"Put your faith in Jesus, you'll be fine."
"Just don't think about it."
"Why are you anxious, don't you know the bible says not to be anxious?"
How many of you have felt guilty for struggling with anxiety or depression because you're a Christian and somewhere down the line you accepted the belief that if you just had more faith you wouldn't have anxiety?
Well. Turns out. 'Faithful Christians' have anxiety too.
If you don't believe me, let's take a look at the bible. I'm pretty sure David fought through anxiety or else his Psalms were just really dramatic and he needed to chill out. The author of Philippians wouldn't have penned, "Be anxious for nothing..." if his audience had not been anxious about something. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells his audience "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, what you will drink..." because he knew people were worried about having enough money to put food on the table. I can give you a dozen more references but I think you get the point.
Okay so we know the scriptures. The question is - how do you practically deal with anxiety? Why do I have it and what can I do to alleviate it? Does the bible have tools that can help?
The battle is in your mind. There's no doubt. The bible gives lots of positive affirmations and references on how to deal with the negative accusations that parade our mind. I have battled anxiety for years without acknowledging what thoughts were actually causing the anxiousness. I would say some scriptures or affirm myself out loud and not think about it, assuring myself it would pass.
This is like saying you have an exercise plan to lose weight and then putting on your workout clothes without ever actually going to the gym. (Side note, I do this all the time FYI). Until I learned the tools to empower myself and practically renew my mind, I continued in this cycle of ignoring my thoughts hoping they would go away. So, what are these tools? I am no psychologist but I'll give you my spin on what works for me:
1. When you are anxious, get a pen and write down your thoughts. Write down everything you are worried about. You'll be surprised at what lies you are believing. An example would be something like, "I have this bill I have to pay by tomorrow but if I pay it then I won't have enough to make my car payment and then I'll get a late fee and then I'll have even more fee's. Why am I always in this situation? I suck at finances. Why can't I be better? Jenny is so great with her finances. I wish I was like Jenny. I hate this about myself. I hate myself."
We often do not realize where our anxieties come from unless we get to the root of what we are believing about ourselves. The anxiety in the example above is not actually from not being able to pay the bill, it is from this reoccurring incident leaving a mark on this person's identity to the point where they actually are struggling with self-hatred. When this revelation comes to light, you then write down what is the truth, how God see's you. What does the bible say about who you are? If you aren't a Christian, you can write down positive affirmations that say the truth about who you are. Recognizing your situation is temporary is a breakthrough in itself. For instance:
"I currently do not have enough money to pay for all the things I would like to in this moment, but this is not how it will always be. I am good with money and my situation will change. I have mercy on myself because I am not where I want to be, but I am not where I used to be. I am learning how to do this well. I cannot control all the circumstances in my life, but I can control my reaction and my hope which is in God who says that He has plans to prosper me, not to harm me, to give me a hope and future (Jeremiah 29:11). I do not hate myself, but I love myself just as I am. I am enough".
By counteracting the lies in your head, you are acknowledging what they are and replacing them with the truth. Sometimes you will not know where your anxiety originates from. Rob Bell says it best, "This is always about that". You need to just start writing because you will probably find it has to do with the way someone reacted to you, some event that took place last week, or even something that took place years ago.
Through this practice, I saw how I had a deep fear of being left behind or skipped over. When I have anxious thoughts, they usually are connected to this root thought. Knowing this, I am then empowered to counter it with the truth that it is impossible for me to be left behind when God says I am chosen for a specific plan and purpose that no one can take away from me.
2. Take some time to go on a walk, sit in a quiet place, or anything where you can be aware of your mind and aware that life exists outside of this. It is important to know that God is with you always. He is especially with you in these moments. You can feel Him, sense Him, and experience Him in many ways. Some people experience Him most through nature - just by seeing the ocean or the trees and wildlife. Other people just need some fresh air as a reminder that life is still going on and the mind can be tamed.
I like to put headphones in and go for long walks. If I am in a situation where I can't do this, I will take 5 to 10 minutes and go outside to breathe and remind myself that this is temporary and my life is moving forward in a positive way. Have mercy on yourself. This is the best advice I can give you.
3. Be with people. When you have anxiety, you often don't want to be around people because the thought of having to explain yourself or your situation is stressful enough. Do it anyways. Spend some time alone to empower yourself and then make an effort to be around someone you trust. You may think they don't understand but a lot of people struggle with anxiety and don't vocalize it. Be upfront, there is nothing wrong with telling them how you are struggling. They will accept you as you are. Once you are with them and honest with them, you will enjoy your time together because it won't be something you are hiding.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that you are acceptable just as you are. You are more than enough and you don't need to prove yourself to anyone. Any thought that tells you otherwise is a lie. How do you cope with anxiety? I would love to hear your thoughts!