There are times when we might worry about the future. Especially as that future becomes shorter. In my wellness classes we spend time talking about what most troubles the older women in the group. The number one concern that is brought up is not knowing what the future will bring. Some women describe being worried about what may happen to their health or independence. Some admit being afraid about keeping a roof over their head. And others mention losing important relationships. Whatever the focus, it boils down to uncertainty about what’s coming.
The more we worry, the more harm we do—to our bodies and our minds. Unchecked, anxious thoughts and feelings can threaten our well-being, as well as our ability to cope with whatever situations arise.
Fear and worry about an uncertain future prevent us from seeing opportunities or taking advantage of better choices. So it’s important that we learn to cope with the uncertainty we feel. Here’s one prescription.
First, we must accept that we don’t know everything. Like the headlights of a car can only show several feet of road ahead on a dark night, as we move through life we can only know a little bit of what’s ahead at a time. But like the driver of that car, we can continue to proceed along our path trusting that in time, more of the road ahead will be revealed.
As a control freak, it often drives me crazy to have to wait on answers. I want to know everything right now. I want to see how things will work out. But life has taught me that it just doesn’t work that way. I’ve come to realize I will know when I’m supposed to know. I’ve learned to trust that God/the Universe/a Higher Power has my back.
I remember wanting to go to a conference last summer. I barely had two nickels to rub together, but somehow, one by one, things fell in place. I received an unexpected gift that allowed me to make the trip to the conference site. When I arrived, the hotel surprised me by upgrading my room to one with a private balcony and a spectacular ocean view. And I had a successful (and fun) time.
Over and over I have seen that being worried wasn’t necessary. Once I had some bad pain in my jaw and I suspected that a tooth needed to be pulled. As it turned out, I had a touch of the flu and just needed fluids and some rest. Another time years ago, I was just a couple of months from being homeless. Then, seemingly out of the blue, the phone rang and I had a job offer.
When my mind fills with worrisome or anxious thoughts, my prescription for wellness starts with moving my attention away from any concerns and onto the present moment. Take several slow, deep breaths. To center yourself, slow your heart rate, and calm your body. Right now all is well. Never mind tomorrow. Forget about yesterday. In this moment all needs are met.
The next step is to recall a time when you expected the worst, but it never came to be. A time when you thought all was lost, but you somehow found your way. Know that you are not in control of everything. Open and allow what is to be. Think of a toy boat in water. It floats along, following the movement of the creek. It does not struggle to paddle against the current. It does not fight to go upstream. Imagine being in that boat floating and allowing it to carry you to the next place you are to be. Let go and let God.
Finally, find something to be thankful for, No matter what the conditions of your life, there are things for which to be grateful. The more we turn our attention onto those things, the more we find to be grateful for in life.
You may not know right now how things will end up, but understand they will turn out as they we meant to. Then take a step. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”