Sometimes when we are really anxious, it is because we are trying to solve today problems that we don’t actually have to solve for a week, ten weeks, or even ten years. For instance, I remember when I was just beginning high school, I worried about where I was going to go to college. When I first began college, I worried about where I was going to get a job after I graduated. When I got my first job out of college, I started worrying about if I would have enough money when I was older and needed to retire. You see a pattern developing here.
It is normal to think about our future sometimes, even often, and to wonder how things are going to work out. Wondering about our future, however, can become a problem when we feel like we have to figure out today exactly how things are going to work out in the future. When we start thinking this way, we can become incredibly anxious because there is no way we can solve today the problems of next year or even the problems of tomorrow.
Every day we gain new facts, new talents, new connections, new skills, and new insights into our lives. In one way, every day is like Christmas because it is filled with new gifts—new resources–that we need to live life that day. (Of course, I certainly understand that not every day feels happy like Christmas). So you are not required to solve the problems of tomorrow because you have not opened those gifts yet. Tomorrow you will open those gifts, and you will have the resources you need to solve the problems of tomorrow. And the next day, you will be open those gifts, and the next day, etc.
When we focus on today, we become aware of the gifts we have to address issues in our life right now. I think this is perhaps why Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NIV).
This picture is from my next post which is titled, “Adventures with My Anxiety Dragon”.
Sometimes when I am worried about stuff tomorrow or a week or a year from now, I take a rain check. I say to myself, “I am not required to solve this problem today. I am going to take a rain check. I will start worrying about it exactly a week from now (or a month or a year or whatever).” When you take a rain check on worrying, you can even schedule a date in your calendar or planner to start worrying about something on a certain date in the future. Setting a date like this often helps me to let go of what I am worrying about right now, and I often find that by the time my scheduled worried date rolls around, the problem has already solved itself.
If you are feeling anxious right now, remember that you only have to focus on this moment. Breathe. Relax your shoulders. Perhaps call or text a friend and talk about feeling anxious. Step outside and feel the sunshine or rain on your face. Repeat this to yourself, “I only have to worry about today and this moment. I have everything I need for this moment. I can take a rain check.”
If you would like to read another brief reflection on worry (with a practice exercise), you can do that here.