(Long post today.) The past eight days I’ve been posting about anxiety.
To recap, anxiety is a horrible feeling. Usually, but not always, anxiety and depression go hand in hand. There all kinds of reasons one may feel anxious. There are those real situations that can cause anxiety to flare up. There are triggers from the past, we have a flashback and feel anxious. There are medications that can cause anxiety as well as medical conditions. We may, due to past experiences, be somewhat “hardwired” for severe anxiety. It was how we coped as a child and we haven’t got beyond it. There is some evidence that constant anxiety actually changes the chemical make-up in our brain, making further attacks automatic.
Anxiety is really fear, isn’t it? And usually the anxiety we are feeling is out of proportion to the actual situation. When we are afraid or anxious in general, it’s called free-floating anxiety. We can’t really pin what we’re feeling anxious and worried about. I think that’s the worst kind of anxiety. It’s easier to deal with anxiety when we can pinpoint the reason. And some people engage in meta worrying.
Rumination is a particular problem in anxiety. It’s the constant going over in our minds the thing we are worried about. It’s never constructive and it’s never a problem-solving process. Click button for rest of post.
Anxiety, part two gave the first of some “helps”. Here are some more.
- Remember your thoughts are only your thoughts. They are not necessarily facts. There may be some truth somewhere but it’s probably not enough to prove your thoughts.
- Fake it a bit. This really does work. It’s not disingenuous. It’s a technique that professionals have advocated for years. Act a certain way and your thoughts will probably follow.” I used to play the piano for church. I was always told how confident I appeared. All the time my fingers were sweating and my heart was pounding. Eventually my “acting as if” made my confidence grow the sweating hands and the pounding heart were a thing of the past.
- Remember that we all have something. We all live with some sort of issue. We all have hurts and worries. None of us is so emotionally healthy that we’re never anxious. It’s just that with some people their anxiety shows up through headaches, stomach aches, drinking, over or under eating, etc. It’s more acceptable. Find a way to use your anxiety for your benefit. Anxiety has never killed anyone.
- Smile as much as you can. This is similar to “faking it”. It’s very hard to smile when you’re feeling so worried and anxious, but reach deep within and you can probably pull it off. I have, many times. The physical act of smiling has been scientifically proven to raise one’s mood. Raise your mood and your thoughts usually follow.
- Speak positive words. The more you speak negative and destructive words, the more you reinforce your anxiety. The more you use life-affirming words, even silently, those feelings are reinforced. This is one of my most useful tools.
As I was thinking about this post, I remembered what I promised myself when I starting blogging. I promised myself and my followers that I would always be honest. That I wouldn’t sugarcoat anything. I have to be honest and say there are times that all the above just doesn’t work. Or maybe it’s just too much work; you’re tired of fighting. All the “cheerleading” in the world seems futile. It hurts so much. Most people I know would rather have a bad case of the flu than experience anxiety or depression. So what do we do when we do all the right things and we’re still feeling miserable? I broke up my list because these last few tools are my most valuable tools personally.
- First of all, I get moving. I get involved in something, anything. A counselor once told me, “Distract is a wonderful thing.” It really is. It gets our mind off our anxiety. And that feels good. It feels good to just have some relief from the constant thinking. And the funny thing is, once you get moving, it prompts more movement. This is how God designed us. I wish I had time here to talk about how old our bodies are, meaning we have the same physical make-up of people who lived thousands of years ago. But they worked off their anxiety with sheer physical labor.
- Our bodies were never designed for the life we live now. They were meant to be active way into our very senior years. Most us now have to schedule our exercise. So exercising is high on my list of tools. Today I was feeling anxious myself. I did manage to distract myself but I knew I needed more. So I got on my elliptical and worked out strenuously. I kept busy and pretty soon I was back on track. I’ve worked off many episodes of anxiety.
I believe God hates my anxiety as much as I do. While God is not the author of confusion, I think that sometimes God may allow or even send anxiety our way. I don’t think it’s ever His first method of dealing with us, but sometimes it may be the only way we can learn a deeper faith. I must admit I’m not sure how this “allowing” works. It’s a way over-used word. We are so used to (or is it that we want to?) thinking of God as all-loving that we forget that real love often involves discipline. Discipline can definitely make us feel anxious or even depressed. It’s a complicated subject so I’ll leave it at that. A book called Spiritual Discipline by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones does a great job in explaining the concept of spiritual depression.
- I take my anxiety to God in prayer. I don’t mince words or pretend. I always know that God understands my deepest fears. Prayer is more than my hour in the morning. I don’t need to say “Amen”, because prayer for me is never-ending. Not because I’m a super Christian but precisely because I’m not. I have learned volumes about prayer and the interesting thing is, it has made my prayer life simpler and easier. (Wouldn’t you think if I’ve learned volumes it would be just the opposite?)
Well, this is it for this series. I hope it helped. I’m sure I’ll revisit it again.