4 Minutes 4 Hard Times – To Handle Worry

Welcome back to another 4 minute post. Today we’ll look at one effect of hard times that can become debilitating–our tendency to worry until we are fettered by fear.

 Marshall J Cook tackles our fears from a spiritual perspective in his book, How to Handle Worry – A Catholic Approach. He writes that worry can be productive when it motivates us to action, but destructive when it stagnates us, or when it becomes so chronic that it affects our health. The following are some of the nuggets available in his book:

In order to cope with anxiety, understand that anxiety is a normal reaction to stressors. Sometimes simply acknowledging nervousness is enough. But other times we need to take action—deep breaths, mini breaks in the day to relax, slowing down and simplifying, leaving room in our schedule for the unexpected, keeping a daily journal, adding music to our life, exercising, and/or getting the amount of sleep we really need.

We always need to take our problems to the Good Shepherd. Turn all the “stuff” – big and small – over to God. God is in control. Allowing our anxiety to keep us from action demonstrates a lack of trust in God, for if we truly believe that God is good and wants what is best for us, that He is all powerful and knows better than we do what we need, that this life is only a short part of our whole existence, then we have nothing to fear.

But even when we want to trust him (Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!), worries return. What then? Meet the anxieties head on – set a 10 minute appointment for them at the same every day. When worries come at other times, tell them you’ll think about them at the set time, not now. When the set time comes, fully experience the worry. Let it flood you. Christ is with you; nothing bad will happen to you. The worry is only a feeling. The storm will subside, replaced by a sense of relief. Then thank God for being with you, and even for the worry itself. At some point the worry won’t show up for its 10 minute appointment. Then pray for 10 minutes and thank God again.

In order to turn anxiety into energy, don’t resist or deny the fear. Track it to its true source. Name it. Then push the fear to the extreme. What is the worst that can happen? What are the odds that it will?

Figure out what, if anything, you can do about this particular fear. Let God help you choose the option that seems best. Write down exactly what you will do and when. Next, act in spite of your fear. Move forward. Abide by your decision and its consequences. Breathe deeply, pray, listen.

If your worry is due to lack of information, learn more and make a decision. If it is fear of the future, prepare fully and leave the rest to God. If you are afraid you made a mistake in the past, decide to act to repair the mistake, or not to act, and let it go. If your fear has frozen you into inertia, engage in vigorous sloth-busting. Take a step! If you are a master at evasion, face the music and remember God is leading the band.

If your worries keep you from making decisions, the author counsels, “Consider this. In a fundamental sense, you can’t make a ‘wrong’ decision. Whatever you decide, asking for God’s guidance and trusting in his love for you, you will grow in faith and love. You will find triumph and failure, sorrow and joy, because these are the essence of life on earth. You will more fully feel God’s abiding and incredible love for you, and you will see more clearly his plan for your life. When you look at it that way, what are you worried about?”



In his newest book, Real Life, Dr. Phil McGraw writes to prepare people for “the seven most challenging days of your life.” One of those 7 is the day we realize we’ve been allowing fear to dominate our lives.

Dr. Phil believes we need to learn to be true to ourselves by choosing to live our lives authentically—not by conforming to what others think we should do, but by following our own passions and unique abilities. He says, “An interesting thing about integrity and self-acceptance is that when you’re comfortable in your own skin, other people sense it and usually end up respecting you a whole lot more than if you spent all your time trying to please them anyway.”

However, changing the way we are living, when we are living in fear, is scary. We have to be so tired of not living authentically that we risk the unknown to claim a new way, the change we (and the world around us) deserve.

Common fears are:

  • Fear of losing control (reduces the sense of peace and joy in life)
  • Fear of humiliation (keeps us from fighting for things worth fighting for)
  • Fear of pain and punishment (keeps us from challenging ourselves)
  • Fear of rejection (keeps us from enjoying friendships and partnerships)
  • Fear of responsibility (keeps us from finding achievement and joy in life)
  • Fear of intimacy (keeps us from the joy of relationships)
  • Fear of failure (impedes us from seeking the values and passions we want to explore)


Dr. Phil’s action steps:

  1. Decide what we really want and care about.
  2. Examine how far we are away from what we want.
  3. Make a life decision from the heart, a conviction.
  4. Be true to ourselves, focus on where our lives don’t represent who we are and where we can change (responsibly, not selfishly).
  5. Make it happen. Plan with goals and timetables.
  6. Acknowledge our fears. What drives our behavior?
  7. Challenge our irrational fears (often about our “unworthiness” or others’ judgments of us).
  8. Set ourselves up for success (figure out what help we need and get it).
  9. Know that we are not alone. Everyone feels anxiety and fear. Courage is acting in the face of it.


You’ve spent 4 minutes learning about ways to cope with hard times. I hope you find one bit of wisdom that will calm your worries. If not, you can go straight to the Source—below are some Bible quotes to consider. They can be printed out and taped to your mirror or slipped into a lunch bag.

Blessings on your week!

Betty Arrigotti 

Mark 5:

36But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken, said to the synagogue official,

 “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.”

Matthew 10:

29“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 31“So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

Psalm 118:

6The LORD is for me;

I will not fear;

What can man do to me?

Psalm 34:

4I sought the LORD, and He answered me,

And delivered me from all my fears.

Psalm 55:

 4My heart is in anguish within me,

And the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

16As for me, I shall call upon God,

And the LORD will save me.

Psalm 94:

18If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”

Your loving kindness, O LORD, will hold me up.

19When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,

Your consolations delight my soul.

Philippians 4:

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Luke 12:

32Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Matthew 11:

28Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

4 Minutes 4 Hard Times – Grandma’s platitudes

            Welcome to the first installment of 2009 Lenten posts called 4 Minutes 4 Hard Times.

             When I was first learning to be a writer, I was told I didn’t include enough conflict in my stories. As a mother of four I spent much of my day trying to reduce conflict. Eventually I learned that people love and can identify with a story when the protagonists, through the trouble that comes their way, learn to face their weaknesses and grow enough to overcome their darkest moments and (ta-da!) save the day.

            Real life isn’t too different from stories in that respect. It is through our hard times that we develop character. We’d rather not suffer. We’d like to avoid all pain, for ourselves and our loved ones, but we wouldn’t learn and grow without challenges.

            One thing we can count on—we will be given these “opportunities for growth.” Life is sometimes hard. And lately it seems to be getting harder. Not just because of natural consequences—it’s bad enough when we know we got ourselves into our mess—but for many, these days are trying through no fault of their own. Though they’ve never smoked they are told they have lung cancer. Or the savings that they’ve been responsibly building dwindles with the stock market. Their company closes and leaves them without income. Or their spouse dies.

            Whether our trouble is our own fault or not, we find ourselves in situations where we can’t control events. Sometimes all we can control is our reaction and our attitude. But therein lies our strength.

            In most of my 4 Minutes emails I give information that professionals have researched and advised, but in this first 4 Minutes 4 Hard Times, I am going to another kind of expert. Our parents and grandparents have lived through their share of difficult times, and we can learn from their hard-won wisdom. So I’m falling back on some of Grandma’s platitudes.


“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

            This is a little hard to take, especially when you’re the one in crisis and the person quoting it isn’t. Actually, for each of us at some point, the crisis really will kill us, so this hardly seems comforting. However, it is true that hard times force us to grow and become more than we were when times were easy. I remember crying on my Grandma’s lap. As she rocked me she would remind me, “This too shall pass.”

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” St. Francis of Assisi

            Is the challenge facing us something that is not going to change, no matter how desperately we wish it could? Is a marriage over and beyond reconciliation? Has a loved one died? Is a health change irreversible? Then what we do have control over is our acceptance. I’m not saying to cut short our grieving. Grief can’t be rushed and its healing process should be honored. But it’s useless to fight against what cannot be changed.

            We are more resilient than we know. We can deal with this, as painful as it is, and continue our lives. Sometimes one minute at a time is all we can manage but we hang on and make it through the minute. And then the next. We just keep on keeping on, for ourselves and for our loved ones.

            Someone described loss as being in a dark, twisty tunnel and the door behind you has just slammed shut. They only way through it is through it. It hurts but we will survive.

             But what if our crisis isn’t necessarily permanent? Then rather than acceptance we need a little perspective and courage to change the things we can. We must make progress. Again, it might start simply by breathing through a minute. (Thank you, Lord, that I can breathe.) Making it through a day. (Thank you, Lord, that I’m alive.) But a moment will come when we must look at the situation for possibilities of recovery.

            We divide the distance between where we are and where we want to be into small steps and then we start walking.

            What information do I need to gather in order to proceed? Whom can I call for help? Do I need to acquire a new skill? Rebuild my confidence? What will it take to move on? Another quote from St. Francis says, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

“Pray as though everything depends on God; work as though everything depends on you.”

            Grandma had total faith in God, as well as a work ethic that kept her from waiting for an answer without doing her part. God will help us. But usually rather than taking away our pain, He will give us the inner resources we need to succeed despite the pain.

            Or He will send us help. Are we trying to get through this time all alone? Reaching out to others may be part of working as if everything depended on us. Allowing someone who is not in crisis to help can be a gift to them, for they receive the blessings and joy of service.

            Hard times are part of every life. We’d like to avoid them, but when we can’t, let’s face them courageously.

  • Some struggles can be seen as opportunities, once the shock wears off, and we can learn from them and grow.
  • Other hard times bring permanent loss. Then we must learn the difficult lessons of letting go and acceptance. At those times we survive by realizing and appreciating what gifts we still have.
  • If we are among the fortunate who are not struggling when others are, then we must respond to hard times by being aware of our blessings and reaching out to help.


            The final quote I leave you with is not from Grandma, but rather from God himself:

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Blessings on your week.

Betty Arrigotti

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