Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Stop Worrying So Much?
“One of the most stressful things for a young person can be the future. You worry about yourself. Should I leave home? Go to school? Take up the full-time ministry? Get married? You have so many options that it’s scary.”—Shane, 20 years old.
DO YOU worry a lot? Many youths do, and for a variety of reasons. A newsletter published to offer guidance to parents reported: “A recent worldwide survey of teenagers ages 15 to 18 in 41 countries revealed that getting a good job is the top concern among today’s teens.” Next in line was worry over their parents’ health. Fear of losing someone they loved was also high on the list.
A U.S. Department of Education survey found that “the pressure to get good grades” was a major concern of many youths in the United States. The same survey revealed that more than a few young people feel the way Shane did (quoted at the outset). Another youth, named Ashley, says: “I’m worrying about my future.”
Yet other youths worry about their physical safety. According to a 1996 survey, almost 50 percent of youths in the United States felt that their school was getting more violent. Over eight million teens (37 percent) reported that they knew someone who had been shot!
Not all worries are quite so grim, though. For many youths their biggest worries involve their social life. Says an on-line magazine directed to parents: “Teens do worry about having a boyfriend or girlfriend, but more often they worry about having no friends at all.” A teenage girl named Meagan laments: “How do you look and act cool? I need some friends.” Along the same lines, a 15-year-old Christian youth named Natanael observes: “The kids at school worry about style. They worry about how they walk, talk, and look to others. They’re afraid of looking stupid.”
Problems—A Part of Life
It would be nice if we could lead worry-free lives. However, the Bible says: “Man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation.” (Job 14:1) Problems—and the worries that accompany them—are therefore a part of life. But if you let worries and anxieties dominate your thinking, you can do a lot of damage to yourself. The Bible warns: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down.”—Proverbs 12:25.
One way to avoid unnecessary worry is to control your own behavior. Sixteen-year-old Ana says: “Many of my classmates are worried about becoming pregnant or getting a sexually transmitted disease.” But you can avoid such worries by holding to the Bible’s moral standards. (Galatians 6:7) Even so, not all your problems may be so clear-cut or easily resolved. How can you stop worrying so much?
Many people allow worry to immobilize them. But an article appearing in a magazine for teenagers suggested that one can “worry wisely” by turning worry into constructive action! The Bible has many principles to help you do that. Consider Proverbs 21:5: “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage.” Say, for example, that you want to have a gathering of some friends in the congregation. Good planning can spare you much worry. Ask yourself, ‘Exactly who will be invited? When do I want them to arrive? When do I want them to leave? How much do I really need in the way of refreshments? What are some fun activities that everyone will enjoy?’ The more you think things out, the more likely it is that your gathering will go well.
However, you can generate worry by allowing things to become too complicated. Jesus Christ gave this advice to a woman who went to more trouble than was necessary in providing for her guest: “A few things, though, are needed, or just one.” (Luke 10:42) So ask yourself, ‘What really is important to make this gathering successful?’ Keeping things simple may help you to minimize your anxiety.
Another source of worry might be your safety in school. There may be little that you can do to change the situation there. But you can take practical steps to protect yourself. “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself,” says Proverbs 22:3. Simply avoiding dangerous places—not only the isolated spots but also unsupervised areas where the unruly tend to gather—can lower your chances of running into trouble.
Schoolwork can be another source of worry. Maybe you have several important homework assignments and you’re worried that you won’t get all of them done in time. The principle at Philippians 1:10 is helpful: “Make sure of the more important things.” Yes, learn to prioritize! Figure out which assignment is the most time sensitive, and do that one first. Then, move on to the next one. Gradually you will begin to feel in control of the situation.
When Aaron was a youth, he worried so much about passing final exams that he had chest pains. He recalls: “I spoke to my parents, and they sent me to the doctor. He immediately saw that there was nothing wrong with my heart and explained how anxiety can affect the body. Later my parents helped me realize that I had done all I could do in preparing for the tests and that now I needed to worry more about taking care of myself. My anxiety lifted, the chest pains went away, and I did well on my exams.”
If you feel weighed down by worry, don’t suffer in silence. Proverbs 12:25, partially quoted earlier, says in its entirety: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down, but the good word is what makes it rejoice.” Only if you talk about your “anxious care” can you get a “good word” of encouragement!
First, you might want to talk things over with your parents; they may very well come up with some suggestions. The spiritually mature ones in your local Christian congregation are another source of support. Fifteen-year-old Janelle relates: “I was worried about going to high school, scared of facing everything—drugs, sex, violence—until I spoke to a congregation elder. He gave me many practical suggestions. I immediately felt better because now I realized that I could handle the situation.”
Don’t Put Things Off
At times there is something we need to do, but we put it off because we find it unpleasant. Nineteen-year-old Shevone, for example, had a personal difference with a fellow Christian. She knew that she needed to talk things out, but she procrastinated. “The more I put it off, the more it bothered me,” she confesses. Then Shevone remembered Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:23, 24, which urge Christians to settle such problems immediately. “When I finally did so,” Shevone recalls, “I got relief.”
Are you putting something off—an unpleasant assignment or an uncomfortable confrontation? Well, take care of it soon, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.
Not all situations are resolved so easily. Consider a young man named Abdur. His mother has cancer, and he has to support both her and his younger brother. Naturally, Abdur worries about his mother’s condition. But he says: “I take a cue from Jesus’ words, ‘Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span?’ Instead of becoming frazzled, I try to think out the situation and determine what will bring the best results.”—Matthew 6:27.
Remaining calm in a crisis is not easy. Some become so distressed that they neglect themselves, refusing to eat. However, the book Helping Your Teenager Deal With Stress warns that when you deprive yourself of basic nourishment, you are “even less capable of withstanding the ravages of stress and even more susceptible to major health breakdowns.” So take care of yourself physically. Get sufficient rest and nourishment.
You can find the greatest relief by following the Bible’s advice: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Psalm 55:22) Shane, quoted at the outset, was anxious about his future. “I began to focus more on God’s Word and his purpose,” he recalls. Soon he realized that his future would be happy if he used his life to serve God. (Revelation 4:11) “I stopped worrying about myself,” says Shane. “I had something bigger to think about.”
So when you find yourself worrying too much, seek constructive ways to deal with your problem. Get mature advice. And above all, take your concerns to Jehovah “because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) With his help, maybe you will stop worrying so much.
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Talk over your worries with your parents
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The sooner you handle problems, the sooner you can stop worrying