Fighting Anxiety, Part 4

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Watch out!  It can envelope you!

Yesterday I primarily covered the spiritual first steps to attack your anxiety.  Today I have listed 12 more ways to attack anxiety, that include spirit, soul, and body.

Attacking Anxiety in your Spirit, Soul, and Body:

  1. Planning ahead.  When I know that I have something coming up that could cause anxiety, like giving a lecture or a big presentation, I begin praying a week in advance.  That also gives me confidence so that I can start the day with swagger.
  2. Music can be very helpful.  I listen to Your Great Name, below, when I start to feel even a hint of anxiety coming on, and it helps me to focus on something else besides the anxiety that tries to dominate my thoughts.  It’s hard to be worried while you are worshiping!
  3. Similarly, train your mind to obey you.  All anxiety is obsessive thinking about something, and over time you can practice reining in your thoughts and replacing them with good thoughts.  (It’s easier to replace a bad thought with a good one than it is to simply stop thinking about a bad thought.)
  4. Regulate your breathing and muscles.  When I start to get anxious it helps to focus on slowing down my breathing.  I also try to consciously relax my muscles, especially my stomach muscles and shoulders.
  5. Thinking of other people; reminding yourself that it’s not all about you.  (Remember, a lot of anxiety is the result of a me-centric attitude.  Serving someone else helps to break that cycle of self-thinking.
  6. Getting physical activity, even if that just means standing up and stretching or taking a five-minute walk.  My job involves quite a bit of sitting and so at least once per day, if not twice, I try to get up take a walk around the hospital.  That helps me stay calm and loose and ward off anxiety before it starts.
  7. Anxiety often happens when your mind is believing something that is not true.  That is, you are believing a lie.  Ask God if you are believing any lies that compound your anxiety.
  8. Get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, stay active and healthy.
  9. Keep an eye on all of the areas of your life that cause stress, and be realistic about it.  If you have a death in the family, have a baby, move, start a new job, go bankrupt, and start a worldwide speaking tour all in the same month, you’re probably going to be stressed.  I’m not saying that you have to avoid all of the stressors. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t pretend they aren’t there.  (I tried that – it doesn’t help. Or I should say that it catches up with you.  Eventually. I was able to burn the candle at both ends and take on the burdens of the world for a couple decades but eventually I had to adjust.)
  10. Talk about it!  The natural tendency is to keep this kind of issue to yourself. But in my experience this is the least productive thing you can do.  (Secrecy makes every bad thing worse.)  I finally started to make progress once I shared my weaknesses with my wife and with my accountability partner.  There are two ways that this was helpful:  First, they could pray for me, assist me, and encourage me.  Second, it forced me to humble myself to admit that I did indeed have a problem and needed help.  From Genesis to Revelation we see that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
  11. Fasting.  Fasting has a dual benefit of showing humility before God and practicing self-discipline.  It is a practical way to show your body who’s in charge.  (Make sure that you fast in a way that is in keeping with your baseline health.)
  12. Last, but not least, medications can help.  I am a pharmacist, after all!  Medications help with the physical and emotional side of anxiety.  Your exact symptoms will help determine what kind of medications will help you. You should talk to your doctor or friendly pharmacist to find out more information.

This post was more like a grocery list, but it is a collection of my thoughts of what helped me.  I hope that you find it helpful as well, and feel free to share your suggestions in the comments section below.  Shalom!

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Our Purposeful Life Anxiety Series:

Anxiety Part 1

Anxiety Part 2: What Kind of Anxious Are You?

Anxiety Part 3: Irrational Anxiety

Anxiety Part 5: Peak Performance  

Other Resources:

OPL: Boldness Vs Fear

OPL: Kids and Fear

OPL: Scriptures that we use for the kids

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question:  Why am I anxious?  I don’t have anything to be anxious about!
Answer:  Deep down there may be something.  Or else it may just be an attack from the devil or from our flesh.  Keep searching yourself to get your answer.

Question:  I have a friend or family member who’s dealing with this issue.  What could I do that would be counter-productive and un-helpful?
Answer: That’s a weird question.  To be totally unhelpful, you could be impatient and frustrated with them.  You could urge them to ‘just get over it.’  You could treat them like some sort of weakling or weirdo and hope that helps.

Question:  Why doesn’t it work?  I’m praying.  No results!
Answer 1:  I like to look at Daniel’s 21 day prayer.  You can read about it in Daniel 10.  I don’t necessarily understand it, or know exactly how it applies today, but I do know that Daniel fasted and prayed for 20 straight days without hearing an answer.  Until he did.  So that gives me hope for when my prayers go unanswered for a while.  Another analogy is in Mark 11, where Jesus cursed the fig tree and then came back the next day to see the effect.  Why did he do that instead of blessing it? I don’t know.  All I know is that sometimes our prayer can be answered on the spiritual level before we can see any effects on the physical side.  Our eyeballs are not reliable sensors for spiritual stimuli.

Answer 2: I love Mark 9:24.  The father said “I believe…help my unbelief.”  I think that even though I really do possess mustard-seed-faith, there are times when that faith is opposed by big mounds of unbelief.  So, when praying, ask God to help you overcome your unbelief.  Pray a humble prayer like this man did.  (It takes time – you’ve been building up your unbelief for decades.  It might not drop off in one evening.)

Question:  Maybe God wants me to have this anxiety, whadya think about that?
Answer:  Doubtful.  Most dads don’t want their kids to be stuck with obsessive thoughts that dominate their lives and negatively affect their ability to function.  A more likely scenario is that the problem is on my end of the prayer, not God’s.  A potentially helpful analogy goes like this:  It is God’s will that all are saved, but not everyone is, due to our frailty and failures and unbelief.  It is similarly God’s will that everyone be healed of their anxiety, but not everyone is, due to our frailty and failures and unbelief.  Obviously people have debated Calvinism vs Free Will for a couple thousand years and we won’t necessarily resolve it here, but I think it is a plausible understanding of Scripture that is in line with my understanding of my Daddy/Father.  Some might think this is depressing:  “It’s my fault that I’m not over this!”  However, to me it is actually more encouraging than the converse, which is that it’s God’s fault.  At least if it’s my fault I have hopes of eventually getting it figured out!

Your Great Name (This song helps me immensely.)

 

Remind Me Who I Am (Just a nice song that caught my attention lately.)

 

Even more resources:

John and Stasi Eldredge talk a lot about spiritual warfare, agreements, counterproductive thinking, old wounds, and other psychological stuff like that.

2 thoughts on “Fighting Anxiety, Part 4

  1. Leah Zanolla says:

    I have had problems with anxiety off and on since having kids (may have had it before, but wasn’t tuned into it; I had the beginnings of postpartum depression after our second and really noticed it after that). It hits at night, rarely during the day. Most of the time it’s irrational, but it also seems to happen the first night of traveling, especially to an unfamiliar place. This is getting much better as I’ve realized that it happens then, and can be prepared and tell myself that nothing is wrong (which is true!).
    A few things I’ve done: 1) Everyday, I make sure to drink tons of water. I can definitely tell a difference in my body and my anxiety if I’m not hydrated. On that same note, no sugar, or very little, after dinner. If I eat sugar too late, I will have difficulty falling asleep, which causes anxiety and I will have really crazy nightmares. 2) I keep a list of Bible verses written out in the Notes of my phone. In a hotel, it’s always on the bedside table, so I can pull it out and quietly read them over and over without waking anyone else up with a light. I tend to repeat Philippians 4:6-8 and that normally helps me fall asleep. 3) I have also given myself permission to have a sleepless night. This sounds weird, but if I begin having anxiety when going to sleep, dwelling on it keeps me from falling asleep, then I begin thinking about how little sleep I’m getting and how hard that next day will be. It just becomes a never-ending cycle. If I have permission, I don’t get as stressed. In a hotel, I keep a Kindle or magazine next to the bed so I have an “out” if I really can’t sleep. I almost never need to use them because just knowing they’re there calms me down.
    The series on anxiety has been interesting, thanks!

    1. Nate says:

      Thanks for sharing, Leah!

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