Tuesday, February 15, 2022

When you feel anxious

Anxiety seems to be rampant these pandemic days. I've been in contact with several just in the last week who are dealing with it. I searched my blog and found that I’ve not written much here about my own experience with anxiety. 

What I know for sure is that it is not something from which you have to endlessly suffer— there is a way through. But it is a bigger topic than a 500-word blogpost so there will be a part two next week, and all of this is just an introduction. Let me make clear that I am not a psychotherapist. I am telling you what has worked in my life, but I encourage you to find a licensed therapist with whom you can process all of this. I did a lot of my work by trial and error all those years ago. It would have been easier to have someone knowledgeable.

So, for those of you who may be dealing with anxiety, here are three points from among many others that I’ve found helpful.

1.       1.  Orient yourself to the present. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow . . . “It’s all those tomorrow thoughts that are really getting us going. But if we make a practice of stopping to take in the details of this present moment, —the bird song, the sound of a child’s voice, even the churning of a washing machine—we will see a beneficial effect. I’ve quoted Elizabeth Elliot here before, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  The writer Ann Voskamp who suffered from agoraphobia was challenged to count one thousand blessings. The act of noticing and offering gratitude for these blessings changed her life. She’s probably up to a zillion by now. So, try it, you’ll be surprised at how it changes your perspective. For me, memorizing scripture has also been helpful in this way and so many others.

   2.   Abandon the should's. Perfectionistic thoughts drive anxiety. When we find ourselves thinking “I should . . . (fill in the blank with any number of things),” then we’re headed for trouble. Where did those should thoughts come from? Are these things we really need to do like feeding our children or are they thoughts that are derived from a perfectionistic view like when we’re try to fit into a social media image of what life ought to be like? One of my big challenges has been to take things off my to-do list. I’d wake up in the morning with a list three people couldn’t accomplish and then berate myself at the end of the day that I didn’t get it all done. I created a no-win situation for myself. So, now, I take a more realistic look at the lists I make and force myself to reduce them. Creative temperaments also are good at coming up with projects with lots of moving pieces that we want to do but really something simpler and less stress filled would work just as well. Give yourself permission to take the easier route.

   3.   Allow yourself to feel anxious. I know this seems wrong, but it really is a way through. This goes back to the should point above. When we say, “I shouldn’t feel anxious,” we just make ourselves more tense. Instead, we can say, “I feel a little jittery, but it will pass. It has before. It will again.” Allow yourself to just be in the moment instead of worrying about whether it will get worse. This diffuses the situation.

 I’ll be back here with a part two next week. Years ago, I used to have panic attacks that I thought would never end, but by the grace of God, I don’t anymore. Please let that be an encouragement to you if you are on this journey. I know when I experienced these symptoms, I searched to find someone else who had been through the same thing and when I did, it made a big difference.

God loves you and will walk every step of the way through this with you to bring healing and wholeness.

 “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:9-10).

Over on my Etsy store BeverlyVarnadoArt, you'll find a little book called Gifts of Hope. It's a forty-seven day devotional that I originally wrote for Lent during the time I dealt with PTSD. Perhaps, you will find it helpful. 


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