Anxiety. What an emotion! It lives right up there in your brain, messing with your thoughts, your mood, and your attitude. It messes with your gut, your jaw, your heart, your relationships, your life! It even seems to have some sort of magical power to take a small situation or problem and grow it exponentially every time you think of it.
A small incident happens and next thing you know, your anxiety has grabbed your thoughts and is skipping away with them, taunting them, giving them enlarging glasses to wear while looking at your situation. And while looking at your situation through those anxiety glasses, things get worse. They quickly become so unmanageable that life can seem unbearable.
While some of us suffer more anxiety than others, we all do experience a bit of it from time to time, myself included. As an online therapist, I feel I should be exempt from runaway thoughts and emotions, but no, I still get them in full living color!
Recently I found a dead mouse at my garage door. Now, this may seem like no big deal; however, I have a phobia (another by-product of anxiety), and my particular phobia includes mice. I was in a hurry and had to run errands, so I gingerly stepped around the deceased rodent, being very careful not to let it touch even the hem of my pant leg. While I was out, the mouse was out of sight but definitely not out of mind.
Before I had returned home, my anxiety had run away with my thoughts, and the rather small, puny looking (and might I remind you deceased) mouse, had become a giant of a beast, more likely a rat than a mouse and certainly able to take on the Orkin man or anyone else who dared look his way. In addition to increasing his size, the anxiety also now provided him with a rather large family, much the size of the mice family in Ratatoullie, possibly numbering in the millions! By the time I went to bed, I was barely able to sleep, certain that every sound I heard was an army of mice coming to climb on me while I slept.
As ridiculous as that sounds, it is very sadly a true story. It shows how easily anxiety can run away with our thoughts, causing more problems than we really have. So what’s a person to do when anxiety sets up house and takes charge, growing in strength, frequency and sometimes paralyzing us with fears?
The best thing to do is look to the word of God for help. The Lord has a great deal to tell us about anxiety and worrying. Remember He said to be anxious for nothing and told us to look at the lilies of the field who are merely grass of the field but are dressed better than Solomon in all his splendor, or the birds who don’t plant or harvest, but God feeds them every day. The Lord says we are worth so much more to Him than they. Phillipians 4:6 says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
So we know God doesn’t want us to be anxious. We know it’s not good for our situation. Although it can be good at times, spurring us to action in dangerous situations, too much anxiety or constant anxiety can have damaging physical results. Especially if we let it run rampant and don’t reign it in. In the past when I had a bigger problem with anxiety, I found myself worried all the time. I recall when I was having a peaceful moment years ago and suddenly found myself starting to panic for no apparent reason. After reflection, I realized I was worried because I wasn’t worried. Anxiety can be a bit addictive! It was then I realized I needed to take some action.
So what’s a person to do when they find themselves worrying too much or suffering from headaches, stomach problems, depression, high blood pressure or other physical and emotional ailments due to an overload of anxiety? Here are a few helpful tips:
- Take your concerns to God. Ask for help from the Lord to give you strength to deal with the problem, help you release the anxiety and give you wisdom.
- Write down your problem or concern. You won’t forget about it if you write it down. This allows you to release it mentally for a time. This is especially helpful before bed.
- Analyze what action you need to take to resolve the problem. It helps to brainstorm with even seemingly silly solutions. Sometimes those can be honed into a workable plan of action. Check to see if there is any action you can currently take that will improve the situation without causing more problems.
- Talk to a trusted friend, pastor or relative.
- Engage the services of a Christian therapist.
- Take every thought captive to Christ. When the constant worrying and feelings of anxiety return to haunt you, tell yourself to stop, make sure you have done what you can, give the problem to the Lord one more time, ask Him to help you let it go, and utilize some relaxation techniques.
- If the anxiety has gone on too long or is so severe it impairs functioning, see a doctor. There are some medications which can definitely take the edge off the anxiety.
- Go through each of the steps again, especially Step 6 until you feel better. You may need to do this multiple times. Oh, and learning to laugh at yourself a bit helps. It has certainly helped me!
If you or someone you love is troubled with anxiety, or would like to learn more, contact online therapist Sandra Lancaster, LCPC. Never feel bad about asking for help. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of understanding a situation and taking a positive step to feel better.