A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”
Remember to put the glass down.
I was just reading this old anecdote again this morning and realized how much truth was being conveyed. You also may have heard it before. The meaning is clear, but i had some additional thoughts.
It reminded me of the importance of friends and community. Some “glasses” can’t be set down that easily. They have been thrust into our hands without our consent. But we don’t always have to hold them alone.
For others, it seems like they are always picking up glasses that they don’t need to. Every worry is their worry. Every problem is potentially their problem. I feel for these people. For whatever reason life is scary and unpredictable. For them living joyfully in the present is very difficult because they feel as if any moment something unpleasant might occur.
So what do you do if you are one of these “over-thinkers”? How do you “put the glass down”?
- Do some journaling. Sometimes getting the worries down on paper transfers it from your brain onto a medium where you can look at it from a different perspective. As you read what your have written try to wring the absolute truth from the fear. Is it really as big a concern as you feel?
- Do something physical. I like to go out and work in the yard and accomplish something. Some people like to do a craft or even get some housework done. Add some uplifting music.
- Distract yourself. This is my favorite. We call it thought shifting. We intentionally focus on something else. It could be reading a book, listening to joyful music, calling a friend or praying.
- Read the Bible. What does God say about your worries? What has He promised? Can you take comfort in the fact that He knows all your needs? Are there favorite verses in the Bible that calm your fears? Have you memorized them?
- Share your worries. Pick safe, positive friends to talk to, and accept any honest reassurances from them that you can. Isolation only makes things worse. Someone else’s perspective may yield some strategies that you may not have considered.
- Seek professional help. Sometimes it takes the expertise of a pastor, counselor or doctor to shepherd you through the process. There is no shame in that choice, only wisdom.