Monday, June 2, 2014

"Hey Worry, Don't Unpack Your Bags!"

It’s an exciting time at our house.  Our daughter is getting married in two weeks.  Lots of preparations and finding ways to include all of our loved ones, including our seniors.  Just last week I went to visit my   mother-in-law and fill her in on all the upcoming events.   To be honest her response surprised me.  “Well, I hope I don’t mess up the wedding.”  What??  In my mind she should have been thinking about what a great event this will be and how she will be with her whole family. She had been spending her time thinking of all the problems that could occur instead of all the JOY!  She was worried.

You know those people, they may be in your inner circle (in fact it could even be YOU!) Worry has taken on a disproportionate value in their lives.  In his book, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of The Boat – Pastor John Ortberg devotes a whole chapter to the discussion of worry.  He explains worry in this fashion. “Worry is a special form of fear.  The traditional distinction is that fear is caused by an external source while worry or anxiety is produced from the inside.”  “Worry is fear that has unpacked its bags and signed a long term lease.”

Aging, or dealing with a loved one who is going through this process can be a hot bed of worry.  You may be thinking, “Am I doing the right thing?”  “Are they going to be alright?”  “What did the Doctor mean by that?”  Your elderly parent may be thinking, “Am I going to be alone?”  “Am I going to be in pain?”  “Who’s going to care for me?”  These are things we ALL think about, so take one step back and breathe deeply…….YOU ARE NORMAL.   It’s when your fears “unpack their bags and move in long term,” –that’s when you have a problem.

Normal fear is part of our emotional makeup.  It started back in the Stone Age with the fight or flight response.  There was a time when we had to make a decision – Fight or Flight – Eat or Be Eaten! Thankfully those days are for the most part in the past but the body still has the fight or flight response and a big part of that response is FEAR.  Fear grips all of us on a daily basis.  It reminds us to buckle our seat belt, read the date label on the package of meat in the grocery, and hold our grandson’s hand when we cross the street together. Fear can be a productive emotion when channeled into pro-active response and solution based methods.

Worry on the other hand can be paralyzing.  As we age, normal risk taking, challenges and growth opportunities are not as easily dealt with.  Stress factors and feeling out of control can trap anyone of ANY AGE in what I call the “WEB OF WORRY”.

So how can we help our Mom, Dad, friend, and even ourselves when it comes to the pervasive issue of WORRY?  It’s time again to “READ THE SIGNS” and take “PRO-ACTIVE STEPS.” When you feel yourself – or see your loved one stressed, or seeming to sink into a depression regarding what “might be” here is a starting point for pro-active steps to take:

1.LIVE IN THE NOW - try not to dwell on issues that MAY happen, deal with what IS going on.  When dealing with a senior encourage them to take one step at a time.  “Let’s talk about TODAY.”

2.TAKE POSITIVE ACTION STEPS – doing something helps diminish our fear and gives us more control.
 a.See your Doctor – feeling blue or worrying can sometimes be a chemical imbalance that can be addressed medically.    
 b.Get outside and if possible get more exercise.  Fresh air and getting the blood flowing is nature’s remedy.
 c.Develop a game plan. Do you need to address where Mom is going to live?  Do that!
 Do you need to have more help at home for Dad?  Arrange it!
 Do you think that money is going to be a future concern?  Investigate your options!

 3. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE –you need to FIND IT and focus your energies on that.
a.What can Dad still do for himself?  Talk about that!
b.What does Mom have coming up in her future?  A Wedding?  A Church Function? A Holiday? Celebrate the thought of that!      
c. Does Mom or Dad have a special friend or family member they would enjoy seeing?  Plan that!

 4.BE GRATEFUL – gratitude changes attitude!
I’d love to say I thought of it but frankly Oprah was the one who said, “Keep a blessings journal daily.” Simply writing down three NEW things each day that we are thankful for can change our whole outlook.   Try it for 21 days (the time it takes to develop a habit) and you will be amazed at how you look at life. This is an activity you can do with your Mom /or Dad. Finding out what they are most grateful for can be a journey you take together.        

It’s okay to experience fear.  It’s a natural human emotion. When we are experiencing fear we can be sure that we are growing.  Fear is nature’s way of PUSHING US FORWARD.  The important thing is not to let its unproductive friend WORRY “unpack its bags”.

Best to you always,


As always I invite you to share your stories and thoughts as we help each other through this journey.