I have always been a bit of a "nervous Nellie". When I was young, the first few days of each new school year were often a challenge. My stomach would get tied up in knots, I'd assume disasters were going to take place as soon as I got on the school bus and I would feel desperately lost until I could connect up with familiar faces. When I went to college I battled home sickness fiercely until I settled in to a new routine with new friends. I still struggle with anxiety before doctor or dentist appointments. I worry over my kids and my grandson.
Anxiety is prevalent. We pace the floor over scenarios that may never take place. We begin waiting for bad stuff to happen. It seems that as I age, anxiety has once again taken a front seat on life's journey. If we look at the number of people taking anti-anxiety medications I'd say I am not alone.
Life is stressful. Being married, having kids, working a job can all add stress to life. That stress builds when marriage is hard, children rebel and the job expects you to do the work of three people instead of just one. As if that is not enough to get our fight or flight motor revving, then we find out a parent is severely ill, a friend has died, our hairdresser found a new job and there is a lump where there shouldn't be one.
I cannot tell you what to do when you feel anxious, because I am not a qualified counselor. As Christians we sometimes throw out verses expecting that they are a miracle cure. If you just think on this verse all your anxiety will melt away. God's word is not Calgon. Some of you may remember those commercials....a frantic woman living a real life, but when the stress is too much she just sinks into a hot tub sized bath full of Calgon bubbles and her cares slip away! If only it was so easy.
We do have some control over what our minds are thinking. At this point in my life I do not take anti anxiety meds. But that doesn't mean I never will. Many elderly people take anti anxiety medicine to help them, not only feel less anxious, but get to sleep at night. So don't be anti medicine. There are times it is right and good. However, if you are on meds, but still feel mastered by anxiety, work with your clinician to find medicines and counseling that enable you to still live life to the fullest.
If you are like me and anxiety pops up from time to time, but is not debilitating, often just changing our focus will chase the anxious thoughts away. Here are some ways to redirect our thinking:
1. Scripture - while God's word is not Calgon it is a powerful mind changer. Granted, it is the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about change, but the Bible is an important tool in that work. These are a few of the Scriptures I ruminate on when I am feeling anxious:
There are many more scriptures about His peace and His care for us.
2. Think about it - This may sound counter intuitive, but thinking about why we are feeling anxious, might help us to recognize the source or sources of the anxiety and lead us to ways of dealing with it. If I am anxious about an upcoming dental appointment, I usually find that I just need to not think about it until it happens. Life is busy enough I can do that, but if it is a more complex problem like just finding out you have cancer, then it might be better to process that with your spouse, pastor, friend or counselor. Talking about a difficulty can make it easier to bear and make you less anxious. I write, of course. I have journals filled with my anxious thoughts, my prayers to God and my gratitude for all He's done.
3. Get active - Sometimes when you are anxious, the last thing you want to do is do something, but activity can lessen anxiety. Gardening, taking a walk, doing the laundry, mopping the floor and going for a bike ride can all help clear your head and move your anxiety to a back burner. If you really want to blow that anxiety out of the water, put on some good music while you are mopping or baking and dance. Lift your hands up to the One who made you and who gives you the ability to breath and move.
4. Be thankful - Ann VosKamp's book 1000 Gifts is her discovery of the healing and worshipful effects of gratitude.
5. Prayer - God's word tells us to "pray without ceasing." I find the more anxious I am the more I need to be in the posture of prayer. That doesn't mean I need to be face down on the floor, although I have assumed that position many times, but my heart and mind need to always be aware that He is near and I can talk to Him at any time.
The most effective treatment of anxiety I have found is to not dwell there. It is a normal place to visit, as we are fallen humanity so in need of His grace and mercy, but He has provided a way to rise above this flesh we live in, we just have to work it out. Sometimes that means taking a walk, writing in a journal or talking to a friend. Sometimes that means going to a counselor or a clinician and getting medication to help slow that roaring motor inside of you down. If you are not sure how severe your anxiety is, please seek out a professional, either your family practitioner or a counselor as they are better able to determine your health needs.
If you regularly deal with anxiety, leave me a comment and tell me how you try to curb that feeling in your life. I'd love to hear your input.