Anxiety Interrupted

Each of us experience anxiety at some point in our lives. Some are more sensitive to its effects and our lives can be repeatedly disrupted when symptoms begin to feel overwhelming. At times, increased anxiety may be the result of a recent traumatic event. Sometimes it may seem like everyday problems are starting to spin out of control. At other times, it may feel like anxiety or stress are coming out of no where and we may not even be aware of how stressful life has become until the symptoms begin to pile up.

Being aware of the symptoms may help identify and address the problem before it intensifies. Symptoms may include: difficulties falling or staying asleep, excessive worry about big things, little things, anything, or everything, muscle tension, tension headaches, physically feeling on edge, indigestion, IBS, stomach ache, diarrhea, increased discomfort in social settings, panic attacks, irritability, perfectionism, or compulsive behaviors.

One of the biggest contributors to anxiety is fear. Fear-based thoughts can seem overwhelming: “what if it doesn’t work out, what if I fail, what if they don’t like me, what if…?” Playing or replaying the same old thoughts will not change the past or redirect the future. Thinking through it one more time only wears us down emotionally.

One way to identify and challenge those irrational fears is to write out your “self-talk” after you have felt overwhelmed or extremely anxious. Write out word-for-word what you tell yourself when you are anxious or stressed. These are the thought patterns feeding into those anxious feelings. Ask God to help you identify and change those patterns. There is a reason scripture tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, to keep our minds on that which is good and lovely and upright.

If you or someone you know are experiencing anxiety, seek out a pastor or trained professional.

Face Your Fears

Fear comes in many forms: fear of spiders or snakes, fear of not being loved, fear of being hurt, fear of the unknown, fear of being known, fear of heights, fear of open spaces, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of public speaking, or even a fear of the fear. Some fears are legitimate. Some are not. If you’re swimming in the ocean and several sharks surround you, you’re probably going to experience some legitimate fear. Life happens. Bad things come our way. But we don’t want to center our lives around the fear of what might be or for our plans to be constantly disrupted by those fears. Most of the fears or anxiety we experience about the future won’t happen. We spend a lot of time and energy worrying or fretting over what we can’t change. Face your fears.

Name It. Name or list what you are afraid of. If the list is several pages long, this may be an indication that your problem isn’t the things you are afraid of but the problem is your fear. Be specific. Everyone is afraid of something. Be aware of what may have triggered the fear. Ex.: f you were bit by a dog, there is a reason you may have a fear of dogs.

Be Aware of What You Do Because of Fear. Do you avoid people or social situations? Do you keep people at a distance because of what they might do or think about you? Do you hurt others because they might hurt you? Do you do nothing because it is safer than the risk of being hurt or embarrassed?

Small Steps. If you have a fear of the water, don’t just jump in to the deep end of the pool, take small steps. If there is a fear of public speaking, be intentional to take small steps to talk with others, talk in front of smaller groups, talk about something you are very comfortable with, talk in front of groups that you know are safe, be prepared and practice before you step up.

Be Aware of Your Emotional Reaction. Don’t expect that your fears will just disappear if you take small steps. Be aware that as you face your fears your anxiety will initially go up rather than down. The more you face this fear, those fears will eventually normalize. There is a reason you are experiencing the emotion of fear – your thoughts telling you that you are not safe but those thoughts may not be accurate.

Identify Any Irrational Thoughts that Feed into the fear. If you think it you are going to feel it but that doesn’t mean that the fear is legitimate. Challenge the irrational thoughts with truth. For believers, we find our truth in scripture, what God says about Himself, about us, about where we find our strength, hope, and security. Fear focuses on the problem rather than the God who will get us through the problem. Do we believe He is greater than anything we will face? Do you let fear drown out His voice? Do you believe your fearful “truths” rather than His truth. If you know that fear is interrupting your life or stealing your joy, take an active step to talk to someone or begin working through what is driving those fears.