Awareness about anxiety has grown rapidly in recent times. The signs and symptoms, as well as the causes and cures are the topic of many books and blogs. We are beginning to know much more about mental health, neurological divergence, and nervous disorders.
Sometimes anxiety is prompted by a chemical imbalance in the brain and it is important to seek qualified medical help. Sometimes anxiety can be a result of stressful circumstances entering our lives, and we can benefit from support from family and friends and talk therapy from a qualified therapist. Beyond Blue has some wonderful resources on mental health at www.beyondblue.org.au and you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit https://www.lifeline.org.au/ for help in times of crisis.
But what about dealing with everyday anxiety? Not an anxiety disorder or a life change that has brought an overload of stress and anxiety with it, but just the anxieties that bombard us in everyday living?
2 Timothy 1:7 tells us “God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” If you are experiencing some garden-variety anxiety that you would rather live without, then the following information may be just what you need to weed it out of your life with God’s grace.
In his book Winning The War In Your Mind, Pastor Craig Groeschel tells us that there are three questions we can ask ourselves when anxiety attacks:
1. Is what I’m thinking right now actually the truth? Is it something real and factual, or is it just my fears?
While we are going about our days, our minds can be running a mile a minute on a path of their own. When an anxious thought pops into our minds (such as: do they even like me, will I ever get a better job, why can’t I be better / smarter / richer / taller) our powerful minds can flourish it with detail. Turning thoughts of any kind, but especially fearful thoughts, into a movie playing on repeat is something that our brains excel at. Some of us are turning an anxious thought into a Hollywood blockbuster, complete with surround sound and full colour vision – and often when we’re driving down the road or putting on a load of washing. By the time we pull up the car, or start pegging out the clothes, we’ve bankrupted ourselves, lost all our family and friends and planned our own funeral – all in our fertile imaginations!
So what is happening in the brain when this is going on?
The amygdala is the area of the brain responsible for anxiety, for the fight / flight / fear response. And it’s easily triggered. It flicks into life at the smallest provocation. Hear a small noise in the kitchen at night? Your amygdala is the reason you then imagine an entire scenario with an intruder, a kitchen knife and a fight to the death. Our amygdalas are very powerful and start sending us those horror movies in record time.
Fortunately, our brains contain other areas that can be activated to balance out the alarm signals coming from the amygdala.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for logical thinking. It can bring some cool logic to the situation when the amygdala is going bananas. The prefrontal cortex can help us take our amigdala by the scruff of the neck and talk some sense into it.
A quick question to confront ourselves with when we’re starting to feed anxiety with the imagination of the amygdala, is: “Is it the truth?”
Often the things we are worried and anxious over are not even true. And if it’s not true, it’s not worth your peace.
2. What is in my control?
A lot of the time the things we are worried about are true, and are affecting our lives. So the second question to ask is: is this something I can do something about? We might need to take some action.
Sometimes we can over-spiritualize things we have complete control over. We ask God to go into battle for us, when the situation is actually completely within our control. We need to ask “What can I do about this?” Is it booking an appointment with a doctor? Wrestling with a budget until it balances? Having a difficult conversation with someone? You are in control over a lot more than you think.
Our anxiety can overrun our logical thinking about problem solving. God can move our mountain – but we need to bring our shovel.
Find the things you can do, and do them. This might be developing better sleeping and eating habits, auditing what you watch and engage with in the media and on social networks, or setting aside time for healthy hobbies.
3) Have I prayed about this?
Prayer is extremely powerful; Philippians 4:6 tells us “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”
Prayer is not a last line of defense, but our first line of offense.
And once we’ve prayed, we can replace our anxious thoughts with healthier ones. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Phil 4:8
God cares about what you’re facing. Some of us think that our anxieties aren’t valid because there are other bigger issues in the world that must be more important. We minimise the anxieties that are eroding our own hearts beside the scale of global problems.
But God has the capacity to care. Even if others in our lives don’t have the emotional capacity to carry our fears and anxieties, our God is big, He is strong, He has time in His calendar. We need to make time in our calendar for prayer.
Philippians 4:6 (Message) tells us “before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.”
Working through these three steps can help us take back control of anxieties pervading our everyday lives.
Have you worked through any of these steps to bring peace to your mind? Or has God been at work calming your anxieties? We’d love to hear about your experiences.
Here are some quick links:
LifeHouse App – https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/lifehouse/id1206228729
I’ve want to know more about Jesus – https://lifehouse.global/jesus
New to LifeHouse? Connect here! – https://lifehouse.global/connect
Prayer + Care – https://lifehouse.global/care
Giving – https://lifehouse.global/giving