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“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” —Mark Twain

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This quote from Mark Twain is a little reminder to not focus on unnecessary worry. Too many times we play out worst case scenarios in our head that never come to be. This happens a lot with an idle mind. Sometimes we have too much free time on our hands and find ourselves thinking of all the bad things that could happen. For example, going to the dentist. Some people will think of all the possible bad things that can happen. They will worry about the bad things up to the point until they actually go to the dentist. Imagine that you get the reminder that the dentist appointment is tomorrow. If you are a worrier, or what my brother-n-law refers to as “A Nervous Nelly”, then you may be thinking all types of bad things.  “What if I have a cavity,” “My gums are going to really bleed when the hygienist flosses my teeth,” or ”I bet I need a root canal.” We can all agree that these are some possible bad outcomes. So, you are nervous up until the point where you find out the hygienist is really good at her job and your gums are fine. Your dentist says, “Looks good…keep up the good work.” All that worry, for things that never came to be.

“He who suffers before it is necessary suffers more than is necessary.” —Seneca

Seneca, the stoic philosopher, is saying that anyone who worries, before there is even a confirmed problem, is wasting a lot of time.  Why suffer before you really have to, or even need to?  I know it is hard to be patient and not worry when we are waiting the outcome of something unsettling we heard.    But why worry about things you can’t control or things that could take a long time to find out what will happen.  One of the worst is when the doctor says, “It is most likely benign, but we will send it to the lab and know for sure in about a week.”  What do most people do?  They think, “What if it isn’t benign? What if this is the one thing that ends it all for me? What will happen to my wife…my kids???”  They are nervous and scared.  Constantly worrying, until the doctor’s office calls and says the tests are negative.  “Oh no, NEGATIVE!!!”  Yeah, I know, a “negative” result is good and most people know that.  But they will probably still mutter to the person calling, “So, everything is good?”  Once confirmed, they are finally at ease.

Wasted Time

But what happened?  You just spent the last five days worried about a scenario that never came to be.  Something that never happened, but pretty much consumed your thoughts.   It took over your mind every waking hour since you heard you had to wait for your results.  There has to be a better way.  To much time wasted on worrying about stories we make up in our heads rather than dealing with the reality right now.  No matter what the scenario, any time worrying about something you can’t do anything about right now is time wasted.  Don’t waste your time on worry.

A Hairy Hemangioma???  What???

I remember when my son came home from the hospital after he was born.  We noticed a dark spot on his chest that, which with each passing day, became more pronounced.  It got to the point where we knew something wasn’t right.  My wife and I were very nervous about this dark spot.  When we went to the doctor’s office, he quickly said it was “A hairy hemangioma.”  “A what???”  He explained that some babies have them, and that it would most likely be absorbed by the body and not a big deal.  But if it became a problem, they would have to remove it.  We were scared.  This was back in 1999, and I had just gotten access to the Internet, through dial up, which was all new to me.  I looked up “hairy hemangioma”, which by the way was not the best thing to search for, even in 1999…lol. I weeded through the graphic pictures until I found the information I needed.  I found exactly what the doctor had told us.  Go figure.

After a few more weeks of the hemangioma becoming a bit more pronounced, it began to fade away.  It scared us for many long days, even weeks, until it was completely gone and we had forgotten about it.  We had experienced so much worry associated with this, but in the end, everything was fine.  Thanks be to God.  But we worried, needlessly.  

Final Thoughts

The point I am trying to make here is that it is very easy to hear something that makes us un-easy, and then fabricate all the worse case scenarios. The kind of scenarios that can drive us crazy with worry, stress us out, and bring down our quality of life.  Some people actually live in this state all the time.  Constantly in fear of what ifs.  This worry can drastically affect our health.  The best thing that can be done is to focus on the present moment.  What problems do you have right now?  Not tomorrow, one week, or even ten minutes from now, but right now.  Live each moment and focus on what you are doing at that moment.  Deal with things as they come.  Don’t think of every possible bad thing that could happen.  That is a recipe for disaster and a rough life.   Instead, think of positive outcomes, go about your day, enjoying each moment.  The only true place to find freedom from worry is in the current moment.  Become focused on what you are doing right now, not what you might be doing a week from now.  Find happiness in the simple task at hand.  The more present you can be, the more freedom from worry you will have.

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