I understand that for many people, anxiety is a severe disorder that requires medication to function. I am not arguing with that reality. However, I do believe that we all struggle with and internalize anxiety in our day-to-day lives. You may not even realize that you are dealing with it because our culture is addicted to self-medication–and I’m not talking about prescription drugs.
We all seek out things to numb our pain, help us cope, or provide an escape. This could be food, books (depending on the type of book this isn’t necessarily a bad thing), TV, pornography, drama, social media, video games, sports, hobbies, and many other things. Many of us are living distracted, numbed lives. We don’t want to deal with the hurt or stress or anxiety that constricts in our chests, so we zone out on our phones, or drink more coffee, or plant ourselves in front of the TV for several hours.
Please know that I am not trying to accuse anyone. If anything, I am confessing that I struggle with these things too. And I don’t have all the answers.
This past week, while struggling with more anxiety than I had in a long time, it occurred to me that there are things that numb our anxieties and things that can actually alleviate them. For example, when I am stressed or tired or anxious, I tend to turn to TV. It takes my mind off my worries for a brief period of time. It is supposed to be relaxing, right? After turning to Netflix several times this past week, I realized that it distracted me, but it didn’t do anything to alleviate my anxiety–at least not for more than an hour or two. Watching TV didn’t help me feel more rested–in fact, I felt even crankier afterwards. Now, this isn’t a rant about the evils of TV. I really don’t think a moderate amount of TV is a bad thing. But I was trying to use it to calm my anxiety about the brown recluse spiders I spotted and to relax while Rebekah napped. In the moment it worked, but the help was short lived.
As my anxiety and stress mounted, I began to pray and seek true relief. Here are some things that I found helped me actually let go of the worries that were spinning endlessly in my mind.
1. Get out and take a day trip. Mitch and I took an afternoon to go to Jefferson City last week to get some medical papers notarized and get out of the house while pest control sprayed. We decided that instead of an inconvenience, this was an opportunity to have a family day. We walked around downtown, grabbed some coffee, and visited the capitol building. I was shocked at how much calmer I felt after getting out of town. Getting outside, doing something new, and removing myself from what I feared was our spider-infested rental, did wonders for me.
When we returned home, I felt so much calmer and relaxed. Maybe that also had something to do with the pest control spraying, which leads me to my second idea . . .
2. Be proactive. If something is stressing you out, do something about it. Being proactive can help you feel like you are taking control of the situation, instead of the situation walking all over you. If you have a big project at work or a meeting you are worried about, don’t procrastinate or become immobile with fear–prepare, get organized, be proactive! Maybe, being proactive means deciding to finally see a counselor. Seeking help is being proactive.
For me, being proactive ment having pest control come out and spray. Mitch had been spraying outside every couple weeks outside, but it wasn’t doing much to keep the spiders at bay. So, we took the next step. Still, worry found a way into my mind. What about these chemicals they claim are safe??? Enter, idea number three:
3. Be informed, but know when to choose to let go. We do our best to avoid chemicals in our home. (Which is why I clean mostly with vinegar.) So having pesticides sprayed all over was not something that excited me. Fortunately, after asking many questions, the pest control man explained that where they sprayed were areas we wouldn’t be touching. And though I was nervous about spray on our vents getting into our air, I knew that was where spiders hid, so I made the choice to trust that when the spray was dry, we were safe. Really, the flea and tick preventative we put on our dog is probably more likely to get on us than anything they sprayed. Sometimes you just have to let go. The mental and physical effects of worry can be worse than any potential side effects of chemicals.
4. Rest is okay. Since becoming a new mom, I’ve struggled with the truth of rest. Sometimes rest gets confused with laziness. As someone who desperately needs a moderate amount of sleep, I have struggled with guilt when I take a nap or allow myself to sleep in a little bit. But the truth is that when I don’t get enough rest, my mind is more easily hijacked by anxiety, and I tend to snap at those closest to me. That is not the wife or mother I want to be. True rest in the form of adequate sleep can bring actual relief. Instead of wearing sleep deprivation like a badge of honor, I am trying to embrace it as a way to care for myself and as a result, the rest of my family.
5. Fill your heart and mind with the awe of who God is and the truth of His promises. Satan wants us to buy into lies, such as those of self-medication: This will make you feel better. Isn’t looking at pornography better than cheating on your spouse? You are dealing with so much–you deserve that piece of chocolate cake . . . He also wants us to be consumed and crippled by stress, anxiety, and fear. Because when we focus on those things we are failing to focus on and trust God. This past week, I found it incredibly relieving to turn to God’s word. For me, it is helpful to read through the psalms that David writes when he is being hunted by Saul, as well as his psalms of affirmation and praise of who God is and His never-ending love. Reading a couple psalms a day helped me to remember that God is in control and I could trust Him to bring us through anything.
This week, let your soul breathe a breath of fresh air. Let in God’s truth and expel Satan’s lies. Remember, that in most cases, you have a certain measure of control over your feelings. Chose to focus on God, trust His truth, and let go of anxiety. If your anxiety is controlling your life, know that you are not alone. There is no shame in seeking counseling, or if genuinely needed, even medication.