I’m a worrier. I come by it naturally. I was born into a family of worriers. In fact, there have been seasons of my life when I’ve been paralyzed by worry and anxiety. Thankfully, good counseling and good medications have helped me press through the most challenging times.
Beyond professional help I’ve needed in different seasons, though, these are some of the specific practices I embrace to stay healthy spiritually, physically and mentally.
To experience less worry and more joy, you might want to consider these new habits as well:
- Block out time in your schedule for the most important person in your life. For me, that’s my wife. Even though Emily and I are married, I still schedule times when the two of us can spend time together.
- Help other people. I’ve noticed that when I put my focus on helping other people with their challenges, my problems seem to fade away. Jesus once encouraged us to love God and love others. That Jesus was a smart guy because that advice really works.
- Learn to delegate to others. My tendency is to hold on to too much because I think I can better control the outcome. In reality, the more I hold on to, the less gets accomplished and the more burned out I get. I’m always better with a team.
- Mentor someone 15 to 20 years younger than you. Again, there’s value in pouring into someone else. They win by getting your wisdom and experience. You win by enjoying the reward of helping someone take their next steps in leadership and life.
- Take time off from work. Take one day off each week where you don’t do any work. Retreat one time every quarter. Try to spend a night some place away from home. Vacation at least once each year. By the way, just planning and looking forward to these times away helps me as much or more than actually being there.
- Just say no to travel sports. In other words, don’t revolve your entire life around your kids’ activities. It’s not healthy for yourself or your marriage, and it’s certainly not healthy for your kids. This is counter-cultural, but you don’t have to fall into this trap.
- Turn off technology. Put your smartphone in your home office, turn off the lights, close the door and walk away. Test it out. You may be surprised to learn that the world will keep on spinning without your immediate email response or Facebook comment.
- Work toward landing a job that best fits your strengths and passions. No, you won’t likely start with that job. But, over time, you will be more fulfilled when what you do aligns with the way you’re wired up.
- Pause for a moment to pray. I’m not a long pray-er. I don’t know how to pray fancy prayers. You may not even notice me praying because many times I don’t close my eyes, bow my head or open my mouth. But as life’s challenges arise, I’m routinely asking God for wisdom, strength and peace. I’ve learned that God answers short prayers too.
- Watch dumb comedies and laugh a lot. I need to laugh. It makes me healthier. That’s why, at any given time, Emily and I are working our way through a comedy series on Netflix. Many times it’s the last thing we do before we go to sleep.
- Choose friends that make you smile. If someone is routinely negative, limit your time with them. Seriously. You get to choose how you invest your time with other people. Don’t let the same person drain you on a regular basis. Set boundaries.
- Spend time engaging hobbies. For me, right now, it’s playing the piano. When I sit down to play, I’m not performing for anyone. It’s just me and the piano, and that allows me to disengage from the world around me for a moment.
- Practice the art of being thankful. This is a discipline for me. I don’t naturally celebrate the victories very well. I’m learning to take time to thank God and thank others.
- Take a walk outside. There’s something about creation that helps me connect with God and disengage from the stresses of life. If I can get outside by a lake or the ocean, it’s even better.
- Get counsel from someone older and wiser than you. Most times there’s someone else who has already experienced the challenges I’m facing. They can help create an action plan rather than guessing or worrying about next steps.
- If you have a disagreement with someone, immediately talk with them to resolve the conflict. The longer I let something fester, the deeper the wound gets. The sooner I have the tough conversations to deal with the conflict, the less stress I have to deal with in the long run.
- Develop a system for keeping track of projects and tasks. I used to waste a lot of time and cause a lot of stress trying to remember tasks that I need to accomplish. Now, as soon as something comes to mind, it gets on my task list to be scheduled for completion.
- Let yourself dream about the future. I need the future to keep me grounded today. I need to know there are realistic goals in front of me that require that I steward my life well. Ultimately this is about the hope of eternity for those of us who are Christ-followers, but it also includes goals for my marriage, family and business.
- Acknowledge that you’re not in control. I can work myself into quite a funk when I start to believe that I’m in control. Life is messy. It’s going to be filled with unexpected curve balls. It’s in those times that I find myself praying “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) I remind myself that God’s in control, and I am not.