Multiple studies I recently researched all confirm that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States. In fact, anxiety disorders were also number one before the global pandemic hit in 2020. So what do we do? Suffer in silence? Just get over it? Feel like a “burden” or a “downer” when we open up to others? Another challenge is finding a quality therapist without a month’s long waiting list – or someone who will accept our insurance.
Here are some practices that we can start today:
- Saturating our minds with God’s Word. Wait a minute. We’ve heard this one before. That sounds like cliched advice. Sometimes this can be difficult when we read certain verses and wonder – How am I supposed to do that???
Be anxious for nothing . . . (Philippians 4:6)
Don’t worry about tomorrow . . . (Matthew 6:34)
Cast all your cares on God . . . (Psalm 55:22)
“God, I want to do all of those things – but I just can’t right now! I’m exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically.” That’s the secret – we cannot do it. That’s what makes our faith special – we have to have supernatural intervention, power, and peace beyond our own strength. We cannot “pull up our bootstraps”, “suck it up”, “get our act together” – especially during these times of chaos on the human soul. As author Lysa Terkeurst states, “No human should have to carry the weight of being their own god, but so many do.”
Maybe it is a yearly Bible plan. Maybe a chapter a day. Maybe even a sentence a day. Writing a verse on a sticky note and looking at it multiple times. Figure out what works for you and stay with it. If you miss a day or two or more – it’s all right. God will still be there waiting anxiously to meet with you. And that is the good kind of anxious.
2. Making small choices that bring you life, joy, and health. In June of 2022 – I was able to take a brief, but restorative trip to Seattle. Many of my co-workers and friends traveled all over the U.S. – some even to other countries. I love to travel – it is one of my favorite hobbies. The challenge is those trips are only temporary escapes. We come back to loaded schedules, kids needs, bills, busy households, empty households, vehicle and household repairs, illnesses, and on and on and on. Seattle wasn’t enough. Trips to Disneyworld and Europe don’t help us get through Monday mornings or days we feel exhausted for no particular reason. Carnival Cruise memories won’t help my grocery, medical, and gas bills.
Again, to quote Lysa Terkeurst as she worked through marriage infidelity and a cancer diagnosis at the same time: “I went to bed that night seriously contemplating running away to Montana to hide from my life. I could be a waitress in a breakfast diner. I had been a waitress when I was in my early twenties and loved it. Life was simpler then. Serving up plates of bacon and eggs and toast sounded so appealing. But cancer would follow me. The hurt would follow me. And even wrestling with whether or not I could trust God would certainly follow me whether I moved to Montana or just crawled in a hole somewhere.”
I think we can all relate. “If I just lived in Italy and my job was simply to take care of a vineyard. What if I worked on a cruise ship and ran a small sovenier shop? Or what if my wife and I had a small hut off the coast of Belize selling coconut milk to the locals – then I wouldn’t have any problems? Or, this could help me escape my current ones???”
Somehow we need to make daily choices doing the things that bring us restoration. A few weeks ago I was in a “funk”. I took a nap. Watched a rerun of Seinfeld. Played with my dog. Cleaned a stack of dishes I was avoiding while cranking The Who. I read a little. Watched a rerun of 24. All of that got me out of my funk. This prescription probably wouldn’t work for you. Find those things that bring you joy and life – and make sure you tap into it preferably multiple times every day. Some enjoy intense exercise. Some enjoy chilling on the couch. Maybe it is cooking, gardening, reading, prayer, silence, loudness. However you’re uniquely wired – fill that tank every day. Even if your filling is only 5 minutes. We’ve all been running on fumes for too long.
The trick is to take stress and anxiety and flip the script on them. Using them to build resilience, perseverance, grit, and feeling proud with each challenge we overcome. Then those two vices lose their grip on our hearts. As podcaster Ed Mylett says, “We need some stress and some fear in our lives to keep us on the edge. Otherwise we would be bored and unguarded and soft and foolish.”
I don’t want to be soft and foolish – I want to be jacked and exceptionally wise!!!
However, I was able to find a verse in the Bible that actually spoke positively about anxiety. It is tucked away in 1 Peter 4:2:
You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be ANXIOUS to do the will of God.
So we ARE allowed to be anxious regarding the will of God. What does that look like in real time? More on that next month . . .