Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Keep putting into practice all you learned…then the God of peace will be with you.
Millions of Americans struggle with fear and anxiety. Some of them struggle daily. Some of them struggle so severely that it affects their daily routines.
Fear and anxiety have been a struggle for me to varying degrees. Up until fifteen years ago, I rarely struggled with it. My stumbling block was depression. In my third trimester with both of my children, I experienced deep depression and slept quite a bit. But after the birth of my daughter, I experienced raging anxiety.
I have analyzed this season of my life. It was almost overnight that I experienced this change. There were many reasons for this season of my life. My hormones had changed with my second birth. I was taking medications that included anxiety as a side effect. And I was adjusting to being a mom of two children. I still don’t understand the math of how two children are more than twice the work load. But, take heart, it’s not your imagination!
Some days my anxiety was so overwhelming that I felt like I could run down the street and keep running forever. It was like the scene from Forrest Gump.
One day I just felt like running.
I wanted to turn off my brain, but I couldn’t. I even longed for depression because at least then I would be able to sleep.
So, anxiety is a real thing. And it plagues many of us. Yet, as Christians, we often hear that we should not fear. Do not worry about anything. Cast your cares upon God because He cares for you. But how do you turn off your brain? How do you trust God when your amygdala and hippocampus have run amuck?
I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. But I can share with you some of the things that helped me.
See a Doctor.
If you need immediate relief or if you find yourself wanting to take extreme measures to “make it stop”, then you need to see a doctor. Today. You can start with your family physician, but you may need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Some of you (especially Christians) may feel like you have failed because you need a doctor. Write this down: God values you and your life. You are worthy of receiving help from God and others. Some times medication is needed even temporarily to re-program your brain. Also, a doctor can help determine if there are other factors contributing to the anxiety. In my case, I needed to stop taking one of my medications because it was “sending me over the edge”.
Find a Confidant.
Men, I’m talking to you! Women have typically reached out to others because that was how we survived in times when we were not permitted to be educated. Women taught each other how to cook, nurse their babies, sew, and take care of the garden. And when we hung out teaching one another, we shared our struggles and anxieties.
Men, however, tend to keep their struggles to themselves. We have affirmed men who are “emotionless” by telling them they are strong and brave. But brave men get the help they need so they can care for their families. If you cannot bring yourself to see a doctor, then find a friend and grab a coffee or burger.
God. Meditation. Prayer. Positive Thoughts.
Call it whatever you want, but you need to stop the thoughts in your head! St Paul wrote the words above to the Church in Philippi. Paul had lots of stuff to worry about; mostly like not being stoned to death. And the Church in Philippi also had lots of stuff to worry about. So do you. Sort of.
Someone once said that most of life is 90% in our heads. In others words, it never happens, is not actually happening, and if it happens will actually be no big deal. Some psychologists will tell you to take the thought to its absolute end and then ask yourself if it is really such a bad thing. Don’t try this is your are at your wit’s end. But for many of you and for many of your worries, it will help.
But Paul had it right when he told the Church to change the way it was thinking. New brain studies suggest we can actually change the structure of our brains (neuroplasticity) by changing what we meditate on. We can add or increase our own serotonin if we start thinking good thoughts. Maybe your grandmother was right after all.
One of the things that help me most was writing positive things down each day in a journal and then reciting them back to myself (aloud is best). What do you write? What do you need to hear?
I am a good parent and I am learning new parenting skills each day.
I am a hard worker and I am providing for my family.
God has given me skills and I am using them to the best of my ability.
My future is secure because God is teaching me to be all I can be in Christ.
I am getting healthier every day because of my good choices.
Tell yourself what you need to hear to become the person God has created you to be. Do this every day for 30 days. Record how you feel at the end of each day. I believe you will be stronger and healthier for it. You can do it! I believe in you and so does God!