Anxiety. Now there’s a word that sounds a lot like it feels, and I’m not gonna lie: I’ve been feeling it a lot lately.
I seriously doubt I’m the only one.
Gas prices. Grocery bills. COVID. Kids. In-laws. Jobs. The state of our nation and of our world.
It’s too much.
And some days (or maybe most days lately), I feel it physically. I find myself needing to take slow, deep breaths and think of other things. Or try to think of nothing at all.
Because I need five minutes before I have to fix another meal, make another school run, visit another doctor or do another thing.
Do you ever feel that way?
If so, I’d like to share some of the ways I’ve learned to cope with anxiety over the years. Some of these tips come straight from God’s word; others have come from wise women I’ve known. Some are just plain common sense. All have proven helpful in my life, and I hope they will in yours, too.
When anxiety overwhelms you
I’ve found the first thing I have to do when anxiety threatens to overwhelm me is stop. Seriously. Just stop. Stop what I’m doing. Try to stop what I’m thinking.
Rest. Even for only a few minutes. Rest my mind. Rest my heart. Rest my body.
Rest and realign actually. I sit down, close my eyes, take deep breaths and be. It’s living out the words of Psalm 46:10, which says, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in all the earth.”
You see, I have to take time and forget the world around me so I can remember the one who is still in control of it. None of the chaos that surrounds us has surprised him. None of our fears frighten him.
And do you know what? He will still be exalted in all of it. In my life and in yours. Even in this broken world and at all times. So don’t let your worry stop your worship.Don't let your worry stop your worship.Click To Tweet
Often, the next thing I do is take a walk. There’s no better way to be reminded of the Creator than by observing his creation. It’s also exercise, which does can do wonders for your body and your mind. Often, as I walk, I pray. Sometimes, I listen to worship music. Other times, I think and plan and dream.
I almost always relax.
Do you have to take a walk? No. My sister runs. A lot. I have friends who do other exercises. My mother-in-law just likes to sit in the sun. Fresh air can bring fresh perspective.
There are times, however, when a rest or a walk just won’t work. The burdens we are carrying are just too heavy.
So how do we lighten the load?
First, we have to take our burdens to the one who is strong enough to bear them. “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) The NIV actually says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
We need peace. In the presence of God is where we’ll get it.
If you’re still struggling to carry the burden of anxiety, there’s another simple solution: share it.
God’s people are not meant to suffer in solitude. We are part of the body of Christ, and that means we need to work like a healthy body does. When I have to carry a case of water into the house from my car, my arms don’t do all the work. My back would break if they did. My legs help me lift. My hips help me hold the door open. My head says, “Ask your kids for help!”
My body works together to carry the burden.
The church should work the same way.
Sometimes, we have to ask for help. Other times, we have to offer it.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Finally, don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek wise counsel beyond your friends and family. Maybe a pastor or a counselor could become a safe place to share your worries and ease your anxiety. After my son was born, I experienced postpartum depression, and the Christian counselor I met with shared wisdom and practical methods of overcoming anxiety I still use to this day. If you have trouble bringing your thoughts under the control of Christ, seek out a Christian counselor.
After all, Proverbs 24:6 says, “Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”
And, it is a war we are waging, isn’t it? Taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ is not a passive playtime. It’s a battle, and no one wants to go into battle alone.
Thank goodness our God fights for us.
Hold tight to these promises if you face overwhelming anxiety:
- “I will lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
- “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
- “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3
- “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10
- “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have on who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Here are a few books I’m considering reading to help me deal with anxiety these days (NOTE: I have not read these yet!):
*If your anxious thoughts are constant or dangerous, please do seek professional help. Going to my doctor when I had postpartum depression was the best decision I made at that time because I needed help to overcome the anxious thoughts I was having. Don’t hesitate to ask for help!