Sep 112017 4 Responses

When Worry Knocks, Do This

A free-throw can create worry for a shooter. While a basketball game is often fast-paced, loud, and a continual back and forth between two teams, a free-throw is anything but that. The other team can’t defend it. If you are at home, the crowd goes completely silent. Instead of simply reacting to the play before you, a free-throw gives ample time for a player to think. All these unique elements create stress.

In order to mitigate the anxiety and to strengthen performance, players create a pre-shot routine. They develop a specific plan which they follow every time in order to get their mind into a good spot so that it helps, rather than hurts, their play.

A good pre-shot routine lessens stress and enables success. (See: Anxiety–Learn From It Before You Fix It)

What is your routine when you feel worry beginning to develop? What are the concrete steps you take in order to mitigate your fears and to empower success?

Don’t Let Worry Lead You

The mistake many of us make is that we have no plan. When worries arise, we do not have standard operating procedures. Without a specific plan, we are left defenseless. Instead of leading our worries, our worries lead us. And they never lead to good places. (See: A Simple Way to Better Your Day)

Without a plan, we do what feels right. This often includes:

  • isolating ourselves from healthy communities
  • continually thinking about what is causing us concern
  • dreaming up negative outcomes which could occur
  • rehearsing bad experiences from the past
  • assuming others are thinking bad about us
  • overestimating how many people are watching us or what they are thinking about us
  • forgoing exercise or social events
  • watching television or using social media

Notice something about these behaviors: none of them are effective measures to decrease worry. Many of them are nearly guaranteed to increase our feelings of uncertainty, pessimism, and doubt.

What we naturally do in response to worry, creates more worry.

A Pre-Game Plan for Worry

Instead of simply reacting whenever worry comes our way, we would be wise to create a specific plan of how we will handle worry. Whenever we feel anxiety rising in our hearts and minds, we should have a go-to set of actions which are designed to decrease our concerns. (See: You Better Make Up Your Mind)

While no two plans may look alike, there are some basic options which can be an aspect of any plan. There are some actions which are far more likely to decrease stress rather than increase it.

Actions that decrease worry:

Healthy community. Find mature friends and colleagues who encourage you, give you wise advice, and consistently direct you in a positive way. Sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine.

Exercise. Few things reduce stress as much as activities which cause us to exert energy. A brisk walk is one of the best tools for reducing worry.

Breathing. Two minutes of intentional, slow, mindful breathing is effective in lowering blood-pressure and re-centering our minds. If you’ve never tried it, start. Slowly breathe in through the nostrils, then forcibly exhale through your lips in a way where you can feel the air leave your body.

Rehearse the good. Worry is often expressed in ruminating over the bad. We can negate worry by recounting that which is good. Remind yourself of what is true, positive and right.

Nature. There is something about nature which assists us in putting things into perspective. We experience more worry than any generation before us, in part, because we are inside more than any generation before us. Water, woods, sunshine, and stars can all reduce our anxiety.

Inspiration. We all have things that inspire us, so we should use those inspirations in specific ways. A book with great prose, a movie with an inspiring scene, a song with powerful lyrics can all serve to refocus our minds.

Sleep. While doing nothing but watching a screen is a great way to add to worry, taking a nap or getting a good night’s sleep can greatly reduce stress. Many times our worries rise to the level of our weariness. If you are worried, get some sleep.

Shower. A shower or bath can often have magical powers. Not only does it feel good, but showering often accesses a different part of our brain from where we spend most of our time. This is why creative ideas are often experienced in the shower.

Create Your Plan

The most effective plan to lessen your stress is the one you intentionally create and then regularly employ. With just a little thought and some trial and error, you can create a routine which can be implemented whenever you feel worries arise.

Here’s my plan. When I feel anxiety rising, I try to do three things:

Rest. Depending on the concern, I take some break from the source of my worry. I regularly employ (and use with my children) a simple breathing exercise. This is useful before giving a speech or walking into a hectic hospital room. In other situations, I’ll try to take a 15-minute nap or a mental break from work.

Connect. I’m an introvert, but relationships are still very important to me. When I feel stressed, it’s often a sign I haven’t spent a good amount of time with Jenny. A simple walk can re-engage us faster than anything. Many times, I need to reconnect with God. A walk by myself or some time in nature can take me out of my self-centeredness and into a relationship with him.

Engage. I’m a word guy. I love inspiring messages or well-spoken words. A strong speech, good sermon, or well-written passage can inspire me. I keep my favorite books within an arm’s reach of my office chair. I have favorite passages of Scripture where I regularly read. I will often YouTube some of my favorite speakers and speeches for encouragement. When I’m worried, I often need to be reminded of the truth. These things do that for me.

Don’t copy my routine, but do create your own. List two things for each of these areas–rested, connected, and engaged. Create a go-to list of what to do when you feel worried.

4 Responses to When Worry Knocks, Do This
  1. Steve Brawner Reply

    Wonderful post, Kevin. Loved the analogy with the free throw shooter. As I was reading it, I thought about another particularly destructive mental state I sometimes fall into. I’m going to try to create a routine for that one.

  2. Jim Bradburn Reply

    Good golf lesson Kevin

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