Change Your Perspective to Change the World

Here’s an updated version of a Live More, Fear Less post from my archives.


Keyhole_and_LadderThere are so many things to worry about in this life: the state of the world with its pollution, wars, natural disasters, famine. There’s human trafficking, drug cartels, economic collapse. Some mothers watch their children waste away through starvation. Some fathers are beaten and killed for their faith or beliefs. Closer to home are the very real problems of putting food on the table, juggling bills, trying to keep a job, and deciding between paying the rent or going to the doctor. And then there are more personal worries like living alone or being lonely, growing old, and being forgotten.

It’s easy to worry, and it’s something I’m very good at because I’ve had lots of practice. When I feel myself slipping into that place where I need to print business cards that say “Cate Macabe, Professional Worrier,” I stop and try to put things in perspective.

If I’m living in a car or a bombed-out building, do I worry about how fat I look in my jeans? While I’m sitting by my child’s hospital bed, do I care that my gray roots are showing? What is the fear of growing old compared to the fear of having nothing to feed my children? How does the fear of crowds or heights or giving an oral presentation compare to facing the devastation of a hurricane or a flood?

When I received the news that a friend of mine lost her teenage daughter to the hands of a murderer, the first thing I did was cry, and then I wailed. I was devastated for my friend, the heartbreak she felt, the horror of the crime. And I cried out for her daughter. There was so much she didn’t get to do. She was too young to be taken from this life. The next thing I did was look at my own teenage daughter and my life with her. Did all my rules, and nagging, and too-high expectations create the relationship I wanted? Did I want to push her away or look at each day with her as a gift to cherish? I decided, on the day I got my friend’s tragic news, what was truly important and began making choices accordingly.

Don’t wait for a disaster to give you a new perspective. Decide now what is most important and take practical steps to follow through.

If living longer and enjoying your family as you age is what you worry about – walk a little everyday, make better food choices, exercise your mind. Is getting a job or holding on to one a concern? Update your skills, work for a temporary agency, volunteer in your field of interest.

Doing something for someone else can shift our focus and also change how we look at our own lives. Visit an elderly neighbor, hold the hand of someone who’s grieving, watch a busy Mom’s kids to give her some alone time, send thank-you cards and letters to soldiers serving overseas (especially in combat zones).

Today, this minute, we can’t help a starving child or love an orphan on the other side of the world, but we can contribute money or time to organizations that can. And if we have the heart for it, we can foster or adopt and change the life of such a child.

Unless we do something with our worry, it becomes a waste of our time and energy because it’s really only a useless exercise of the mind. Don’t let the worries of life get you down for long. Take one step back if you have to, then two steps forward and keep looking ahead.

What do you do to stop worry from getting out of hand?


Image “Keyhole And Ladder” courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Seasons of Joy and Heartache

PeaceDoveThis is the season of joy-to-the-world, Christmas trees, elves and reindeer, snowmen and snow angels, baking and making and sharing, decorating and gift giving. It’s a time to celebrate the greatest gift ever given, demonstrated in Nativity scenes around the world – the birth of Jesus.

It’s also a time that many people suffer through. To see so much joy – to be faced with everyone else’s happiness, a reminder of what they may not have – can be truly painful when heartache overshadows everything else.

Emotional distress can destroy our physical, as well as emotional health. We are not meant to live for long in our grief, but to pass through it when the time is right.

In an interview with Jeremy Statton, Alece Ronzino approaches this subject from the viewpoint of someone who has made the journey:

Everyone eventually goes through a season of shattered dreams.

The greatest thing I can pass along to someone who is in that place right now is something a friend said to me, “Don’t bring building supplies to the graveyard.” There will be a season where all you can do is sit in the grief and the heartache. You have to face it and feel it, and not try to shortcut around it. But eventually – and you, or those you trust to speak into your life, will just know when that time is – you have to start taking steps forward.

Give yourself permission to grieve. And then give yourself permission to hope again.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote that to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

I hope this is a season of joy and peace for you. If not, I hope you will reach out to the One who understands you better than you understand yourself, because He made you. The One who named and numbered the stars. The One who counts every tear you shed, and is always with you.

Wishing you joy in the simple things and hope for better days.

Live More, Fear Less: Test Anxiety (Can Work for You)

TestTaking2School has been back in session now for several months, and for many people that has meant lots of reading, studying, homework, studying, essays, studying…and the dreaded test days. When I was in school, I loved teachers who gave multiple choice tests – give me a list of answers to choose from and I’m in heaven. I probably don’t have to mention how I felt about math and essay exams.

Everyone knows the basic steps to prepare for test days: Study. Sleep. Eat.

  • If you know you suffer from test anxiety, you’re going to have to be more diligent than those who aren’t afflicted. Keeping up with reading assignments and homework is the first and best way to get ready in advance for an exam. Going into a test as prepared as possible will give you confidence and help ease anxiety.
  • Finding the time to get enough sleep every day is hard enough for those who aren’t going to school, for students it’s even worse. But if you don’t get at least six hours of sleep every night, you’ll be running on a sleep deficit, and that can affect your concentration. If you can’t do it on any other night, at least get a good night’s sleep the night before a test.
  • You have your own morning routine that may or may not include breakfast, but do your body and your brain a favor – eat well on test days, and include protein and not too much sugar.

If you’re not one of those (strange) people who thrive on the challenge of taking tests, you’ll need to take a few steps to make your test anxiety work for you.

Muscle tension, headache, faster breathing, increased heart rate and perspiration – these are some of the physical manifestations of fear related to the natural fight or flight response (see my post on survival instinct). If you have test anxiety, your mind has perceived your test as a threat to you and has prepared your body to stand and fight or run away. These physical changes can help you think more quickly, but they can also lead to restlessness because your body is now ready for action. If this is how your body normally reacts on test days, give these few things a try:

  • Be good to yourself. When you first start feeling these fight-or-flight symptoms, try to remember that your body’s natural defense will help you focus on what’s to come. Don’t fight it and don’t beat yourself up over your “silly” fears.
  • Arrive early at the testing place. Give yourself enough time to do some kind of physical activity like walking around the building or up and down the halls for a few minutes to help release muscle tension. (Arriving early is also essential to allow a bathroom break for those of us whose symptoms manifest themselves in that way.)
  • Breathe slowly and deeply to help you relax, before and during the test. This has a calming effect and sends oxygen to the brain.
  • To ease tension during a test, do some subtle stretching of your arms, legs, and shoulders. If you notice others tapping pencils/pens or nervously tapping their heels, realize you’re not the only one feeling anxious.
  • When taking the test, ponder the questions for only a few seconds and skip those you can’t answer immediately (math questions take longer, of course), and then go back later. Staying on one question for too long can cause even more anxiety and a loss of focus. In my student years, I found that as I moved through a test, my initial freak out/brain freeze cleared away enough that I was able to answer most of the questions on the second pass through.

These suggestions can be adapted to many situations where you’re being tested. Whether for a job interview, a presentation, or a talk: study in advance, get enough sleep, eat right, relax, release muscle tension, remember to breathe. And be good to yourself. When you don’t have the choice to flee, use your natural survival instinct to stand and fight.

How do you combat test anxiety?

Dealing with Fear: A Logical Approach

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows; it empties today of its strength. ~ Corrie ten Boom

Worry is a first cousin to fear – a wasteful, sneaky, whisper-in-your-ear kind of cousin. In my own quest to be less fearful, I’ve found the following strategies to be the most helpful:

Allow Yourself One Big Fear (and/or several small ones). And don’t beat yourself up over it. Fear can be normal and helpful (see my post on survival instinct). Everyone is afraid of something, even big, burly manly men – they just hide it better. I say, if you can carry on your daily life, moving forward more than you move backward, then your fear is not a problem.

Rehearse/Prepare. I don’t suggest we think about our fear or worry continuously – that might already be part of the problem. But consider what you’re really worried or fearful about. Afraid to talk to someone in person or on the phone? Write out what to say ahead of time. Are you actually afraid of the unknown in a situation rather than the situation itself? Before going on a job interview: research the job, the company, and ask yourself/answer possible interview questions.

Share. Don’t go it alone. If you’re worried about raising your kids, find mothers in your neighborhood, at church, at your child’s school to hang out with or talk to. Whatever the situation, talking to someone can help work through our fears. And chances are, someone is going through the same kind of thing or has already made it through the other side.

Pray. Some people don’t consider prayer logical. But belief in Someone greater than yourself, who cares for you and has the power to do anything, is a necessity of life these days. Prayer can chase away worry and bring peace to a troubled soul.  

Get Involved. Helping others, helps yourself. It takes the energy that your worry wastes and channels it toward someone or something that needs it more. There are people all around us that need help, many of them in worse places than we are.

Be Grateful. It’s been said that the fastest escape from worry is appreciation. Imagine how good we could feel if we spent our time appreciating what we have in life instead of wasting it on worry. For ideas on making gratitude a habit, go to my post Have a Grateful Day.

Act. Doing something is really what this list is about. Anything that causes worry should be acted on, not just thought about. Even the smallest action can alleviate fear. Make a list, make a plan, make a phone call. Go on the internet and do research.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~ Dale Carnegie

These are just a few suggestions, but if worry or fear has taken over your life to the point that you can’t leave the house or if you’re overwhelmed/depressed and are having trouble carrying on, please talk to someone – seek out a listening ear at your church or with a health care professional. Sometimes we do need help outside ourselves, and that’s okay. We weren’t meant to go through life alone.

How do you deal with worry?

Live More, Fear Less: Perspective

There are so many things to worry about in this life: the state of the world with its pollution, wars, natural disasters, famine. There’s human trafficking, drug cartels, economic collapse. Some mothers watch their children waste away through starvation. Some fathers are beaten and killed for their faith or beliefs. Closer to home are the very real problems of putting food on the table, juggling bills, trying to keep a job, and deciding between paying the rent or going to the doctor. And then there are more personal worries like living alone or being lonely, growing old, and being forgotten.

It’s easy to worry, and it’s something I’m very good at when I practice. When I feel myself slipping into that place where I need to print business cards that read “Cate Macabe, Professional Worrier,” I stop and try to put things in perspective.

If I’m living in a car or a bombed-out building, do I worry about how fat I look in my jeans? While I’m sitting by my child’s hospital bed, do I care that my roots are showing? What is the fear of growing old compared to the fear of having nothing to feed my children? How does the fear of crowds or heights or giving an oral presentation compare to facing the devastation of a hurricane or a flood?

When I got the news that a friend of mine lost her only daughter to the hands of a murderer, the first thing I did was cry, and then I wailed. I was devastated for my friend, the heartbreak she felt, the horror of the crime. And I cried out for her daughter. There was so much she didn’t get to do. She was too young to be taken from this life. The next thing I did was look at my own teenage daughter and my life with her. Did all my rules, and nagging, and too-high expectations create the relationship I wanted? Did I want to push her away or look at each day with her as a gift to cherish? I decided, on the day I got my friend’s awful news, what was truly important and began making choices accordingly.

Don’t wait for a disaster to give you a new perspective. Decide now what is most important and take practical steps to follow through.

If living longer and enjoying your family as you age is what you worry about – walk a little everyday, make better food choices, exercise your mind. Is getting a job or holding on to one a concern? Update your skills, work for a temporary agency, volunteer in your field of interest.

Doing something for someone else can shift our focus and also change how we look at our own lives. Visit an elderly neighbor, hold the hand of someone’s who’s grieving, watch a busy Mom’s kids to give her some alone time, send thank-you cards and letters to soldiers serving overseas (especially in combat zones).

Today, this minute, we can’t help a starving child or love an orphan on the other side of the world, but we can contribute money or time to organizations that can. And if we have the heart for it, we can foster or adopt and change the life of such a child.

Unless we do something with our worry, it becomes a waste of our time and energy because it’s really only a useless exercise of the mind. Don’t let the worries of life get you down for long. Take one step back if you have to, then two steps forward and keep looking ahead.

What do you do to stop worry from getting out of hand?