For as long as I can remember, I have been an anxious person. It’s something that I thought I was coping with well, until I began to see my patterns repeating themselves in my kids. What I chalked up to being “cautious and detail oriented” was in reality, fear and anxiousness. Without knowing it, I had been communicating to my family that when we are not in control, fear or worry is the go-to response.
Now, before we get started I need to be clear. When I reference anxiety or talk about being anxious I’m talking about “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”. I am NOT referring to a nervous condition/diagnosis of any form of anxiety. These are two different issues, and if you were to read my tips under the impression that I was referring to the latter, I would be doing you a great disservice.
However, if you are someone who struggles with occasional anxiety and worry, then I hope that some of what I have learned can help you in your own journey to health, wholeness and peace. Here are five things that help me when I notice that my thoughts and actions are filled with anxiousness:
Exercise. When we exercise our brain releases “feel good” hormones to our bodies and we feel a natural boost. I’m not saying you have to start cross fit or Olympic weight- lifting, but simply getting outside in the sunshine and taking a 20 minute walk can have a significant impact.
Talk with a friend. Worry and anxiety are mostly internal - and to be honest, a little embarrassing at times. Find a trusted friend or family member who you can discuss your fears with. Sometimes saying something out loud and having a caring person support you can allow you to breathe and get perspective on a situation.
Debunk your fears. The thought behind this (for ME personally) is that a lot of times the things I worry about aren’t logical. It’s easy to let the “what-if’s” spiral out of control in my head, so addressing the fear/anxiety head on has been huge for me. I write out what my fear is, why it’s not true/possible, and then I tie a Bible verse about what IS true in that situation. I pray about these things and ask God to let the Truth take root in my heart and my mind. This list is also helpful to refer back to if the issue arises again (it almost always does!) AND gives me a tangible way to see how God is working in my life. I can see where I was and how far He has brought me.
Go to counseling. Some people feel there is a social stigma associated with counseling, so let me help you see things from a different perspective (that also happens to be one of the things a counselor does). People hire doctors to help manage their physical health, accountants to manage their material possessions, lawyers to deal with legal matters, cooks to make delicious food for events - WHY would you not hire someone to partner with you to care for your mental and emotional well being? Counseling can consist of any number of sessions and will offer your perspective, tools and accountability for making changes that will benefit you and those you love. Find a counselor who aligns with your beliefs (for me, that’s someone who incorporates Bible based Truth into their sessions), who can work with you on payments (some accept insurance and some don’t) and who comes highly recommended. Sometimes a few sessions can provide incredible help that you wouldn’t otherwise have had access to.
Support your body. There are simple habits you can incorporate into your daily life that will allow your body to have what it needs physically, so you can be your best mentally and emotionally. For me, that means getting enough Vitamins D and B, using essential oils for their aromatic impact on the brain and eating in a way that keeps my blood sugar stay stable. Recently, it also meant giving up caffeine. That’s right - my beloved, treasured, loved two cups of coffee a day habit has been swapped out for decaf. D-E-C-A-F my friends (obviously, I’m not quite over this). I noticed that on days I had more caffeine I was jittery and on edge, didn’t sleep well and had a hard time not feeling keyed up. So I slowly decreased my daily consumption and guess what? I feel SO much better. I’m not saying caffeine is the issue for you - but look at what you put in and on your body that may be having a negative effect on how your body functions, and be willing to make a slow change that will benefit you in the long run.
If I could make one final suggestion, it would be this - start slow. Sometimes we (me) decide we are going to tackle an issue in our lives and we do all the things for a few days and then feel exhausted and defeated when we don’t have immediate results. So take things slow. Choose one thing from the list above and add it to your routine for a week. Once you have that down, add another thing. Pray and ask God for help, wisdom, for the Truth to be clear, and for people to support you as you make these changes. If at any time you notice things getting worse, an inability to function in daily life or have thoughts of harming yourself call a counselor immediately. You are precious and loved and have value - and it’s ok to ask for help when you need it.