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Spontaneous Overflow Reflecting in Tranquility

The Official Blog of Michael Schoenhofer, Executive Director

Don’t Believe Everything You Worry About

Write Your Worries Away

A week ago, Mary and I went camping for the first time in our new camper and for the last time this year. Our camper is a simple tent on a trailer, but a significant upgrade for us. Both of us felt anxious about hauling a trailer behind our little Subaru, but it pulled into traffic on I-75 with no problem. Since it weighs only 800 pounds and is not as wide as our car, we can easily see around it and over it. First worry solved.

We chose a tiny campground on the far western tip of Kentucky right on the Mississippi River, Columbus-Belmont State Park, an eight-hour drive from Lima. There is not much to do in that part of Kentucky, and I worried we would get bored with a campground with only 38 sites and a small civil war site.

We arrived at the campground just two hours before sunset, and since this was the first time to set up our camper, I was worried there wouldn’t be enough light. But it took just a little over an hour to finish. When we looked around, we discovered a spectacular view of the Mississippi River from our campsite. It was late Fall. All the trees were full of yellow leaves and the forest floor looked like a golden carpet. The second worry solved; setup was easy, the campground was great.

The next day, November 6, we set off exploring. We would be camping here for five nights and were a bit concerned that there wouldn’t be much to see or do. We discovered that over 150 years ago, on this date in 1861, the park was the site where the battle of Columbus-Belmont was fought for control of the Mississippi. I felt inspired by the heroism of so many soldiers and sad about the significant loss of life that occurred here. Yet, despite all the death and destruction, I was surprised at how peaceful it was. Both Mary and I found the whole place so engaging and the park so large that we kept coming back throughout our stay to enjoy the view of the Mississippi and the park. The third worry solved. We were content staying in the park and enjoying the history and the views of the Mississippi.

On Friday, new camper neighbors arrived, two young guys in their late 20s who were bow and arrow hunters. They came, set up their camp, got out their bow hunting gear, and left. Both Mary and I assumed these guys would be up late and noisy when they came back. In fact, they came back to camp late and went to bed and got up early and left so quietly that neither of us even heard them. At one point, they even complimented our cooking.

I don’t spend a lot of time mingling with camping neighbors. We discovered that our neighbors Carol and Ronnie, care for their son David Michael, born with cerebral palsy. He is now 45 years old, and he enjoys camping as much as they do. They both were so friendly that we often visited their campsite and enjoyed their company. Carol was such a determined advocate for her son, she got Title XX benefits changed in the State of Tennessee for every child born with cerebral palsy. They inspired us. The fourth worry solved, meeting new people is fun.

Nothing we worried about happened. Every one of our fears, preconceptions, and stereotypes dissolved, and the entire trip felt like a retreat. We felt relaxed at this site of a significant battle in the civil war, during the election results, amid a major pandemic, at the far western tip of Kentucky. For five days, peacefulness surrounded us.

Worry and fear can often become blocks to experiencing life. They can represent resistance to trying something new. If Mary and I had listened to our anxious thoughts, we would have missed an incredible opportunity.

We need to look at worry as if it were a movie on a big screen, and instead of acting and reacting to what appears there, just look at it, do nothing, and see what happens.

Write Away Your Worries

Are you bothered by worrisome thoughts? A worry journal helps me to see on paper what’s bothering me. The first thing I do is to schedule a time for worrying. Then I pull out the journal and write whatever is disturbing me.

Some of what I write is useful, and other things are just silly or foolish —some things I can do something about and others I cannot do anything about.

This article in HelpGuide helped me understand why writing my worries is so helpful.

  1. Acknowledge and observe your worries. Don't ignore, fight, or control them. Instead, watch them as if from an outsider's perspective, without reacting or judging.

  2. To Let your worries go. Notice that when you don't control the anxious thoughts that pop up, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. When you engage your worries, you get stuck.

  3. Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If you get stuck on a particular idea, bring your attention back to the present moment.

At the end of my worry session, I write a few things I feel grateful about. It helps me to put things into perspective.

All my worries are on paper, and I've taken a few moments of gratitude. And after a few deep breaths, I can get on with my day.

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