As I look back over my short 22.8 years of life, I’m nothing short of amazed at how certain things have turned out thus far. So the question has become “why do I struggle with anxiety so often?” When God has brought me through everything.. When He’s been there with me every step of the way.. When He already has plans to prosper me! Why do I worry so much about both the big and small things? Why does my mind get the best of me to the point of feeling exhausted and discouraged? Why do I let that happen when God has never fell short of His promises and never will?
I decided to do a bit of soul searching and anxiety was one of the aspects of myself that I chose to focus on dissecting and overcoming. I believe the most important thing I realized is that I don’t trust God enough. I can sit here and talk to God night and day; go to church; tell Him I love Him; sing praises to Him, and melt away in worship. But do I actually trust Him to take care of everything? Why is my faith so small that even the smallest potential situation can cause my chest to feel like my heart is going to pump out of it? To be completely honest, I do feel like I trust Him wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, my thoughts, emotions and physiological reactions don’t exactly match that. Trust and fear do not really mesh well together.
So what now? If not fully trusting God in every situation is my issue, then overcoming my anxiety must lie within learning to fully trust God. For the past week or so, I’ve been consciously trying a variety of techniques to facilitate and increase my trust in Him. Surrender, calming techniques & redirecting my thoughts are a few of the strategies that have successfully kept me grounded and at peace this week.
To surrender is to cease resistance an submit. In the spiritual realm, it is to let go of trying to control the outcome and trust that God’s plans are far greater than anything we could have ever created for ourselves. To surrender is to put the power in His hands. “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10. We sometimes put so much pressure on ourselves or others to produce results effectively, efficiently and in the way we want. We begin to worry when we do not exactly know how the situation will turn out, but the fact of the matter is: things do not always turn out how we want them to. That does not mean that God is not in control. He is strategic and always right on time…even if we can’t see it yet. His word tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5-6.
I once read a quote that said ” To ‘Let Go’ is to surrender and to ‘Let God’ is to trust Him.” It’s not always the easiest thing, but I’ve been accomplishing this in two primary ways: First, Being grateful for how far He has brought me. Large scale and even the smaller things He’s done for me that I remember once worrying about. Here’s an example that keeps coming to mind for me: A few weeks into the job I started last August, I remember making a mistake which felt huge at the time. As a new employee, I was extremely anxious about telling my boss. I contemplated hiding it from her and trying to handle it myself, but I did the right thing. Now here I am a year later, and my boss has made several mistakes herself. From watching her, I have been reminded that we are all human and mistakes happen. I shouldn’t internalize it or put so much pressure on myself like I did that day. She took care of it. It was okay. This is very much so a small situation compared to other ones we may face in our lives, but it is still a reminder that things will be okay.
The second way I’ve begun to surrender is by telling God multiple times a day to have His way. Every time I feel myself becoming increasingly anxious, I say a quick prayer along the lines of “God, I’m giving this situation to you. Please have your way with it. Please help me to remain calm and give me peace. Help me to trust you. I know that every thing will be okay, just keep reminding me..please. You always come through so I know you will this time too…I just need your help. I trust you and your plan.” Don’t feel like you have to go somewhere and fall to your knees. You can say these prayers while driving, whisper them while in class or at work, or even just close your eyes and say them mentally.
The retrospective analyses as well as telling God to have his way with my future have helped me tremendously.
2.) Calming Techniques
With these techniques, effectiveness solely depends on the person. Before I tell you what works for me, I want to encourage you to figure out what strategies help to calm you down once the anxiety is striking. Know yourself & be realistic.
Lately, I’ve been listening to music on the Calm App. I love the app for meditation, but I haven’t made much time for it (which I want to be better about). With the music feature of the app, I’m able to just zone out. I prefer the songs on Calm because they’re repetitive and lyric-less, perfect for getting your mind off of whatever may be bothering you. Similarly, some music with lyrics can be advantageous too. I’ve begun identifying songs that encourage me when I’m in a state of worry. Several of my gospel songs remind me that God will come through. Two songs I came across on YouTube recently have helped to maintain my calm nature this week: Won’t He Do It by Koryn Hawthorne ft. Roshon Fegan and Be Still by Travis Greene. These are just a couple, but making a playlist of songs you like that specifically encourage the belief that things will be okay could be useful in times when the anxiety is overwhelming and your thoughts are getting the best of you. I’ve learned the power that music holds. Be careful what you feed your spirit.
Writing also tends to calm me down and is probably my single most effective method when anxiety is getting the best of me. If another person is involved, I like to write letters. This helps to get the heaviness off my chest without ever having to share those thoughts unless I choose to. Additionally, I’ve been journaling consistently since the 10th grade and it does several things for me. First, it helps to organize my thoughts. Just getting them all out on paper is like conducting a brain dump which free’s up tons of space in my mind. Seeing my thoughts right there on the paper is therapeutic. It allows me to dig deeper into my emotions and gain a better understanding of my mentality. It leads me to think more clearly. A second thing it does is remind me that God will – and has always – come through for me. When I look back… He’s been good to me. Having those old entries helps me to put my now into perspective. Years ago I worried about today might be like. Today I worry about what’s to come. But when I read over the things I was in a panic about in the past, I’m uplifted because I’m here today and can say things worked out. I didn’t have to worry so much. Same God back then, same God right now.
Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
A third calming technique, that is also essential for our relationship with God, is prayer. For me, I write out a lot of prayers while journaling, but setting aside time exclusively for prayer is crucial. This requires discipline, but it is so necessary. He already knows what we need and desire, but He likes to hear from us. One verse that always comes in handy when I’m dealing with anxiety is as follows: “Be anxious for nothing, but in all through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, make your requests known God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7
Other calming techniques could be things such as exercising, baking, cleaning, reading, squeezing a stress ball, crafting, drawing, crocheting, or whatever works for you. What works for one may not work for another. The key is knowing yourself. Don’t pick exercising as your go-to technique if you know that when you’re in the midst of a panic all you really want to do is hide under your covers. I am the type who becomes exhausted and sometimes even fatigued when I’m overly anxious. I love working out, but I’m not going to go to the gym in that moment. I will however, hide under the covers and cut on music from the Calm app.
Comment some of your favorite strategies below!
“‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11
I decided to start with this verse because anxiety is a mental struggle and this verse stops us in our tracks and says “it’s already handled”. If you could look into the future and see that your life turned out pretty good, would you still worry as much as you do now? Probably not. You’d have peace knowing that your life turned out well. This verse tells us that our futures are in His hands. He has sight beyond what we can see. Instead of trying to understand what He’s doing, worrying about what will happen, or trying to rush the process, we should just trust in the fact that God has plans to prosper us and not harm us. It is already handled.
With that in mind, we have to actively redirect our thoughts. In my Cognitive Behavioral Therapy class this semester, we have been learning about the role that our automatic thoughts play in our mood and in our view of various situations. Automatic thoughts are what we say to ourselves first when something happens. Let’s say, for example, you don’t get the job. Your automatic thoughts might go be: “I knew I wouldn’t. I’m a failure. I might as well just give up.” This is rather discouraging. You begin to internalize those thoughts about yourself. Alternately, your thoughts could be more like this: “Well, this must not be the place for me. Maybe the next place will be a better fit. Hopefully I have better luck next time.” This is far more encouraging. When we begin to worry, we have to stop ourselves and change our thoughts. I put this into practice this past week. I was nervous about a social event I planned to attend. I sometimes struggle in social situations and tend to have negative automatic thoughts: “People will wonder why I’m there. I’m probably going to feel so awkward that I’ll have to leave early. No one will talk to me.” In the week leading up to the event, every time attending the event came to mind, I told myself everything will work out and quickly tried to think about other things. I was surprisingly calm, even on the day of the event (and yes, things worked out).
I also applied this same technique to long term thoughts. I’m the type to plan everything out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when there are aspects of life that I have absolutely no control over, it can become anxiety provoking. My junior year of college is when I first noticed how anxious I can be. I was confused about what career path I wanted to take after graduation and wanted to make the right decision. With so many options and what felt like so little time, I experienced an overwhelming amount of anxiety that semester. Once I picked a path, my anxiety subsided. An area where I struggle a bit more is relationships because I don’t have control over when I’ll meet my future husband, when we’ll get married or when I’ll have kids. Yes, I know I’m young, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t plan my future. All I can do is wonder when and if it’ll ever happen. Nevertheless, I am learning to surrender those thoughts to God as well. My time will come, and until then I should instead focus on what He needs me to do now.
Limiting social media usage has indeed aided in gaining control over my extreme case of baby fever. It also helps me to not feel so anxious about what I don’t have yet. We sometimes get on social media and see what others are doing and it can be discouraging. Happy for them but sad for ourselves. I like to take space to quiet my world down and not think about what everyone else has. It can become toxic and we often don’t even have the full story. Another calming thought is that “what God has for me is for me”. No need to be envious of others.
It is my hope that at least some part of this article is useful to you as you aim to overcome your anxiety. It can be mentally tiring, I know, but everything will turn out exactly how it is supposed to. It may not be how we pictured and we may not be able to see it now, but it will be according to His plan. “God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we could ask or think according to the power that is at work in us” Ephesians 3:20.
Take heart and seek peace ♥