Him and invite Him to work it out for the best. When you struggle to trust God with something that’s worrying you, ask God to reveal whatever unbelief or unhealed wounds may be preventing you from trusting Him completely. Confess those to God and ask Him to give you the faith and healing you need.
Step 7: Change your worrisome thoughts rather than suppressing them. The more you try not to think about something that worries you, the more preoccupied your mind becomes with that thought, which makes you think about it even more. So suppressing thoughts about your worries doesn’t work. Instead, pray for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and help you evaluate how every thought that enters it compares to biblical truth. When the Holy Spirit shows you that a worrisome thought doesn’t reflect what’s true, you can replace that thought with a new thought that’s based on the reality of what God says is true.
Step 8: Develop healthier lifestyle habits. Unhealthy lifestyle habits may make you more prone to worrying than you would be if you took care of yourself the way God intends. So eat nutritious meals, drink plenty of water, reduce or eliminate alcohol and caffeine, avoid smoking, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, say “no” to activities that you don’t really want to do or can’t reasonably handle in your schedule, and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and releasing tension in your muscles.
Step 9: Look beyond your circumstances to God. When you focus your thoughts too much on your circumstances, it’s easy for your mind to wander off into worrying. But if you focus on God – who is in control of your circumstances – you’ll get to know more about His great power and love, which will help you see that it makes sense to stop worrying and start trusting God more.
Step 10: Use prayer and meditation to reduce stress and anxiety. Brain scans and EEG monitoring have both shown that praying and meditating can significantly reduce the stress and anxiety that can trigger worry. Pray regularly about whatever concerns you, and meditate on Bible verses that describe God’s comforting promises to you.
Step 11: Keep in mind that everything is possible when you believe. You don’t have to worry when you remember that God is working on your behalf, because God can do anything to help you. Choose to believe that God will do what’s best for you; place your hope in Him.
Step 12: Live in the moment. Worry focuses your attention on the future, anticipating negative events that may never happen, and which you can’t prevent if they do happen. Decide to live in the present, taking one day at a time as Jesus says you should do, trusting that He will empower you to handle every worrisome situation that comes your way.
Step 13: Cultivate contentment. If you’re not content with your life the way it is right now, you’ll be prone to worry. Ask God to teach you to be content with whatever circumstances you encounter. Focus on the fact that God is always with you, place your confidence in God’s goodness, and trust Him to accomplish good purposes through whatever type of circumstances you go through at any given time. Make a habit of noticing the many ways that God is blessing you every day, and then expressing your thanks to God for your relationship with Him and the blessings that He is constantly giving you.
Begin applying these steps each day and you will begin to discover how you can stop worrying! Don’t focus on doing these steps perfectly, but steady and persistent choices will get you toward the change of heart and mind!
Adapted from Letting Go of Worry: Finding God’s Plan for Peace and Contentment, copyright 2011 by Dr. Linda Mintle. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.