So over the past few years we’ve been hearing a lot about anxiety. Our generation has made anxiety more socially acceptable to talk about, and we realise now more than ever that it can affect literally anybody. It’s amazing that society has made these waves in destigmatising anxiety, but I thought we would take a moment to look into things a bit deeper, from a psychological perspective but also as Christians.
So what really is anxiety?
In its simplest form, anxiety is when you anticipate something (most often in the future) and react to it emotionally and physically, maybe even spiritually, as if it were occurring now.
“Anxiety is anticipating something in the future and reacting as if it were happening now”.
It is comprised of physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, tummy butterflies, unexplained sweating, digestive issues (linked to long term illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), the list goes on. It is also comprised of psychological symptoms such as excessive worrying, forgetfulness / brain fog and ruminating on things obsessively.
Taking things a step further, particularly if you’re a bit of a boss lady like myself, anxiety might look like:
• Feeling like you must control everything (and feeling like a failure when you’re unable to)
• Not being able to tolerate uncertainty
• Not knowing how to let yourself rest
Worst of all, anxiety is really a thief of joy. It convinces you that by worrying in the present moment, you will somehow resolve the issue that you are concerned about. However it brings these horrible symptoms with it, interferes with your ability to be present and enjoy the present moment … and after all that … doesn’t always aid you towards achieving the solution that it promised worrying would help with.
So how do I deal with it?
As believers, a good place to start in all things is going back to how God sees things. It may sound cliché, but I want to present a key scripture that highlight God’s perspective and approach.
In Exodus 16 the children of Israel had left Egypt and were on their journey to the promise land. As they expressed their anxieties around what they would eat and lamented about the good food that they had in Egypt before they left, God struck a deal with the people through Moses.
Exodus 16:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not”.
Basically, God responded to their anxious cries by providing for them, but causing them only to seek the necessary amount for each day from Him. The truth is, God never wanted us to function independently of Him, or to worry about the future and the bigger picture (Matthew 6:32-34).
A change of perspective is necessary:
• Your responsibility is getting your daily bread from Him (literally what Manna was) – Matthew 6:11 – and knowing that he will provide for you daily. In Exodus 16, whenever the children of Israel took more than what they needed, it would rot!
• His responsibility is the bigger picture. He wants you to rely on Him. He has more than got this. Whatever it is and however it may seem.
Some practical steps
Practically, waking up in a panic is the most awful thing. Here are some things you can do to help:
• Set aside some time to listen to calming music / instrumentals at the times when you feel most anxious – whether that’s first thing in the morning, last thing before bed or both
• Journal – write out those thoughts that have been circling in your mind. It can help to mind-dump
• Go for walks / runs
• Surround yourself with your support network
• Consider therapy – speaking to a professional is invaluable
• Pray and give your burdens over to Him as and when they arise (in that very moment)
I hope this has helped to shed some more light on anxiety and how to deal with it.
Breathe sis … You’ve got this, and God has got you!