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Combat worry by trusting God and using front-brain thinking

By AL EARLEY

Religion columnist

Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-27, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?   Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying, add a single hour to your life?” Sometimes we have much to worry about, but often we are worrying about things we cannot change. 

Jewish psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, was in a truly stressful environment as he faced death daily. He found that surviving the concentration camp all revolved around faith.  Those who could not accept what was happening to them — who could not make their present suffering fit with their faith, who could not find it’s meaning in their world-view — would fall into despair, lose hope, give up and die. 

Those individuals that could find meaning in the suffering through their faith were then able to find hope for the future beyond their present suffering, and could accept what they were enduring as a part of their existence tended to be survivors.

He concludes, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” (from “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl.)

There is a mathematical formula that helps us to understand the process of letting go of stressful and worrisome situations and giving them to God.  It is stressor, plus space, equals effect. The stressor is the event, or experience we are going through, that we must deal with.

The space is our response to the stressor. What we fill the space with will greatly influence the effect the stressor has on our life.  If we panic, stress out or worry, the effect will be much worse than if we pray, reflect on scripture or try some breathing techniques to calm our soul. 

It is helpful to understand how God has wired us to understand why it is so hard to fill the space with constructive thoughts and actions. 

If we use front brain thinking then we will remain in a problem solving mode, and be able to think more clearly and stay relaxed.  If we tend toward back brain thinking when we face stress — we are ready to decide whether to fight or flee.  This is an important area of the brain to access when there is a tiger in the room. That is fine, if there is a tiger in the room. It may not work so well otherwise.

Teaching our brain to shift from back-brain to front-brain thinking in the midst of stress and anxiety can help us worry less and handle problems better.  When training to fly helicopters for the U.S. Army the pilot must learn how to survive a helicopter crash. The safest solution is to bring the helicopter down in a body of water, but then the heavier blades will turn the craft upside-down and it will sink ten feet per second. 

This sudden motion and shifting naturally causes the person to be disoriented and panic, and without training they will drown inside the helicopter.  The army teaches the pilot a series of simple moves one can execute even when upside-down, and then teaches them which direction to move to exit the craft.  If you stay calm and execute the moves, you will not drown. 

     How can you learn to trust God more and worry less? We can train ourselves to use our front-brain when it is necessary, to survive a stressful situation.  The more we practice relaxing in everyday life (example:idiot drivers, rude clerks, lying coworkers, ungrateful children, busy spouse) the better prepared we will be in times of crisis, anxiety, stress and worry.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles go to lagrangepres.com.