There are many silent killers in our world today. Some of them are silent because we can’t see them and others are not discussed because we simply don’t know what to say. The general American mentality comes into play here; independence, self-sufficiency, don’t get too close to people, and mind your own business.
Even in “safe” places, where we are given permission to talk about certain things, it is still very difficult to delve into certain topics and issues. Sometimes it simply seems much easier to bury our head in the sand and pretend they aren’t happening.
Today I am going to start a new series titled, Silent Killers. I am going to explore some different things that I have experienced that tend to be hard to recognize and often not talked about. Today we’re going to start with anxiety.
Although I am very grateful for the increased awareness and attention being called to mental health issues, I still believe we have a long way to go.
Since writing on easing back to school anxieties and coming across a beautiful blog that shares about a family’s journey and struggle through anxiety, I have been thinking a lot about the topic. This is something very near and dear to my heart as I have a lot of personal experience with anxiety in myself and others.
My mom has always joked that I come from a long line of worriers. As a child I would be in knots for days before a routine doctors or dentist appointment. I would cry in the waiting room as I anticipated being called back for my exam. At the age of four as I taught myself the material in my grandma’s kindergarten teaching materials, I became extremely upset because I couldn’t grasp the concept of money. As a young mom to my first child, I was so bound up in anxiety that I often did not enjoy her early years.
Anxiety has silently stolen many things from me; my passions, my joy, my peace, relationships, opportunities and at times my complete identity. The Bible tells us not to fear 365 different times. God knew that this was going to be a human struggle. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (p. 62) says that those with alcoholism are ruled by 100 forms of fear. I relate to this statement so much!
What is anxiety?
For me, anxiety is usually when I am living in the future and is always accompanied by my self- reliance. I am thinking about and living in a place other than the present moment and spinning my wheels depending on myself rather than God.
Below are some common indicators that I am in a place of anxiety:
- Obsessing/thinking about something over and over
- Trying to control a person or situation
- Feeling an urgency to act
- Obsessively and unrealistically planning for the future
- Speaking very fast
- Experiencing a knot in my stomach and/or a decrease in appetite
- Having a foggy or racing head, having a hard time thinking straight
- Feeling paralyzed or being hyperactive, restlessness
To learn more about anxiety and if it’s a problem for you, check out this article from the Cleveland Clinic.
Shame & Condemnation
I used to feel a lot of shame and condemnation about the anxiety that I experienced. I hammered myself, telling myself I should just trust God more, pray more, have deeper faith. What was wrong with me? Why did I seem to experience so much more anxiety than other people?
I thought that I was defective or inadequate and just wasn’t doing this faith thing the right way. I felt like God was angry with me for not trusting Him more and therefore was getting what I deserved, the extreme discomfort of my anxiety.
As I reflect on the past, I see that the decreasing of my anxiety coupled with my increasing faith in God had to be a process. In my situation I was not able to trust God for a while because I didn’t really know Him. I had to get to know God’s character before I could surrender things to Him and stop worrying. Just as in an earthly relationship, that took time.
In my experience, I have to take individual situations, people and relationships one by one and learn to trust God with each and everyone of them separately. Prior to being in a place of trusting God and peace with things, I generally wrestle with some degree of anxiety around them.
Today when I find myself in anxiety, I don’t experience God’s condemnation. I may experience it from satan or myself, but not from God. God talks so much about fear and anxiety in His Word because He knew we would struggle with it. He knew it was part of the human condition. Instead of the whipping stick, I experience God’s open and loving arms beckoning me to come rest in Him.
Strategies I Use to Combat Anxiety
As I said before, anxiety has been a part of my life from a very young age. I believe that I was born with a predisposition for a nervous temperament. I am in awe of people who are naturally laid-back and calm and don’t get too ruffled by things. My husband is one of those people, God gave him to me for many reasons and I know this is definitely one of them!
So what do I do to help manage my anxiety? I first have to say that apart from God, none of these strategies have ever worked for me. I have tried so many of these tactics in isolation to no avail. When I invite God in, then my efforts begin producing powerful impacts in my life. However, I always aim to not overspiritualize things and for me, God without specific strategies did not help with my anxiety either.
Here are some things that help me:
- Getting enough sleep – I am someone who needs a lot of sleep. When I am tired I am much more prone to anxiety. I have to be very diligent about prioritizing my body’s need to rest.
- Exercising – I aim to exercise five days a week including cardio and resistance training. This helps me to decompress and expel some anxious energy.
- Prayer and meditation – daily upon waking, I spend quiet time with God in prayer and meditation. This is an absolute must for me. I do my best to pause throughout the day to connect with God. When I am in a place of very high anxiety, my natural instinct is to keep moving and working to get more done to try to ease the anxiety. But actually what I need is just the opposite, getting still with God.
- Identifying the lies and perfectionism and replacing them with truth – many times when I am experiencing anxiety, I am believing some kind of lie: things should be a certain way, I have to do this perfectly, I’m not good enough, something is going to turn out horribly – you get the picture. I’m in a place of self-reliance and using myself as my own consultant. In my experience, that has never worked! Instead, looking at the spiritual truths and using them to replace the lies always helps to bring me peace: God is in control and everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be right now, I was created the way I am on purpose and with a special plan, God’s got this and He will never leave me nor forsake me.
- Organization and writing things down – I am a big fan of the Notes and Reminders apps on my phone. I use my electronic calendar to keep track of things and organize and balance my time. A color-coded calendar hangs on our refrigerator that is a master schedule of all of our family’s activities for the month. All of these things help me to clear some of the chatter in my mind and keep everything straight!
- Journaling – talking to God, just writing my feelings or making a list of all the things that are overwhelming me.
- Talk to somebody – things tend to grow exponentially when I keep them in my head. It’s amazing the clarity and lightness that comes from speaking them out loud to somebody else. A therapist or safe, trusted family member or friend are my typical go-to’s. Someone who will listen without judgement or advice, but rather will gently lead me to seek my own solutions, truth and offer encouragement.
- Deep breathing – this helps to slow me down and get centered. I meditate on breathing in God and breathing out self.
- Prioritizing and simplifying – I will often write down everything that is in my head and that I feel like I need to do. Then I look at the list and find the most important thing and focus on it only. When I am done with that then I can go back to the list and find the next most important thing. “First things first” and “One thing at a time”.
- Avoiding caffeine – I avoid caffeine for several reasons and anxiety is one of them. I am very sensitive and just a bit of caffeine can really ramp up my anxiety and make it very difficult for me to sleep.
- Grounding – this is a technique where I focus on a certain category of things and list them. This can be done silently or out loud. For example, TV shows that I watched as a kid, and list as many as I can think of. White things in the room that I am in right now. This can be done anywhere without anyone even knowing that you are doing it and it helps to calm my mind and move it away from the anxious thoughts. There are other strategies for grounding too. Check them out here.
- Medication – I have found through a lot of experimenting that I do best with medication at times. I used to have a lot of shame around this, but now if I need a small dose of medication to help me in a particularly anxious time, I use it. When my anxiety is too high, I can’t implement anything listed above. Sometimes medication is just what I need to bring me back to a place of being able to cope.
Below are a few resources that I recommend that have really helped me. Click on the images to view these items on Amazon.
If you purchase either of these resources on Amazon using the links in this post, you will NOT pay any more for them than you would if you searched for them yourself on Amazon. However, by using these links to make your purchases, you help to support this ministry as I receive a small percentage of the sale. This is very helpful with the costs associated with maintaining this site. Thanks for your support!!
I would love to hear from you!! Please leave a comment, send me an email or comment on social media. Don’t miss next week’s post as I continue to explore silent killers. Future posts in this series will cover depression, perfectionism, denial, disconnecting from ourselves and more. Sign up with your email address to get the latest posts and some extra tidbits and treats (only available to my email subscribers) delivered right to your inbox every week. I promise I will only send you one email a week and will never share your information. I pray you have a blessed week and I look forward to connecting with you!!
Lots of love!