For those that suffer from anxiety, you can understand the weight and exhaustion it carries. The mental toll it takes, alongside the physical symptoms that come as a result of your anxious mind. Racing thoughts, excessive worry, upset stomach and tense muscles. Anxiety is a growing pandemic, with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) stating “10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a Mental health disorder; the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide”. As someone who suffered with anxiety for years, there is hope. There’s a friend for you, and there is light amidst the darkness.
If you’re unsure of if you have anxiety or want to learn more, I recommend this website https://www.anxietycanada.com/ as recommended to me by an MSW, and I would recommend seeing a physician; who specializes in Mental Health to get a proper diagnosis, as there are multiple forms of anxiety that require specific and appropriate diagnosing and treatment.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended to replace medical diagnosis or treatment, always consult your physician.
It’s important for yourself to recognize your own heart and beliefs before you can begin to take care of yourself, be open to advice, or change.
“to change the way a person responds to life, change what a person believes about life”.Max Lucado, Anxious for Nothing
I’ve seen this parallel to my career in nursing. There’s an important step we do before anything, and it’s to assess our own self before taking on a patient. Are my own viewpoints and beliefs going to affect how I care for this client? Will I be biased in this particular area? When you assess yourself, you know how to best care for the client before even going in to greet them. The same should be done for yourself.
Those who have strong belief systems have a stronger hold through trials, as opposed to those who don’t. From personal experience, when my belief and understanding in God grew, so did my resiliency to the storms in my life.
Through personal experience, therapy, and research, here are 5 truths that have helped me to be better equipped to face the war on worry:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. Let your requests be made known to God.” (Phillippians 4:6)
One of the best things I’ve learned in facing anxiety head on, is to practice gratitude daily. What makes it so important to recognize, is that it not only allows you to count your blessings and provide thankfulness for your life; which in itself is a proven method in rewiring your brain to think more positively, but it helps to put you in the now. What do I mean by that? For those that have anxiety, anxiety can be deeply rooted in events, mistakes, or failures of the past or the unknowns of the future. By responding to your anxieties with thanksgiving, and planting yourself in the blessings and positives of your life today, you are helping to ground yourself in real-time and focus on the present.
I have made this change recently, where anytime I have a moment to myself; whether driving somewhere, anytime I pray, or begin to feel anxious, I pause and thank God for my life and all I have. Be grateful for the sun shining, good health, friends and family, a pet, whatever it is; be grateful.
Having gratitude daily puts things into perspective. I’ve spent many days comparing where I’m at in life, in comparison to others. If only I had a house or apartment, If only I was married, I wish I was skinnier, I wish I didn’t have student debt, If only, if only, if only. When you play the ‘comparison’ or ‘what if’ game, you lose. You will lose every time, and it only invites anxiety further into your heart and to wreak havoc on your thoughts. Be grateful for what God has blessed you with, and be reminded of the promises he has fulfilled in your life and will continue to do so for you.
2) Change your perspective
One of the biggest arguments I hear in response to questioning God’s existence and in relation to anxiety, is “If God is real, why does he allow evil, pain, suffering, or challenges?” In understanding the answer to this question, one has to understand God and his wisdom.
I highly recommend listening to Ravi Zacharias’ videos on Youtube for those who are interested in learning more in-depth on this particular subject. I’ll link some of his videos here, here, and here where he goes into much further detail on the topic.
It’s important to note that God will use trials or hardships for a higher purpose. Being a Christian does not mean that you’re free from trials or opposition; in fact, it’s quite the opposite (Eph. 6:12). A great example of how God uses hardships for a greater purpose, is displayed throughout Hebrews 11. It outlines a handful of people from the bible who by faith, trusted in God throughout their circumstances despite the challenges and suffering they experienced. They didn’t have all the answers, and yet they continued to trust God throughout it all. The end of the passage exclaims “since God had planned something far better for us so that together with us they would be made perfect” (Heb. 11:40).
The story of Joseph is another example, who despite being imprisoned and faced many oppositions, continued to trust God as he understood the underlying divine purpose in his suffering. In the end, It led Joseph to be able to help save the Egyptians.
It can be easy in our moments of anxiety, depression, or suffering to question God’s motives or ask “why me”. Instead, focus your heart and eyes to the one who oversees all things and knows you and your heart better than anyone else. If you’re hurting, God is hurting 1000x more. Take peace in knowing that you’re not being condemned for feeling anxious, your feelings are validated, and God wants you to come to him so he can help you and comfort you. Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), allow him to be your comfort in those anxious moments.
3) Change your Thought Process
“Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life” (Proverbs 4:23).
One of the greatest things that came out of therapy for myself personally, was understanding my thought processes and working towards re-wiring a more healthy and balanced thought process. Anxiety can bring out cognitive distortion within our thoughts, which can only further encourage anxiety to linger and grow.
There are common cognitive distortions that can come about with anxiety or other mental illnesses. To learn more about them, you can check out this article here to help you better understand cognitive distortions. Disclaimer: They are not a diagnosing tool, or to be used as such.
A big step in diminishing anxiety and learning to heal from it requires healthier thinking. A tool often used in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), is a chart to help you filter irrational thoughts to be more rational and balanced. You can download the Mindshift App to have free access to this chart, so you can use it on the go. You can find it in the ‘Thought Journal’ section of the app where it will aid you in challenging your anxious thought into a balanced, rational thought.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil 4:8)
Anxiety can be best faced with a clear mind, and focusing on the facts. My therapist has continually told me that “Knowledge is power” for those with an anxious mind. Biblically, we’re told to “Fasten the belt of truth around your waist” (Eph. 6:14). Anxiety amplifies our want to exaggerate or catastrophize the situation. When you focus on logic and what is right, it can help to diminish your anxiety as opposed to focusing on the inflated possibilities, or unknowns.
4) Let go of Control
For many, anxiety can stem from a need to control or have ‘perfectionist’ tendencies. The feeling of having control can create a sense of calm, whereas losing that control can cause chaos and fear. The problem is, control isn’t ours to take. I fought that battle for years and my attempts of control had never been enough to handle circumstances on my own. My perceived control was a false coping mechanism that failed me time and time again.
From Max Lucado’s novel ‘Anxious for Nothing’ he exclaims
“Rather than seeking control, relinquish it. You can’t run the world, but you can entrust it to God. The next time you fear the future, rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty. Rejoice in what he has accomplished. Rejoice that he is able to do what you cannot do.”Max Lucado, Anxious for Nothing
How amazing is it, to know that you don’t have to hold the weight and carry the responsibility of control for your life and future? Admittedly, I can empathize that this can sound terrifying or absurd for someone who holds different beliefs. Coming from someone who remembers what it was like before I was a Christian, I would’ve rolled my eyes at even the thought of “giving my life to Jesus” or handing it over for him to control. From personal experience, I can tell you, my load is much lighter and my burdens diminished once I let go of that control and entrusted him with it. Half the battle of anxiety is letting go of control, and giving it over to the one who has control. Entrusting your choices, decisions, hardships, and struggles onto the one who can and has a much better plan for your life than you could ever imagine. Pray about everything, and continually seek him in everything you do.
5) Releasing your Anxiety, Shame and Guilt.
“Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
As soon as Anxiety takes over, cast that onto Jesus.
One of the greatest things I ever experienced was learning to cast my anxieties to Jesus. What took a great deal of time and understanding, however, was learning to give over the shame and guilt that I unknowingly continued to carry alongside with it.
There was a moment one day, where I was praying to Jesus to take away my anxiety and that I wanted to give it all to him. I was done and over this dreadful feeling stirring inside me day in and day out. Unknowingly, the more I talked to him the more I started handing over things I never realized I needed to get off my chest. I asked him to take away the guilt and shame that was so in tune with my very being from my anxiety, and that I couldn’t handle the weight anymore. Very gently, I heard his whisper interrupt my ramblings, “The battle has already been won. When I died on the cross and rose again, that battle was won. I took away not only your sins, but I took away the guilt and shame that came with that. It is finished”.
When you hear the Lord tell you that he carries your guilt and shame, you want to do nothing but fall to your knees and praise his goodness. We praise him not for what he does for us, but for who he is.
Psalm 32:3-5 “when I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said “ I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
If you feel like you’ve given your anxiety over to God but still carry a weight, search your heart for the shame and guilt you may carry that’s been concealed and tucked away perhaps unknowingly. Give those over to God, and continue to pray.
If you find yourself having a difficult time opening up or not knowing where to start, throw on some worship music. This is what I had to do in order to open up my heart and be vulnerable to face my worries and fears, and to let them go. If you need somewhere to start you can check out my playlist here. You’d be surprised how listening to some worship music can make you feel!
Anxiety comes with life, however it doesn’t have to dominate and control your life. I hope you found this helpful, and feel free to check out the resources linked throughout the post. Reach out to me anytime through my Contact Info, you’re not alone through this!