Scripture is quoted as saying “Do not worry…” (Matthew 6:2-34), but for someone who is prone to anxious thoughts and already feeling the pressure of anxiety, hearing those words without context and understanding can bring even more worry about worrying too much!
Anxiety is a part of our daily life and in most instances can be helpful. Whether making sure we study for the upcoming test or staying away from a moving vehicle, our bodies use anxiety to keep up safe. However, sometimes anxiety can get unbalanced and we feel trapped by it. We all want some easy ways to deal with our anxious thoughts to help us cope with our day to day life.
Anxiety and Hurt
Too often when believers try to seek help they are met with generic answers. “You just need to pray more” “You should read your Bible.” “You need to go to church.” While I am a huge believer that all of these are important to a balanced and healthy spiritual life, when someone is in the midst of feelings of panic, these answers often leave them feeling more hurt and alone.
5 Tips to Cope With Anxiety Now
God gives us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and that includes how to deal with our emotions. Here are five proven ways to help lower anxiety and help you deal with whatever lies before you.
Focus on Something Positive - Philippians 4:8
We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change what we are focusing on if we are willing to put forth the effort. Paul wrote from house arrest/prison what is arguably the most positive and encouraging book in the New Testament. In a time in his life where he could have just seen everything that appeared to be going wrong, he wrote:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8
The section gives a very specific list of topics to look for to focus our thoughts. He ends with “meditate on these things” meaning not a casual, passing thought of “Oh yeah, well there’s that” but to really focus in detail about those aspects of our life and world that our current circumstance can’t change. The more detail we can focus on another object or event (using memories from as many senses as possible) the more calm our bodies will become as our brain engages away from the anxiety.
Be Still - Psalm 46:10
Anxiety often comes when we feel busy and overwhelmed. There is so much to do and only so much of you to go around. When learning to cope with anxiety we must learn the art of Being Still!
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10
Sometimes we need a reminder to step back and stop, even for a moment. We need to be still in order to clear our minds and prioritize our actions. In Psalm 46:10 David is told to be still and remember who God is. David spent so much of his life in battle, whether battling as a soldier, as a king, or battling for his own life which was threatened by others. He knew what it was to be anxious.
When we can be still and focus on what really matters we can make decisions on what we need to accomplish first. What takes most priority for the here and now, rather than focusing on everything at once. Once we can be still we can be better equipped to tackle the next tip.
Focus on What you Can Do - 2 Timothy 1:7
When anxiety is strong often we feel powerless to do anything. Nothing could be further from the truth! Even if our only action is to stop and take a breath, it is still an action!
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
We have been given power to take action, love for ourselves and others, and a sound mind to think about the choices we make. It is important when feeling overwhelmed, to pause and choose an action, rather than react out of emotion. Reactions leave us feeling as though we have no control over what is happening. While we may not have control over what is going on around us, recognizing that there is great control and power in having our own ability to choose.
We can choose to walk away, lower our voice, seek help, take a deep breath, focus on something positive. Give yourself a sense of power and reduce your feelings of anxiety at the same time by taking by control of your thoughts, your words, and your actions! Your emotions will reflect the changes you make.
Be Aware of Your Expectations - Ecclesiastes 3:1
Our anxiety often is worse because we feel pressure, whether from ourselves or what we believe others are placing on us. We fill our lives and thoughts with “I shoulds” and when we struggle to have things turn out the way we want them to, we feel anxious.
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1
The wisest man to ever live learned that there is a time for everything, and it isn’t always when we expect. When our expectations are not met we may feel hurt, or angry, or disappointed and all of these can lead to greater feelings of anxiety. It is important when you feel anxious to carefully and realistically reflect on your own expectations of a situation. By being realistic with our own expectations we can reduce anxiety about a situation and be able to deal with what is actually happening, rather than what we envisioned should have happened.
Seek Encouragement - Proverbs 12:25
Sometimes we need to reach out to others for help when we are feeling anxious. This in itself can be a challenging task. Often we are led to believe that asking for help makes someone weak and incapable. This is simply not true. If fact, the ability to recognize our limitations and ask for help is one of the wisest and most courageous ways someone can care for themselves.
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25
In fact the more we dwell on our anxiety the more it can create other problems such as depression. Being able to hear another point of view, shift our focus, or being encouraged that things will be okay can help break us out of negative thinking patterns. Seeking out good words to tell ourselves (focusing again on the positives mentioned above) and seeking out our support system to help encourage us to keep going are both powerful techniques to combat anxiety.
Another key to remember when dealing with anxiety is that you are not alone. “Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults (19.1% of the population) age 18 and older every year.” (ADAA) Many people deal with the same concerns over anxiety and search for the same solutions to cope. You are also not left alone to deal with your worries. Isaiah 41:10 explains, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” God is reaching out to help you overcome whatever you are facing.
What topic do you feel you need the most help with? Leave a comment below and maybe we can address it in future posts.
Provided by Tiffany Secula, LPCC
Anxiety & Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression. Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics#:~:text=Facts%20and%20Statistics&text=%2D%20GAD%20affects%206.8%20million%20adults,to%20be%20affected%20as%20men.