If this is your first time here, WELCOME! Please note that this is a wrap-up in a 5-part series on a journey I experienced through anxiety. To read the journey in its entirety, click through to part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.
Although I’ve been meaning to post this anxiety wrap-up for nearly two weeks now, we’ve been busy! Life with three little ones aged five and under has its never-ending, round-the-clock demands. And by the time I’ve soothed the baby to sleep, my husband has wrestled the other two into bed, we’ve denied their 15th request for a drink of water, answered their onslaught of random let’s-stall-bedtime questions and have restored the home to some sense of adult-worthy clean, we can hardly muster enough energy to collapse onto the couch and watch a show together. Even then, I’m typically asleep before the credits roll. So while this post has maintained its spot in the forefront of my mind, it’s been nearly impossible to find the time to actually put my fingers to the keypad.
Nevertheless, I promised a wrap-up, and I couldn’t leave you hanging, especially since many of you have contacted me personally to say that you’ve been reading the series and have shared how it’s impacted you. To those of you who reached out to me (you know who you are) … Thank you! It’s been a sacrifice of time, energy and vulnerability to recount the details of my anxiety story. Hearing that you’ve appreciated reading about my walk through this battle has been so encouraging! Many of you have also shared that this series has resonated with you because you’ve walked (or are walking) a similar journey. This is clearly a common fight that plagues many of us, and I hope we can all find some encouragement and support through transparency and the shouldering of one another’s burdens.
As for me, while I can honestly say that I have emerged from the bout with anxiety that plagued me last year, I’m not completely out of the water. I still struggle with anxiety, and I still must take up arms against the onslaught of anxious thoughts that filter through my mind. To be honest, I fear that I’ll battle some degree of anxiety throughout my life. It is certainly an area of weakness for me. But having journeyed through my experience last year, I’ve learned a thing or two. Now, when I feel those anxious thoughts creep in, I’m a bit better equipped to handle them. Here’s what I’ve learned and how I cope when anxious thoughts rear their ugly head.
– Pray. This just may be the most important key to handling anxiety. It’s also how Paul tells us to address anxiety in Philippians 4: 6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” Even if it’s just an arrow prayer shot up with a breath in the midst of daily chaos, we serve a mighty God! And one simple prayer can offer an abundance of peace. (For a more in-depth look at Philippians 4 in light of anxiety, read part 1 of this series.)
– Memorize Scripture. I’ll admit that I’m not the best at this, but I really desire to get better. And even the little bit I do have memorized is able to act as a shield against anxious thoughts. If you’re not sure where to start, Psalm 91 is an especially comforting piece of scripture to help combat fears and worry.
– Cultivate Thankfulness. It’s next-to-impossible to give thanks while simultaneously worrying. The very nature of giving thanks is a reminder of God’s faithfulness, and that reminder refreshes our perspective and helps us refocus our thoughts on Him. When anxious thoughts weigh upon you, counter those thoughts by thinking instead on the blessings for which you’re thankful.
– Share Your Burden. I’m blessed (cursed?) with an A-type personality, and sometimes my tendency towards perfectionism prevents me from allowing others to press into my weaknesses. But one of the most important lessons I learned while in the midst of my journey with anxiety was the importance of inviting others to come alongside me and shoulder my burden. I desperately needed the support of others; I still do. Invite others into your hard places. It makes the journey more bearable and blesses those who join you in it.
– Minimize Your Intake of News. This may be the most practical piece of advice I can give, and it makes a big difference in how I handle my anxiety. We live in a news-saturated society, and events like Boston and the recent Oklahoma tornadoes can turn me ON.MY.HEAD! Frequently I just have to turn it all off and give my mind some space to breathe. This also goes for sites like Facebook and Twitter, which are often my first source for breaking news. If you’d like to take a committed weekend break from these, take the Redeem the Time Pledge.
– Take Care of Yourself. If the last point was the most practical piece of advice, this is the second most practical. Get plenty of rest, do some form of exercise, find something to help reduce stress (a massage, yoga, a chiropractor). If you’re not meeting your basic physical needs, worry and anxiety are only going to be intensified.
While not a cure-all in any way, these steps are tools in my arsenal that help me combat anxiety when I feel it weighing down upon me. More than anything though, my journey through anxiety has taught me the importance of continually turning from my circumstances and into the face of Christ. And while He may not make the journey easier, I’ve learned that He is always faithful to lead me as I venture through it.
How have you learned to combat fear, worry and anxious thoughts? If you’re struggling with anxiety right now, how are you learning to cope? If you’ve walked through it and find yourself coming out on the other side, what advice can you offer to someone else who may be knee deep in it all?