I got the anxiety

My friend Kayla was kind enough to let me post on her blog a short piece about dealing with anxiety. I wanted to include it here as well. Hope you enjoy!

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Worry. 

We all do it.

We all have anxieties because we are wired this way. Anxiety is typically defined as a restlessness, an uneasiness, an “anticipation of a future threat.” It’s normative, biological and meant to be a defense mechanism to keep us safe. But sometimes  we worry excessively and things get out of hand. We have intrusive thoughts, we don’t leave our home, we avoid certain people, we resort to self-harm.

I remember the day I casually commented to my husband how every time I drive over a bridge, I think about what I would do if my car went into the water. He just stared at me. Apparently, this is not the way everyone thinks. 

All this worry takes up precious space in our days and our minds. Why can’t we just trust?

Isn’t that what it boils down to? It’s an issue of trust and fear and control.

We are untrusting that things will work out. We fear a scary ending. We respond by attempting to control and manipulate and mold the outcome. Otherwise, the world falls apart, right?

When I see a patient for the first time with concerns for anxiety, I teach that a certain amount of holistic self-examination needs to take place. What might I be anxious about? Am I reflecting on a past trauma? Am I dealing with another chronic illness? Am I getting restorative sleep? What has my diet been like lately? Am I becoming too dependent on a particular substance (or behavior) to help me cope? Am I getting consistent exercise? What state are my finances in? What state are my relationships in? Could there be a medical reason for my anxiety? Am I neglecting my spirituality practices? Am I overwhelmed because of the demands on my time? What am I doing that brings me joy? Excellence in all of these areas contribute to happiness and peace.

Once this self-reflection takes place, then we can get on with tacking the healing.

So, these are my recommendations for dealing with anxiety (I use all of these myself DAILY). 

Maintain perspective. Let’s consider the true gravity of all this and put this thing into perspective. Is this really a catastrophe? What are the chances of my fear actually coming to fruition? What will the actual, true result be of the situation that I’m stressing over?

Have a plan. When I’m in a situation where the outcome is unknown, I try to envision the worst possible ending and plan my reaction. If the worst does actually happen (chances are it won’t), I’ll be ready. Having this plan in place gives me another tool in my tool-belt. Increases my confidence. Makes me a little less scared.

Pray your little butt off. Well, really this should be thing #1. But let’s be real. It isn’t, even though it should be. Philippians 4:6-7 tell is this: Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Interrupt anxiety with gratitude. This is one of my absolute favorite Truth Bombs and really a great way to re-wire your brain. Every time a “what-if” comes to your mind, replace it with a “thanks-God.”

Weed out the sources, if possible. What sparks your anxiety? That negative person on Facebook? Hide her. That doomsday co-worker of yours? Limit your conversations. Recognize your sensitivities and restrict your exposure.

See someone about it.  If you think your anxiety might need the help of a professional, consider seeing a therapist or mental health practitioner. There is no shame in this and you are in no way a failure if you have to be on medication to stabilize your anxiety. At the same time, medications are not magic pills and cannot solve all your problems. Remember, the key is holistic treatment.

I’m reminded of one of my absolute favorite worship songs called Sinking Deep by Hillsong United. Speaking as someone whose anxiety seems to be extremely rooted in fear, this is a mantra that I repeat to myself every time I feel that trickle of worry. It incorporates elements of deep breathing, mindfulness, giving over trust, giving up control, and remembering that God’s got me.

All fear removed, 

I breathe You in, 

I lean into Your love.

Oh, Your love. 

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