Monday, December 6, 2010

Mental Health Monday - 12/6

Worry Wart

For as long as I can remember, I have been a worrier. I worry about big things and little things, real danger and perceived danger- you name it, I've probably thought about it in the middle of the night when I could not fall asleep. In college, my best friend and I were in a pretty intense car accident. Our car collided head-on with the side of the other car; the air bag deployed and knocked the breath of out me. I had never been in a traumatic vehicle accident before, so I thought I was dying. Even though we walked away with just bumps and bruises, we were both mentally scarred for life. At 19, I still perceived myself as invincible and this brought me, literally, crashing into reality.

A few months later, my bruises were gone, but panic attacks were gripping my life with full force. My heart  raced, my throat tightened and I would think I was dying all over again - sheer panic. Over time, the grace and peace of God along with some wonderful counseling restored me, and I gained control of my panic attacks. Does this mean that I don't worry anymore? Absolutely not! But worry does NOT rule my life.

Worry is one of Satan's most effective tools. Yes, you read that right - I wholeheartedly believe that those worrisome thoughts are not your thoughts. They are a spiritual attack on you by the great liar himself. So what can we do? How can we take the steps to overcome anxiety, big or small, in our lives? Here are a few things:

1) Recognize that God is the author of Peace! Anytime I feel anxious, I cry out to Him to comfort me and protect me from fear. I have tried to find comfort in earthly things and it never, ever, ever works. It may work in the moment, but as soon as that moment passes, I find myself right back where I started. It was only when I placed my anxiety at the feet of God that I started finding true relief from that bondage. Rest in this scripture:

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." -- John 14: 27

2) Learn the difference between real and perceived danger. If we are in a situation that is giving clear signs of something bad going on, then we have a reason to be concerned or moved to action. The problem comes when we are creating hypothetical scenarios in our mind that could possibly happen and then allowing those scenarios to control us. It's one thing to smell smoke and rush to get your family out of your burning home, but it is quite another to not be able to fall asleep at night because you fear your house may burn down and you won't be able to get everyone out.

3) Reframe your thoughts into positive ones. Turn the source of your anxiety into a positive outcome. Scared that your never going to be able to finish that project? Turn your thoughts to all of the things you can do to get it finished! Worried that your child will get sick? Make a list of ways to keep your child healthy and put them into practice. Feeling like x,y or z will never happen? Remind yourself of a time when you thought something was impossible and it actually happened!

4) Focus on what you can control. No, you cannot control whether or not your husband leaves you for another woman, but you can control how you treat him, the time you invest in your relationship and the trust and respect you show him. You can't control the economy but you can control how you spend and save your money right now. You very well might die tomorrow, but you still have right now and you can make the most of it. Sitting around, worrying about what might or might not happen is completely pointless and wasteful because you cannot control external circumstances!

5) Exercise. I've said it before, exercise is so beneficial- not only physical benefits, but mental as well. I'm not talking running 5 miles every day (although that is wonderful!), but simply going for a walk, clearing your head and allowing those natural endorphins to flow will help release some of that anxiety.

6) Give yourself 20 minutes every day to worry. I know, this sounds silly, BUT I promise if you'll schedule time to be upset, you'll be surprised how well you'll function at other times. If you schedule it for 2:00 every day, then at 12:40 when you're feeling anxious about something tell yourself, "I'll worry about that at 2:00", and when 2:00 comes you just worry yourself to pieces! When your 20 minutes is up, stop and go back to life as you know it. Implementing steps 1-5 will ultimately lead to this 20 minutes becoming shorter and shorter and eventually you won't even need it anymore.

7) Relax. If you find yourself being overwhelmed with anxiety, take some deep breaths. Focus on your breathing - In through your nose and out through your mouth. Drop your shoulders, relax your hips, release the tension in your back. If you need to, close your eyes and imagine walking down a flight of 50 stairs and watch as your feet meet each step walking down. Meditate on scripture and repeat step 1.

8) Seek help. Don't be ashamed if you need someone to talk to. Trained professionals can help you deal with, and eventually control or eliminate your anxiety. Perhaps a life circumstance has led to this overwhelming worry. Never feel as though you are weak or less of a person because you need help. We all need help at some point, every one of us, you are definitely not alone.

As always, if you need help getting in contact with someone, or if you'd like for me to pray for you, please email me at

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