I am not naive to the fact that anxiety will always be an issue for me. That being said, I am so thankful for where I am today and how far I have come in being able to deal with anxiety.
When I was sick 9 years ago with a neurological disorder I went from being a healthy carefree 23 year old to a complete wreck physically, mentally, and emotionally. Once I recovered physically, I never really dealt with any underlying issues that being sick left on me mentally. After I had my second baby at age 30 I had postpartum depression and my anxiety was at an all time high.
Anxiety is not a topic that typically comes up in conversation and I wanted to have an open conversation about anxiety in this post. I am going to be completely real and honest. If you have never experienced a panic attack or anxiety what I am going to share probably won’t make any sense, but if you are one of the 40 million adults in the United States between the ages of 18 to 54 who suffer from anxiety know you are not alone.
I am sharing 10 things that I did or I am currently doing to deal with anxiety in hopes that it can help someone who is reading this. If you have a family member or friend who you know is struggling feel free to share this post with them.
ADMIT I HAD A PROBLEM
This was probably the hardest thing for me. Admitting I had a problem that I couldn’t fix on my own was scary. I didn’t want to look like a failure for not being able to get my thoughts under control.
Let me give you an idea of just how out of control my thoughts had become. Again this will not sound rational. It doesn’t sound rational to me now. Hopefully this will paint a picture of just how far away from reality my thoughts had drifted.
After giving birth to our second child in 2014 the Ebola virus was starting to get out of control in Africa. Josh is a firefighter and I started to freak out that he was going to come into contact with an Ebola patient on shift and bring the virus home to our family and we were all going to die. I told you this wasn’t going to sound rational. I also had long debates with myself about not leaving the house with our kids while Josh was on shift because I was afraid a car would hit us, we would get robbed, or some other catastrophic disaster would befall us.
Thats the thing with anxiety. It is not rational. It takes a thought and runs off with it to the worst possible place you could go. One thought leads to another and to another until you or your family is dead and buried. At least that is how it looked in my situation.
Fast forward to today and I am currently 30 weeks pregnant with our third child. The news has been reporting on the Zika virus during my entire pregnancy and the damaging birth defects this virus can cause and I have not had any moments of anxiety over this. Had this happened two years ago I would have been a hot mess. I am a living testament that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel if you are stuck in your anxiety.
Once I admitted I had a problem I went to my doctor and got a prescription for Zoloft. In my situation, medication alone wouldn’t have solved the underlying issues that were triggering my anxiety, but it did allow me to think clearly enough to get to the root of the problem.
While medication would have altered my mood it wouldn’t have allowed me to really deal with the reasons behind my anxiety. I was on medication for a little over six months and under doctor supervision.
I worked with a christian counselor for 6 months. My major breakthroughs involved recognizing what triggers my negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how to catch, challenge, and change them when they appear. If you are suffering with depression or anxiety I highly encourage you to seek out a certified professional.
STOP WATCHING TV
This might sound drastic to some of you but I cut myself off from the television. I loved me some reality tv and could easily get hooked into binge watching shows on Netflix. The other obsession I had was with Dateline. Me and Lester Holt go way back. I blame my Dad for my developed love of these types of shows ;). Anyway…with counseling I was starting to look at my life from a new perspective.
I realized that the television had become an idol for me. I loved the television.
I loved it more than spending time in God’s Word. I could say all I wanted about how much faith I had in God and how much I loved him but my actions sure weren’t reflecting those statements. The television wasn’t going to sustain me and fill me up the way I needed to be filled up.
This was not easy for me to do.
It was hard.
It was easy for me to sit on the sofa and watch mind numbing shows for hours at a time while the kids were napping or sleeping. When the house was quiet I didn’t like the thoughts swirling around in my head.
Just to clarify, I don’t think all television is bad, but honestly the majority of shows are not encouraging, uplifting, or positive which is I why I am now super selective on what I watch and what the kids watch.
STAY AWAY FROM TRIGGER WEBSITES
I also was in the habit, and still have to watch myself, of always carrying my phone with me. It is so easy to start staring at my phone and begin scrolling through social media sites.
In case you haven’t noticed not everything online is super positive. It can be easy to be drawn into more negative patterns of thinking when you are constantly bombarding yourself with easy access to websites, blog posts, and news articles that will trigger negative thoughts.
I delated any app and cleared my website history that would trigger negative thinking. With these removed I prioritized apps and websites that encouraged me or inspired me to dig into God’s Word.
STOP LISTENING TO SATAN’S LIES
This one brings me to tears because I had no idea how many lies I was actually believing. I had forgotten about all the promises I have in Christ because they had become drowned out by the enemy’s lies.
In case you need a reminder here are a few of the many benefits and blessings gifted to us as redeemed children of God:
- The Holy Spirit lives in me. (1 Cor. 3:16)
- I am helped by God. (Hew. 4:16)
- I am tenderly loved by God. (Jer. 31:3)
- I am a temple in which God dwells. (1 Cor. 3:16)
- I am chosen by Christ to bear fruit. (John 15:6)
- I am firmly rooted and built up in Christ. (Col. 2:7)
- I am born of God, and the evil one can’t touch me. (1 John 5:18)
- I have been removed from Satan’s domain and transferred into the Kingdom of Christ. (Col. 1:13)
- I have been given a spirit of power, love, and self discipline. (2 Tim. 1:7)
- My needs are met by God. (Phil. 4:19)
- I can do all things through Christ, who gives me the strength I need. (Phil. 4:13)
And the list could go on and on. If you are struggling I would suggest picking a few of these and writing them on notecards and placing them around your house.
READ MY BIBLE
With all the free time on my hands not watching television shows and scrolling the internet on my phone I began to read my Bible more and found several podcasts from churches and pastors that I filled my free time with.
Let me say this about reading my Bible. It is a discipline. It takes time and dedication to read. I would recommend to not jump around verse to verse or just randomly open your bible and point your finger and begin reading.
The Bible was meant to read together. We all know that the Bible contains promises for us and there are so many verses about comfort that can be used when we are struggling to encourage us. The problem that comes by doing this is when we take these verses and make them simple quotes, that look great on an instagram feed with a pretty picture behind it, we fail to see the bigger picture in scripture. We miss the context of the verse.
My recommendation. Read the bible as the bible. Not a verse. I have completed the new testament and have 10 books left in the old testament. While some books have been more challenging for me to read than others, the time I have spent reading has been so worth it. I have grown to love the old testament, never thought I would type that, and have been blown away in how it all connects together.
CONNECT WITH FELLOW BELIEVERS
My anxiety caused me to create a bubble around myself and my family. I stayed home and didn’t really venture away from the house unless it was absolutely necessary. At my counselors suggestion I started to make plans to help get myself out of the house. I joined a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at my church and the following year joined a women’s bible study.
I love my MOPS group and my bible study ladies! They have been a HUGE blessing to me and I am so thankful that I stepped out of my comfort zone to connect with other believers.
Human connection is so important. God has not left us here alone to struggle through things by ourselves.
I am also praying more, memorizing more scripture, and praying more scripture over my life, my family, my friends. I am also not ashamed to ask for prayer when I need it.
In the past I had questioned if it was even worth asking for prayer in certain circumstances but I have learned that asking for prayer isn’t about putting burdens on our friends. It’s about letting them walk by our side down a path we were never intended to walk alone.
EXERCISE AND EAT MORE NON PROCESSED FOODS
Over the last year and half our family has made changes to what we eat, how we are eating, and also have rejoined a gym that has childcare and allows Josh and I to workout together.
We are a family of soon to be 5 that lives off a single income. Several years ago we put our beloved Lifetime Fitness membership on hold because it just was not working for our budget anymore. We waited until we found something that we liked, and our kids liked, and that worked for our budget. It took awhile, but we finally have found a new gym that is perfect for our growing family and budget.
The few hours Josh and I do get to spend to together in the gym are refreshing and life giving. They are recharge hours that are vitally important for us, and let’s be honest, getting to take an uninterrupted shower after a workout is pretty awesome. There are so many great reasons to exercise on a regular basis. If you are needing more motivation to start exercising and eating better you can read my post 3 Biblical Reasons to Take Care of Your Body.
As I am getting closer to approaching my due date in November with baby #3 I know it will be important to stay focused on what really matters. It would be easy for me to slip back into old habits while caring for a newborn, so I am writing this post as a reminder to myself to see how far I have come over the last two years.
I love the verse “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
I am a new creation and I am so thankful that my identity is rooted in Christ and that the Holy Spirit lives in me. When I stopped trying to fix myself on my own I allowed His power to work in me. As believers I think we can get into the mindset of thinking that we need to muscle through challenges while in reality we need to surrender ourselves, pull out our white flag, and allow God to take over the reigns.