Note: this is my personal experience with anxiety, I am not a Dr. even in the slightest, but I know in talking to many women that my story is not unique and actually very common. This post comes from much thought, study and experience with anxiety. I don’t say any of this without having walked it myself.
I think anxiety can be summed up like this:
“An uncomfortable feeling of nervousness or worry about something that is happening or might happen in the future…” - oxford dictionary
Anyone relate? I do.
Aside from being a battle in our minds, anxiety can turn physical as well. If you don’t get those fearful thoughts all wrapped up and shut down it can lead into a panic attack. If you haven’t experienced a panic attack be so thankful! They are really fun…. said no one ever. Anxiety can be consuming and none of us want to live like that!
There are soo many anxiety triggers; fear of the "what ifs," money stress, social status, work, school, family, health - I think I have cancer every other week (just me?). We live in a world that constantly tells us what we (or our family) could or should and can have! We easily can be convinced that if only this or that would change, then life would be easier and I would be happier and more at rest. And maybe life would be easier with more money, but you certainly won’t be happier. Ever seen the hashtags #friendgoals #relationshipgoals #careergoals #travelgoals? who made up these ideals?! And when these things we have hoped for don’t become our reality, it’s tempting to feel we have failed and aren’t good enough. And when that happens enough it can cause huge stress and anxiety.
Some anxiety comes from really hard issues that we can’t avoid in life, struggles we can’t run from because we are effected by them each day - be that work, family, health etc. Anxiety can be all consuming and a daily battle you journey or it can be something that pops up from time to time. But both threaten to destroy the peace, joy and rest in our life.
So how do we overcome anxiety, can we actually live free from it being all consuming? Yes. Absolutely yes. There is soo much hope!
2 Peter 1:23 says,
"His divine power has given us EVERYTHING we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” What a kind God!
If 2 peter is true, then by having anxiety in my life on a continuous basis, I can only conclude that I don’t fully believe God has given me everything I need…
And If that hit you hard, it did for me as well. But It also brought change because God is good and through the power of His Spirit, His word is transforming - (Hebrews 4:12)
Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”
Our minds are constantly being renewed with something, and what you renew it with really, really matters. It can either bring healing or it can toss you further into the pit of anxious turmoil. I had someone tell me in the midst of a trigger, to remind myself of what is true and good in my life, and another said to speak kind words over myself, remind me of who I am, all the wonderful things about me. But while it lightly lifted my spirits, my panic attacks and racing mind and heart did not go away and I was left desperate to overcome.
And then I read Psalm 102, which is a prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord. I've included some of it here:
"Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass….In my distress I groan aloud But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment... But you remain the same, and your years will never end. The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you."
The psalmist didn’t speak kindly to himself and remind himself of who he was. But he put his focus entirely on who GOD was! After his lament he said, but you LORD! He acknowledged the One who was creator, who knows the beginning from the end and who never changes.
Simply put, he worshiped God.
I looked through scripture and saw this pattern again and again, and God began to put the pieces together for me. My focus cannot be on myself but on who God is.
You see if I put my trust in myself as the created I’m going to fall short because I don’t know exactly what I need, I am not all knowing, unlike God. When something in my house breaks I read the instructions on how to fix it or call the manufacturer who created it and knows more about what it needs than I do. Or I toss it! So thankful God doesn’t do that with us.
The next time I started to get anxious I put this “method” to the test. I slowed down and reminded myself what God’s word says about HIM, not even how much he loves me or all that he has done for me, simply on HIM, my focus had to be entirely off of myself,
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” Isaiah 40:12
I know God loves me and that is far more beautiful and profound when I meditate on His greatness. Knowing who I am (finite) in light of who He is (infinite) reminds me that I was placing my focus on the wrong things, and dwelling there, thus letting myself become overwhelmed, instead of trusting that all life is in the hands of a very capable God and for His glory not my own.
Hear this: the more that you know God, and the more you learn about Him, the more that you fall in love with Him and you know what happens next? The more you trust in Him, and your anxiety fades. Trust in a loving God replaces fear And without fear there is no anxiety.
"Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “-->My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."
That my friends is comfort!! You are not alone.
Worshiping God is how I overcome my anxiety triggers.
I allow His word to transform and calm my mind, and change my thinking. For what my mind knows then my heart and my emotions also love and reflect. Every single time I look to Him instead of myself I am consumed by Peace. A peace that replaces the worry, which builds a confidence and a trust in a very faithful God.
You may find yourself doing this worship several time a day. And what a gift this becomes to yourself, to spend that much time focusing and learning about your Creator only results in true JOY! You may not be able to change your circumstances, but you can always change the way you think about them. My prayer for those of you reading this is that you will be so encouraged to discover the God of the Bible in a deeper way. He is a very real and personal God who loves us unconditionally, He is not far off.
As a quick disclaimer I know that anxiety and panic attacks can also be the result of a lack of vitamins, and that will need to be addressed because a full healing is both mental, spiritual and physical. Also there is no shame in seeking counseling in working through your anxiety. In this blog I am speaking to someone who knows is working through the mental aspects.