Fear Factor: Unpacking Bible Verses about Fear and How to Overcome It

Fear is an emotion that every person engages with at a range of intensity. It retains a unique role in our physiology to preserve well-being. Our adrenal system generates a fight, flight, or freeze response, a safety mechanism that can help us act with uncommon boldness outside of normal encounters and operates to keep us alive when confronted with danger or threat. Bible verses about fear can help.

There is a distinction between this fear and the spirit of fear. This is important for us to know as believers that we may live more fully aware of the abundance that Jesus came to give (John 10:10).

Bible verses about fear and the physical body

Our brain and body message one another to indicate the presence of actual and perceived threats. In life, we will encounter some legitimate fears, and we need to regard them with healthy caution and planning. Such fear can be useful to communicate when we need to distance ourselves from harm and make choices to preserve what is valuable.

When we are in a situation where our well-being is compromised, fear alerts us, so we can avert danger, protect ourselves, and swiftly act to shield those we love. We do not have to live under its control, rather it serves us as a tool.

Fear opposes the Father’s heart

The spirit of fear, however, works against our holistic sense of emotional and mental well-being, protection, and preservation. Instead of signaling or stirring us to action when we need to help ourselves or those whom we are responsible for, the spirit of fear disables our ability to act in a healthy manner. It seeks to dissolve the mind of Christ as believers, emotional stability, and mental soundness.

The spirit of fear works to detach us from our identity and foster a sense of isolation. It creates over-reaction in our responses to happenings or even events that do not take place at all. Bible verses about fear inform us that we are no longer orphaned, but rather the Father has adopted and affirmed us as His heirs and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

Thus the antidote to this fear is the presence of God and the salvation/freedom we find in Christ. The fear of the Lord is to be greater than this spirit of fear, in this respect, as God is a loving Father whose nature is to protect and provide for His own.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15, NIV

The spirit of fear overwhelms us, causing us to vacillate between extremes. It injects agitation in place of peace, anguish over rest, and preoccupation rather than purposefulness. Rarely does it travel alone, but rather brings companions, many of which afflict our mental and emotional health with worry, stress, comparison, perfectionism, procrastination, anger, and more.

Left unchecked, the sinful influence behind the spirit of fear seeks to expand and infiltrate every aspect of our lives (Matthew 12:43-45). Bible verses about fear will reveal that the mind of our flesh would otherwise hasten us onto a destructive path, consuming us with a sense of panic and doom instead of conveying the life and peace available in Jesus (Romans 8:6).

Bible verses about fear and the family of God

While it may be initially unnerving to explore the root of what stokes and perpetuates fear’s attempt to dominate, we do not have to remain imprisoned by it. Instead, we can embrace the joy, peace, and victory that Jesus purposed to transcend every area of life (John 10:10, 15:11, 16:33).

Many remain in fear and struggle to find peace. By understanding who God is, His law, and His promises, peace, and joy are more readily available. Taking time to explore Bible verses about fear can help us to understand and embrace the purity of the Father’s intentions toward us and the expanse of His Heart (Ephesians 3:18-21).

God created us to live in confidence, aware of His care and protection. He safeguards us from the dangers we see as well as the threats we do not (Psalm 91:1-4). Our assurance emerges from acceptance of our adoption into the family of God, no longer enslaved to the spirit of fear (Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:15).

One can explore more of this fatherly grace and concern by studying a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy). The elder admonished the younger minister that the Father had provided an avenue for him to encounter and experience triumph over the spirit of fear. Paul clarified Timothy’s portion of God’s power, evident in the fruit, gifts, and demonstrations of the Holy Spirit and love.

Jesus’ selfless sacrifice influences all we say and do. Furthermore, a sound mind or self-control would serve to preserve Timothy, as well as modern-day believers from succumbing to the weight of actual and perceived threats confronted in this world (2 Timothy 1:7; Galatians 5:22-23).

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7, ESV

Fear and the finished work of Christ

We have a personalized encouragement to embrace our identity and abide in Christ (John 15:4). The finished work of Jesus equips us to break our unconscious agreement with striving and toil, and trade it for total rest (Matthew 11:28-30). The authority that accompanies our worthy calling as kingdom sons and daughters empowers us to reclaim areas of our lives that we have ceded over to the spirit of fear (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Though fear torments, the perfect, whole, and mature love of the Father drives fear out of its hiding places, dismantles its assault against our peace, and deconstructs its attempts to undermine our spiritual, mental, and emotional health (1 John 4:18). The character of God, as love, patience, and kindness, annihilates the hateful, fretful, and self-absorbed nature of the spirit of fear (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Fear and freedom

Jesus promises triumph, having fulfilled it in the miracles in the Bible and in the miracles we experience as believers (Mark 16:17-18; John 21:25). Even as Jesus initiated public ministry, He recited the words that Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah centuries before His birth (Luke 4:21). As the Anointed One, Christ came to bind brokenness, set captives free, restore joy to the mourning, and to exchange the beauty of His life for death’s ashes (Isaiah 61:1-4).

He demonstrated perfect love which arrived at just the right time (Romans 5:8). He drove out the punishment associated with the spirit of fear and condemnation. This means we no longer have to be bound to shame, but rather freed to anticipate a hopeful future with Jesus, now through eternity (Romans 8:1; 1 John 5:4; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).

Fear and your future

While the enemy cannot cancel our destiny, he can persuade us to abort course and sabotage ourselves when we entertain what Scripture calls vain imaginations or worthless thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We do not have to acquiesce to his fearful demands to succumb to the spirit of fear and its attempt to control our minds and consume our lives.

When the spirit of fear stalks and harasses, rehearsing Bible verses counters fear and serves to encourage us to act on the Word we have heard (James 1:22-25). Partnering with the Holy Spirit to remind ourselves of the promises embedded in Scripture will help us to speak boldly. It will help us walk in victory with each obedient step, empowering us to overcome the fear factor and its desire to erase the presence of God from our focus (Isaiah 41:10).

Learn more Bible verses about fear

Consider where fear has gripped your life with its threats. You do not have to remain in this place, even if it seems to have occupied your mind and heart for as long as you can remember. Search the resources on this site. Select a counselor and schedule an appointment. God has more for you to experience and enjoy, outside of where fear has kept you imprisoned.

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Effective Treatment for Anxiety: Methods that Last

Over 40 million people in the US are suffering from and searching for effective treatment for anxiety. Anxiety is a debilitating state of mind in which excessive worry rules the lives of those who struggle with it. There is no age restriction for anxiety. Children, teens, and adults can suffer from this disorder.

Treatment for anxiety: what can be done?

Treatment for anxiety depends on multiple variables such as symptoms, time, place, age, and availability of resources. Fortunately, anxiety is not new. Research has been operating for over 2,000 years in relation to the treatment for anxiety. While there is no guarantee in any method of treatment for anxiety, there are treatments proven to be more effective and longer lasting than others.

Anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety symptoms have been defined in a Diagnostic Statistics Manual (DSM) for clinicians since 1952. The current understanding of anxiety has led to a number of symptoms to be included for the diagnosing of anxiety. While there is a stand-alone anxiety disorder, any number of these symptoms can be present in conjunction with other disorders. This is one reason a therapist is helpful when treating anxiety.

The current edition of the DSM (DSM V) describes 11 different anxiety disorders. These include: Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and Unspecified Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety is defined in the DSM as having “excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least six months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or social performances).” Five more criteria are looked at for clinicians to diagnose anxiety, including the focus of the anxiety, specific symptoms, and the level of control over the anxiety.

Effective treatment for anxiety can depend on the variety of symptoms each individual is experiencing. Methods that last have three things in common: the expectations the individual holds, rewiring the brain, and finding support.

Treatment for anxiety: methods that are proven to last.

Brain training (known by many names).

Brain training, also known as rewiring the brain, is a far-reaching and long-lasting method of treating anxiety. A simple way to understand brain training is: changing the way your brain operates with anxiety by either chemical work, physical work, or both.

Chemical work for anxiety is done by use of medications. This approach is monitored by medical professionals and aids many people in a similar way as heart medication –allowing for a chemical support to reduce anxiety’s overstimulation of the brain and body.

Physical work for the treatment of anxiety is done by the use of physical and/or mental exercises that strengthen the brain’s response to anxiety and thereby reduces the effects of anxiety. This work is done with the help of a therapist or counselor.

The brain training method, whether chemical, physical, or a mix of both, is an effective treatment for anxiety and one of the methods proven to last. After the initial learning of brain rewiring, many who struggle with anxiety can expect to use this approach in a practical manner throughout their lives.


Finding an effective treatment for anxiety with methods that last can be a discouraging journey and the expectations of an individual suffering from anxiety matter when deciding to get help. Not everyone is the same, neither is every therapist

When searching for effective treatment for anxiety, there needs to be a basic level of understanding that not all people are the same. The way that one individual suffers with anxiety may not be the same as another.

Methods that last rely on appropriate expectations from the individual suffering with symptoms of anxiety. To expect that seeing one therapist for a certain amount of time will “cure” anxiety is likely going to lead to disappointment.

Avoiding the disappointment is possible by adjusting expectations in this area. Know that the individual suffering with anxiety may need to rely on their own ratio of chemical and physical work.

Know that it is okay to change therapists should the relationship not feel supportive. That being said, it is important to consider expectations for how consistent one needs to be in order to effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Consistency in any method is key.

Expectations regarding the amount of consistent work it will take to develop an effective treatment for anxiety are important. Methods that last require that the individual suffering with symptoms of anxiety make effort to keep up with treatment.

This takes shape in a couple of ways. One, the individual must expect that while working with one therapist or another can produce more effective results depending on the relationship, this does not mean that working with any therapist will always be pleasant.

When utilizing effective treatments for anxiety, clients can face periods of discomfort and difficulty when working through the physical and mental work. It is important to continue the work consistently to find the most effective treatment to reduce anxiety symptoms overall for each individual.

Chemical work also has the potential to produce negative results in some cases, and requires consistent monitoring and self-advocacy from the individuals utilizing it. Methods that last require the individual’s consistent effort to work with the tools and supports put in place.

It may work at different times.

With the best consistency and greatest support systems, anxiety symptoms may still rise from time to time. It is important to set expectations regarding the effectiveness of the tools you develop.

Any method that lasts helps an individual develop multiple tools to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Each of these tools has a time and a place for effectiveness. Where one tool may be all one needs in one instance of being anxious, a different tool or multiple tools in succession will be required in another. This includes the tool of accessing a support system.

Finding support: medication, family, friends, church, and counseling.

Support for anxiety comes in multiple forms: medication, medical professionals, family and/or friends, church and community groups, and a therapist/counselor.

These supports all serve the purpose of coming alongside an individual to encourage, redirect, and/or provide trusted perspective and insight the individual can rely on when their own may be skewed by anxiety.

It is important to develop a variety of supports. Each support plays a part in methods proven to last when treating anxiety. A therapist can help you develop these support systems.

If you are struggling to know where to start or simply ready to begin working on developing the tools to reduce anxiety, reach out to me or another local therapist today.

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Bible Verses About Anxiety to Help You Overcome Anxious Thoughts

If you pay attention to the news or social media, there’s likely more than one thing you’ll encounter that will make you groan in despair or leave you feeling somewhat anxious.
Having the ability to connect to what’s happening everywhere across the globe with our easy-to-use technology has been a major factor in increasing anxiety. Whether it is for you or someone you know, chances are you know about anxiety and have searched for ways to help with overcoming it.

Anxiety is common, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults (19.1% of the population) age 18 and older every year.” What can you do to address anxiety effectively?

Anxiety can be addressed by using therapy to work through its underlying causes and learning ways of coping with it. Other tools people have found helpful in overcoming anxiety include yoga, meditation, journaling, or even medication.

With any of those intervention tools, there is a need to create room to hear God’s promises and truth through His Word (the Bible). Despite how some have experienced the use of Scripture in the case of anxiety, it holds many encouragements that help us address anxiety.

Anxiety has a physiological aspect, to be sure, but there is a spiritual component that ought not to be discounted. The Bible, being God’s inspired wisdom, holds the reality of our potential for being anxious as well as the truest form of what will support us through such a time.

Bible verses about anxiety.

Anxiety has been a common concern for humanity since the first sin. The Bible has much to say about it because we all feel uncertain about the future, even though God knows the end of things from their beginning. The following Bible verses about anxiety are for you to meditate on, to study, and to know.

These Bible verses about anxiety and other passages of Scripture contain the keys to helping you overcome feelings of uncertainty and anxiety in tough times:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27, NIV

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, urging them to embrace His peace that isn’t based on circumstances. The peace that He leaves us all is His Holy Spirit. His disciples need not fear not because everything is fine and dandy, but because the God they worship, who is bigger than any circumstance, has given them His presence to dwell with them.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – John 16:33, NIV

These words, spoken by Jesus on the night He was betrayed by one of His disciples, may seem paradoxical at first. How can Jesus have overcome the world when at that very moment forces were arrayed against Him to arrest and then subsequently kill Him?

Jesus understood not only God’s hand over every facet of His life, but He trusted God with the outcome. Jesus’ death for our sins wasn’t the end of the story. He overcame death and was raised to new life.

Trouble will come, whether it be in the form of persecution, terrible circumstances, or guilt from wandering from God’s truth, and that fact should steel us against life’s happenings. Looking to Jesus’ resurrection can help us live life with the hope that what is impossible for us is possible for God.

We can encourage ourselves with these words through uncertain times: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV)

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:27, 34, ESV

Talking with His disciples, Jesus reminded them of the futility of anxiety. Anxiety will often rob us of hours of our lives as we ruminate on possibilities that never happen. And even when they do, our time could have been better spent elsewhere. Take each day as it comes.

Jesus’ discourse on worry in this chapter demonstrates the truth of God being a heavenly Father Who desires and promises to take care of us. It finishes with the truth that those who seek after the good of their flesh over the good of the Lord will find themselves unsatisfied and anxious.

Therefore, taking each day as it comes takes the form of seeking after God first for total satisfaction no matter what state your clothes, food, and things otherwise are in.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7, ESV

Instead of allowing your anxieties to derail you, commit everything to God in prayer. Practicing gratitude helps focus your mind on the good things in your life, loosening anxiety’s grip on you. Thanksgiving can disrupt anxious thoughts, helping you replace worry with abundant peace.

Coming to a deeper understanding of the God who can preserve you through hardship can help you face anxiety squarely. Hence, the words just before this passage state “The Lord is near.” Knowing God and His presence in your life makes all the difference in the face of anxiety.

It takes time to unlearn unhelpful patterns and learn new ways of coping with anxiety. Pairing a study and meditation of Scripture with any of the tools you pursue is the most fruit-yielding approach.

If you’re looking for additional support beyond these Bible verses about anxiety to help you manage your anxious thoughts, don’t hesitate to seek out a Christian counselor who can help you release your anxiety and take hold of God’s abundant peace. Connect with our office today for help.

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3 Stories of Worry in the Bible to Remind You that You Are Not Alone

Depending on your season of life, worry may come and go. If you are facing a life-altering decision, you may worry that you’ll make the wrong choice. When parents have children, they might worry about their children’s lives and how they will turn out. No matter where you are today, it can be encouraging to know that we have somewhere to look when we are struggling with worry. There are many stories of worry in the Bible, and in this article, we will examine three of them: Naomi, Martha, and Jonah.

Stories of Worry in the Bible

The stories of Naomi and Jonah are from the Old Testament, while Martha’s story is in the New Testament. We see that worry isn’t escapable across the breadth of the Bible except by turning to God.

In all three stories of worry, the answer didn’t necessarily lie in the problem being solved, the day going just as planned, or the way ahead being easy. The answer was found in the promise of a God who loves and provides for His people.

What does worry in the Bible mean?

The word worry in the New Testament is a Greek word, “merimnao,” which translates to anxiety. It is a combination of two words, merizo, which means “to divide” and nous, which means “the mind.” So when we think of worry or anxiety, we know it divides our minds.

It keeps us from being present, it can steal our joy, and it can rob us of peace. But the good news is that God has prepared a script for us – a story in each of these people’s life that shows us a way to find Him in the midst of our anxious thoughts.

Naomi’s story

Naomi expressed the pain she was feeling because of life’s hardships. She had lost both of her sons, and she was in a position where she had nothing except the two daughters-in-law who were left. She assured them they needed to return to where they were from so that they could be with their families of origin after both of their husbands died.

She said she wanted her name to be changed to Mara due to feeling embittered in her relationship with God. She knew that He had dealt her hand, so to speak, and it was less than desirable; it was marked with pain, sadness, and grief.

In addition to the loss of her sons, Naomi had no grandchildren – which could have signified a curse or, at the very least, lack of God’s blessing – and there was a widespread famine. If she wanted to blame God for her worries and woes, she certainly had reason.

Don’t we all feel that way sometimes? We think, “If only God would change this, my worries would clear up. Maybe if God takes this circumstance and makes it lighter, I will feel better about my life.”

So what happened to Naomi? What got her through the worry with which she struggled? Her daughter-in-law Ruth had faith and loyalty that spurred Naomi on toward a new place to live and the belief that something or someone could redeem the hardships she’d endured.

The end of Naomi’s story is that she did end up having a grandchild, and her daughter-in-law married a man who they discovered was actually a distant relative. They had food to eat and newfound security. Naomi’s grandson would become the father of Jesse, the father of David, who was in the family lineage of the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus.

What can we learn from Naomi’s struggle? We can learn to lean on others’ faith when we are struggling with our own.

There will be times in life when your friends and family members, a church service, or a pastor may need to call you from your worry and show you what God can do. Let them. When we try to hide our fears or worries from others, it doesn’t help us, and it does not allow the love of God to flow through them to our hearts.

To read more about Naomi’s story of worry in the Bible, and the redemptive ending, go to the book of Ruth.

Jonah’s story

The book of Jonah comes as the fifth book in a group of twelve that bear the names of minor prophets. Unlike the other minor prophets’ stories, which told about their oracles, the one about Jonah talks about his life as a man.

We can take great comfort from his struggle to decide: follow what God was leading him to do or take a more predictable and perhaps more peaceful route. Jonah’s worry could be summed up in a two-word question: What if?

  • What if I obey and something bad happens to me?
  • What if I do this thing God is asking and it angers a group of people?
  • What if I fail or chicken out at the last minute?
  • What if the place where I am going is hostile to me and rejects me?

It’s easy to let these two little words spin our minds into worry. Let’s look at Jonah’s story of worry in the Bible and how he overcame it.

In Jonah 1, when God proclaimed His love and mercy for a people that Jonah hates, the Ninevites, we can imagine how Jonah felt: betrayed, unworthy of God’s favor, and abandoned by God. Have you ever felt unworthy of God’s favor? Abandoned by God?

It’s not surprising that Jonah surrendered to his fear and hatred of the Ninevite people and ran in the opposite direction after God told him to specifically share about His love and mercy in Nineveh. Jonah boarded a ship to Tarshish, far from Nineveh, where he met some pagan sailors.

His worry was taking him away from the Lord and away from the calling God has placed on his life. As we see in this part of Jonah’s story, his worry forced him to confront his own pride.

While on the ship a great storm brewed, and the sailors recognized it as a spiritual storm. They called on Jonah, their new shipmate who happened to be sleeping at the time, and they asked him what he thought they should do. What seems like a noble instruction on Jonah’s part, to throw him overboard, was actually Jonah’s attempt of getting out of God’s call on his life for good.

But even in the act of throwing him off the boat, the sailors turned away from their own sin and placed their belief in God.

Jonah was “saved” by a whale, and this is where he should have accepted that his pride had endeared him to worry. Still, Jonah didn’t come to full repentance, he simply recognized that God had been faithful. He thanked God for sticking with him and promised he would go to Nineveh to share about God’s mercy.

Once Jonah was vomited out by the whale back onto dry land, God reminded Jonah of his promise to obey. He instructed him (again) in Jonah 3:2, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”

Jonah started out on the long journey and gave a version of God’s message. However, in his version, the message missed some key points: He doesn’t mention the sinful activities for which Nineveh had come to be known, nor the way for the Ninevites to respond to God. He simply said that they will be “overturned.”

But God.

Whether it was worry or fear that caused Jonah to give halfway obedience to the prophetic call on his life, we see that God still used him. The king of Nineveh and all the people turned from their wickedness and worshiped the Lord.

What’s ironic is that Jonah’s prophetic message for this city did actually come true. They were not overturned in the sense of being destroyed (God forgave them and promised not to destroy the city when they turned to Him). No, the city was “overturned,” meaning that their hearts were transformed.

How does this relate to stories of worry in the Bible?

The book of Jonah isn’t really a story about Jonah and his worry; it’s about the source of his concern. He didn’t want to live in a world where a compassionate God would care as much about his enemies as for him. If you continue in the book of Jonah, you will find that we don’t get to see a clear resolution to his story.

The point of the story is to hold up a mirror to our worry. It can be rooted in selfishness or pride, and God in His great mercy calls us to be willing to examine the source of our worries.

Martha’s story

Martha often gets a bad rap. We remember her simply for one story when actually, she would become a dear friend to Jesus during His time on earth. But just like the other stories of worry in the Bible, we see Martha primarily as a tale of anxiety mixed with maybe a little jealousy.

When Jesus came to dine at her house with a gathering of others, Martha became frustrated with her sister, Mary, because she wasn’t helping around the house. In Luke 10:38-39, we read that Jesus was on his way somewhere when he stopped at Mary and Martha’s house, and Mary chose to sit at His feet and listen to everything He said instead of helping Martha.

On the other hand, Martha was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Luke 10:40a, ESV) Martha is remembered primarily because she was distracted by and probably worried about how everything would get done. Have you ever been worried that not everything would get done in time?

What we learn in Martha’s story, however, is that even our to-do lists come under submission to the Lord. In His response, Jesus showed His compassion and His authority to Martha.

He first addressed Martha with what she was facing – worry. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.” (Luke 10:41, ESV) Here we see that Jesus’ compassion on Martha required that He help her see that her real issue wasn’t a clean house or a full table; it was worry. He invites her to recognize the destructive thought patterns to which she had succumbed.

Second, He reminded Martha of His authority. He instructed her to remember what the most important priority in life is: a relationship with God. In Luke 10:42, Jesus continued, “but few things are needed – or indeed only one.”

If you read to the end of the story, you see that Jesus addresses Martha about Mary’s inaction. But the takeaway from this story isn’t about Mary. It is that Martha recognized her worry and saw it next to the light of Christ.

What we learn from these Bible stories

As these stories may remind you, God cares about your worries. He would not have included so many stories of worry in the Bible if He were not a compassionate, loving Father. His call to you might indeed be to “cast your cares on the Lord.” (Psalm 55:22, ESV)

One excellent way to cast your cares is to take the first step toward counseling. Call our offices, so we can match you with a counselor who will listen and help you take the next step to overcome worry. The Lord has more in mind for you, and we’re here to help.

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Breaking Free from the Perfectionism and Anxiety Cycle

It is one thing to strive for excellence in our lives. But when the exertion turns into the quest for perfectionism, it becomes a beast that can drive our motivations and cause difficulties in our work-life relationships. Anxiety can rise and cause a vicious cycle. But you can break free from the perfectionism and anxiety cycle with a Christian counselor’s help.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a person’s concern with flawlessness accompanied by critical self-evaluation and hyper-concern over others’ evaluation. It can lead us to be overly critical and judgmental of ourselves and others. Alternately, perfectionism can push us to do our best as we strive for maximum performance.

The trick is to be aware of when we tilt too far and begin to demand expectations from ourselves and others that are impossible to meet. No one is perfect and no one can be perfect. Mistakes help us learn and grow. Failure opens doors to new opportunities.

Some of the behaviors associated with perfectionism are an excessive concern for mistakes and errors, critical self-evaluations, and unrealistic expectations. Perfectionism concerns itself with the discrepancy between one’s expectations and performance. If we struggle with this, sometimes we project an image of flawlessness, which compounds the problem because we know deep down we are not flawless. This internal battle can create anxiety.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, a sense of uneasiness, dread, or distress. Normal levels of anxiety help us notice danger to keep us safe.

We will ask someone to hold a ladder while we climb it. We recognize that it’s good to teach our kids basic safety skills in the kitchen. These are good expressions of a healthy level of anxiety. Disorders occur when distress impedes our ability to function at work or in our relationships.

Anxiety will often reveal itself in through physical symptoms such as gasps for air, a rapid heartbeat, or insomnia. Sometimes what we refuse to think about in the daytime keeps us up at night through worry loops. In these loops, we repeat the same what-if questions like a broken record playing the same part of a song. Too much anxiety raises our cortisol levels and blood pressure, which affects our physical health.

We can become anxious when we dwell on the uncertainties of the future. We don’t know what the future will hold and anxieties about it can overwhelm us. Real events can trigger an anxious response too. Some doctor’s visits don’t carry good news. Inflation is a real problem. Family conflicts can break our hearts and contribute to anxiety. Our desire for a conflict-free life can drive our levels of anxiety up.

The perfectionism and anxiety cycle.

Perfectionism and anxiety work together to create unhealthy patterns in our lives. They have a cause-and-effect relationship. Perfectionism drives us to chase unreachable goals which lead to anxiety. An uptick in anxiety can drive us to extreme self-criticism, a sign of perfectionism, which leads us to more anxiety. Self-criticism with perceived failure heightens anxiety.

Fears of criticism from others increase anxiety in work performance or hold us back in social situations. We might stifle our opinions because we’re afraid of potential criticism. This builds anxiety within us and drives us further to perfectionism. This perfectionism and anxiety cycle plays on our fear of failure.

Anxiety and perfectionism can lead to low self-esteem where our desire for flawlessness can cause us to believe that we don’t have good to offer others. These thoughts can cripple us and set up unrealistic expectations for ourselves, which can lead to an overly defensive reaction when someone offers us feedback on our work performance or in our personal relationships.

What does the Bible say about perfectionism and anxiety?

When we consider what the Bible says about perfection and anxiety, we can be left confused and riddled with guilt. We know we’re not to be anxious, yet we struggle with it. Then we wonder how to not be riddled with anxiety. Later, we read that we are to be made perfect in Jesus, but we know we’re not because each day leaves evidence of our imperfection. How do we make sense of these words?

Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:38, ESV

This statement from Jesus came at the end of a section from The Sermon on the Mount. He opened that sermon series with a list of Beatitudes, followed by how the law was fulfilled, and how to deal with anger, divorce, oaths, and retaliation.

Jesus’ sermon turned their beliefs about these issues upside down. He did not command them or us to be perfectionists. Instead, He tells us that one day we will be complete, but in the meantime to grow and mature in His ways.

For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. – Hebrews 10:14, ESV

Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, believers are considered perfect in God’s eyes. At the same time, we experience sanctification—cleaned up, made new, set apart as holy—while we walk with Him through our days.

Perfectionism isn’t the goal, obedience to God and focus on the day when He makes us wholly perfect in our eternal home is. In the meantime, the work of Jesus in each of us has the full power to bring about life transformation.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7, ESV

Peace sounds far off when we’re in anxiety’s grip. But the command to not be anxious about anything can feel impossible when our heart races and stomach flip-flops. It’s in these moments when the rest of the passage lays out a plan for us to consider.

Supplication means to humbly petition. It’s difficult for a perfectionist who struggles with anxiety to admit flaws, but there is great peace and power when we recognize that we are not and cannot be perfect. We can bring our requests before the Lord in prayer and receive the peace He gives.

How to cope with perfectionism and anxiety.

When you explore your personality, you will begin to understand your God-given nature. When we understand it and how to use it in an appropriate manner, we grow. We can identify our tendencies and then take a moment to reset our expectations for ourselves. This helps release the anxiousness that arises when we don’t meet them.

We can learn to be flexible and less perfectionistic when we realize that God made us different from each other because He has an individual purpose for us in the body of Christ. When we lay down our unrealistic expectations of what that looks like and seek Him with our whole heart instead of perfect outcomes, we experience release from the persistent cycle of perfectionism and anxiety.

When we have a heart that is right before God, the perfectionism and anxiety cycle begins to break. It’s possible to portray perfection in what we do or how we look, but that distracts us from what God wants to accomplish in our hearts.

Perfect in heart means that we grow ever closer to the Lord as we put into practice the Biblical knowledge we already have. He covers our mistakes with His forgiveness and is interested more in our obedience than our contribution to perfect outcomes.

The desire to want to do everything well honors the Lord, but when we find our worth in what we do rather than in who we are in Christ, we experience perfectionism and anxiety. God calls us to find our worth in Him and allow Him to mold and shape us to reflect His glory in our lives. He provides a way for us to let go of the anxiousness that comes because of our misplaced understanding of perfectionism. We can rely on Him to help us overcome.

If you need additional support for perfectionism and anxiety beyond the contents of this article, please contact our reception to set up an appointment. It would be an honor to meet with you.

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How to Overcome Fear: 21 Ways to Be Fearless

Fear is an adrenaline rush that people pay both big money to enjoy and big money to avoid. From theme parks to intensive sports, to night lights and security guards, experiencing fear is something most people have a love-hate relationship with. In this article, we’ll look at how to overcome fear with 21 ways to be fearless.

When it comes to how to overcome fear, our ability to become fearless and manage our fears comes down to the type of fear. Is it a real fear—one that is something that is right to fear and happening in the present time? Or is it a pretend fear? Pretend fears are those that center around something unknown in the future, around a possible repetition of the past, or other fictional beliefs (i.e. monsters under the bed).

While real fears are inevitable, it can be easier to manage these fears. Pretend fears, on the other hand, can run wild and free without any care for reality. Either way, when your amygdala (the “feelings” part of the brain) engages, it can be difficult to manage whatever emotion it is because when the amygdala is activated enough, our prefrontal cortex (the “thinking” part of the brain) shuts off.

21 ways to be fearless.

I’ve been working with clients for over ten years on how to overcome fear and become fearless in the face of their worries and anxieties. Here are 21 ways to be fearless and help tackle anxiety without medication:

1. Accept fear as a part of you.

Like Sarah E. Ball (The Courage, 2019) says when writing about why we can’t just pray anxiety away, “We all feel anxious from time to time. We would be inhuman if we didn’t. But when we begin to fear the fear and do everything in our lives to avoid feeling it, we perpetuate a vicious cycle of fear.”

It’s important to understand that feeling fearless 100% of the time is likely impossible, and in fact, something you do not want. Fear keeps us alive, and often some of the greatest danger we can find ourselves in is when fear is totally absent.

2. Establish habits of routinely questioning your fear.

If you have a habit of engaging with worry, you’ll have to put in the work to consciously interrupt that habit and replace it. Put your worries to the test and find evidence that they may not be valid. Don’t just take it for granted. Connect with wise counsel and keep those fears accountable to reason.

3. Challenge it with Dr. Amen’s one simple question.

If you haven’t discovered ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and Dr. Amen’s work in helping people overcome their negative thinking, it can be summed up by two sentences: Everyone has automatic negative thoughts of different types. These automatic negative thoughts can be challenged and decrease over time.

Dr. Amen makes it so simple, he wrote a children’s book on the matter: Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions. One of his super questions is to ask yourself, “Am I 100% certain this thought is true?” If you’re not 100% certain, there’s the possibility for something less scary—and that can go a long way in helping you calm down.

4. Get to know fear from a biblical perspective.

What does the Bible say about fear? Does God give advice on how to overcome fear? You can be sure that He keeps His promise of providing wisdom to those who are asking for it! Being anxious is a part of being human, but God’s Word shines a light on it that allows us to put fear in its place.

You can start by reading the full passage of a famously quoted verse in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything . . . .” You’ll find some helpful to-do’s that have inspired some of this list!

5. Know the difference between real fear vs. fictional fear.

Just as I outlined above, different fears can have different levels of intensity. When you are facing a really scary situation (like someone’s health being jeopardized), reaching out for support becomes easier. There are time frames that naturally fall into place for the most part, and there are boundaries that contain the fear to the specific situation.

When fears cross over to the fictional sense, say after a scary event you question whether it will happen again every day, the support is more difficult to find because it’s all in your head. These fictional fears have no boundaries and can do more damage. Worries that are made up need to be addressed differently.

6. Get to know who God is.

Knowing who God is in the face of anxieties can put it into perspective. When you have a right view of God, your fears can often be influenced in a way that makes them easier to manage. It’s like the soldiers against Goliath. Their view of God wasn’t even on their mind—they took a look at Goliath and then looked at themselves and the math wasn’t on their side.

Then David shows up and sees who God is in the situation and rests His mind on that and that alone. Then, without any armor or a big weapon to defend himself, David steps up to face the fears of everyone there.

7. Remember what God has done.

Number 7 on the list of 21 ways to be fearless is to look back and account for how God has shown up in your life. God set dates and rituals in the lives of the Israelites not because He wanted religion to run their lives, but because He knew it would be important for them to set aside time to remember what He did for them so that they would be stirred up to follow Him and find the strength and peace to do so. Our minds can often be set at ease when we look back on certain things we overlook when our worries take over.

8. Recount God’s attributes.

Knowing who God is can put our worries into perspective and our nerves at ease. If you’re finding your mind wandering often to places that question God’s goodness, diving deep into His attributes and reflecting on them often is a way to challenge those thoughts. The Bible doesn’t just tell us who God is, it tells us example after example of how and why He is good, will take care of His children, is trustworthy, and is with us when we are afraid.

9. Get counsel.

Finding wise counsel is a game changer. Let’s start with what wise counsel is not: it isn’t running to multiple people and telling all; it isn’t going to someone because they have the same opinion on the matter as you, and it isn’t posting on social media. Wise counsel is finding someone who is likely older than you and who will point you back to Jesus and the Bible.

10. Connect with support.

While wise counsel has a mission to gain instruction, support is something different. Support is what you can access at times of need to lean on during the worst of it or celebrate during the best. Support looks like the people you’ve got on a prayer thread, the church you attend, and the people who bring you a coffee or a meal on any given day. This doesn’t mean you can’t find counsel and support in the same person, however.

11. Memorize Scripture .

Another practical tip for how to overcome fear is to fill your mind with solid truth that can be used by your brain automatically once you’ve memorized it. Your brain is running on autopilot, but you can change the route and destination. When fear strikes or your heart starts to race, consider reaching for a favorite verse to recite over and over again until the feeling changes and your heart calms.

12. Pray Scripture.

A beautiful way to find words for your prayers when you’re simply too overwhelmed by your fears and stress is by opening the Psalms and praying through them. Personalize whatever Scripture you are reading as a prayer to God, asking for what He is promising to you and expressing gratitude for who He is.

13. Make a list of Philippians 4:8.

Philippians is one of my favorite books to go through in a time of need. God doesn’t tell you to simply stop feeling fear or anxiety, He gives you ways to be fearless.

Philippians 4:8 instructs us to direct our thoughts to Him and dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise.” Sound familiar? Dwelling on the positive takes work, but it is timeless advice for any circumstance.

14. Get some prayer warriors to help you lift your burdens up.

When you’re struggling with fear and overwhelmed by worries, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Don’t have a church group? Are you the only Christian you know? Ministries like Christian radio and Focus on the Family have prayer lines open for you. Prayer is the most powerful support you can get.

15. Hold a hand.

Physical touch creates a ripple effect on your nervous system. A firm hand hold or hug can help your body know it’s safe and start to relax. If no one is around, try tensing and releasing your body one part at a time from your head to your toes, taking deep breaths as you go.

16. Minimize responsibilities for the moment.

Feeling anxious can create chaos in your brain. As the amygdala takes over, your prefrontal cortex can be challenged with getting its job done. This leaves you feeling disorganized, with difficulty concentrating, and with little ability to process information well. In other words, your normal super abilities to multitask and keep the house or office running aren’t functioning properly, so it’s a good idea to put a halt on the to-dos.

17. Hold off on making big decisions.

When your brain is on overload, it will process everything and anything as a potential threat. If you don’t have to make big decisions, hold off. If you have to make big decisions, get some wise counsel and take some deep breaths while you try and figure it out. This will minimize any rash or poor judgment that can lead to more problems later.

18. Prioritize the basics.

When you are caught in a cycle of thoughts that keep you afraid, prioritizing the basics is another tip for how to overcome fear. By prioritizing the basics, you’re sending signals to your body to reduce fight or flight mode. Making sure you eat, rest, and drink water will help you have what it takes to keep going—especially in light of a genuinely scary situation.

19. Face it anyway.

Facing your fears can be a daunting task, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure that the fears won’t run your life forever. Studies show that avoiding your fears can help them grow bigger, reinforcing that you need to feel afraid and taking away from your ability to function.

20. Prayer with thanksgiving.

It’s no secret that practicing gratitude improves your mental health. Finding something to be grateful for is a great way to balance your emotions and reduce your fears. Anxiety can be overwhelming at times. Praying with thanksgiving isn’t about ignoring your worries, it’s about acknowledging them and the good that is still there simultaneously.

21. Keep going.

Yes, keep going. Becoming fearless is a journey that will lead you to face your fears and press on with life. Feeling fear doesn’t mean that you need to base your behavior on it. In fact, when the circumstances allow for it, pressing on instead of giving into your fears can be exactly the thing that will help you and give you the courage to do it all over again.

Learning how to overcome fear using these 21 ways to be fearless is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of these may work at times but seem ineffective later. The tools you need to face the very real fears and anxieties that plague you, your family, and your friends are available—but they are specific to you and your circumstances. I encourage you to find wise counsel and connect with another therapist or me near you to find what will work for you.

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Feeling Anxious? Bible Verses for Dealing with Anxiety

We have all been there – the night before a big meeting, exam, sport or some other momentous event; the morning of a job interview; the day before the rent is due; a few hours before your date arrives; the first day of school; the moments before getting up to speak to an audience; seeing on your calendar that your next doctor’s appointment is fast approaching, or that a certain family member is coming to visit – all of these and many other situations can induce anxiety.

Most of us have things in our lives that can trigger an anxious reaction. Whether from fear of people or circumstances that seem bigger than our capacities to handle them, anxiety is a common reaction we have to what life throws at us.

What does the Bible have to say about anxiety? Is it possible to joyfully meet life head on without worrying?

A Command and a Promise

Often, the first verse that comes to mind when talking about anxiety is from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

These two verses are a bit of a powder keg, carrying both a command and a promise. The command not to be anxious can sound a little like asking someone to stop doing something as natural as breathing. When you struggle with something like anxiety, whether occasionally or more frequently, being told to simply “stop” seems unhelpful.

However, Paul doesn’t simply instruct the Philippians (and us) to just stop being anxious. It does us no good to stop one behavior without replacing it with something else. Instead of being anxious, we are told that prayer accompanied by thanksgiving should replace our anxiety.

Paul urges us to redirect our attention away from our fears, away from the circumstance that’s inducing anxiety, and toward God who is bigger than our fears and our circumstances. Not only does being thankful make us feel good, but giving thanks also reminds us of the other occasions God has come through for us. We can face this new situation with the confidence that we’ve gone through other circumstances and emerged in one piece.

God Cares for You

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus reminds his followers of twin truths – worrying doesn’t help, and God cares for you. Firstly, Jesus reminds us why we should not worry about our food and clothing:

Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!Luke 12: 24, 27-28

Because God takes care of everything else in nature, like birds and plants, we should also expect him to take care of us. We should not be anxious about our daily needs because God cares for us. As Peter put it, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Jesus also points out the futility of worrying: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-6). Our worrying and anxiety, Jesus says, does us no good, and so we’re better off not giving in to those impulses.

“Therefore,” Jesus says, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). In place of worry, what are we to do? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Again, our focus is being taken from our circumstances to the God who stands behind and is bigger than our circumstances and concerns. Occupying our hearts and minds with the larger, pressing reality of God’s Kingdom is a big enough concern to engage our whole being. It puts our daily concerns into a proper perspective when they threaten to overwhelm us with anxiety.

Don’t Fear the Unknown

One of the biggest generators of anxiety and worry is the future. We don’t know whether we’re going to get the job, or whether we’ll get through this illness, or if we’ll meet our expenses this month, and this can cause us to worry about how all of this will be resolved. In addition to the care that God has for us, Jesus tells us that God knows we need these things that concern us (Matthew 6:32).

God knows all things, from our thoughts to all our comings and goings. The Psalmist puts it like this – “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). There is nothing about our life which is an unknown to God. There are no surprises for him.

As a result, we can step into every day with the confidence that whatever happens, none of it will surprise God, and that his children are in his loving hands. Even when hard times come, we can face them with confidence knowing that God knows the outcome, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). If God, who is love, is working for our good in all things, even the scary stuff, that gives us the courage to face each day without anxiety crowding in.

How is it that many people can display great boldness in the face of perilous situations? How could Daniel go into the lions’ den, or his three friends into the fire without hesitation? How other heroes like Esther take their lives in their hands and face down kings?

Knowing that we are loved by God, who is working out our good in all things, drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Sometimes we are fearful of the power that certain people have over us and become anxious to please them. Armed with God’s promise that he will never leave nor forsake us (such security!), we can say with confidence – “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).

He has Overcome the World

The world we live in is not safe. A variety of hardships come our way all the time. At a time of great testing for his disciples, Jesus gave them this promise – “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The first part of that promise is something most of us would prefer Jesus hadn’t said. However, it’s true. We do have trouble in this world. We do encounter many things that bring us discomfort and anxiety. If Jesus hadn’t said the first part, the second part would have felt naïve and shallow. But because Jesus knows exactly what we’re facing, his encouragement to take heart because he has overcome the world is that much more potent.

After he’d been crucified and raised from the dead, and just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said this to his disciples – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus wields this power and exercises it for his people.

We can cast our anxieties and cares upon him, knowing that he can take care of all our todays and tomorrows. He is working all things for our good – even the rough patches we go through – and so we will not be afraid of or anxious about what comes our way. Take heart! Jesus has overcome the world.

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Treatment for Anxiety: No Medication Needed

In this age of social media, more and more people, including popular entertainers, are posting their struggles with anxiety.

Though not life-threatening, anxiety is a real, debilitating condition as the sufferer deals with excessive worry and troubling physical effects like difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath, a racing heart, cold sweats, and other unpleasant symptoms.

Medication for these symptoms does exist. However, reliance on such is never a good thing as there are possible side effects, including addiction. Rather than turning to chemicals, it is best to deal with treatment for anxiety through other healthier methods.

Treatment for Anxiety: Options for You

The following are some great ways to reduce anxiety symptoms without the need for medication. A sufferer ought to consider a combination of these practices for best results.

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a very effective way to deal with anxiety issues. When one has anxiety problems, the sufferer is overthinking what is happening at the moment or what may happen in the near, or even far, future.

In CBT, the professional counselor helps the sufferer reframe how they think and how they understand their behavior. In this way, negative thought patterns may hopefully be reduced to something more rational and realistic, preventing these unnecessary mental worries and physical responses to worry.

As part of CBT, the therapist may introduce breathing techniques to help the sufferer relax more. This helps reduce negative physiological symptoms like tightness in the muscles, a rapid heart rate, and difficulty breathing.

2. Self-Care

Similar to treatment for other forms of illnesses, physical or mental, it is important that overall well-being is considered. This means that mentally, physically and spiritually the anxiety sufferer must be conscious of finding ways to take care of themselves.

Physically, this means a proper diet, exercise and stretching; and enough rest. If the body is well, it will be able to respond to the physical symptoms of anxiety (e.g. racing heart, shortness of breath, muscle tension and aches) better than if it were weak.

Mental self-care is also important because if the mind is weak (e.g. low self-esteem, morbid thoughts) then the easier it will be to panic more due to anxious thoughts. Breathing exercises, journaling, and mindfulness of your current state (inner emotions and outer stimuli) can help you relax and get to know yourself in a more positive and informative light.

Spiritual self-care, which many today seem to ignore, is very essential as a weak spiritual connection to God makes one very susceptible to all kinds of problems, especially worries about the future. Regular prayer time, reading of Scripture, meaningful Church attendance, and fellowship with other caring believers will do wonders for the spiritual health so that negative, anxious thoughts will not easily bring one down.

3. Massage

Though it might not resolve the underlying issues behind a sufferer’s anxiety, massage therapy is still very helpful for relaxing the body and reducing tension. Muscle tension can be quite painful and bothersome so a good massage may provide temporary, yet needed, physical relief.

4. Yoga

Many therapists recommend yoga to strengthen the body and modulate the stress response. The various breathing exercises and yoga poses also help improve mental clarity which is why yoga is very popular today.

Now while yoga is very helpful for those suffering from anxiety, as a Christian, one must remember to only incorporate the principles of relaxation and mindfulness and not any non-Christian spiritual practices or beliefs. Compromising one’s spiritual beliefs should never be an option.

5. Acupuncture

An alternative form of medicine from the Far East is acupuncture. Here, through the guided hands of an expert, needles are inserted into the body to relieve pain and cure ailments. Though not all medical doctors believe in its effects, many more claim that it does work to reduce anxiety symptoms.


While medication for anxiety may be necessary in severe circumstances, it is generally still best to avoid ingesting too many chemicals. As there are many other options available to minimize anxiety symptoms, a sufferer ought to try them first to avoid future, medicine-related problems.

If you or a friend are struggling with anxiety and would like to know more, particularly about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, then you should seek the help of a professional Christian counselor to help you find the best treatment plan for you.

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Social Anxiety: How to Manage Well

Social situations tend to make many of us anxious. Some of us find meeting people a challenge. Walking into a place where there are people we don’t know makes us uncomfortable. It is common to try to work around these uncomfortable situations in order to survive in the world.

Anxiety can prevent us from taking part in social activities. It can cause us to have problems at work or keep us from going to gatherings. When we are missing out, it is high time to take a close look at our anxiety and the social phobia it is causing in order to better understand it and to better enable us to get help.

When Social Anxiety Becomes a Disorder

The more you know about a problem, the easier it is to find a solution. The same is true with social anxiety and the disorder behind it. Learning more about the diagnosis of it and what it entails will help you assess your symptoms so you can determine whether seeking mental health assistance is advisable. In the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or, DSM-5), Social Anxiety Disorder is described as:

“Marked anxiety or fear having to do with a social situation, or situations, where the individual is exposed to the possibility of being scrutinized by others. It might be brought on by something like a conversation with another person or persons, meeting new people, being observed when drinking, eating or something similar, and/or performing or speaking in front of others such as giving a speech.”

In children, the anxiety must be brought on in a setting that is pure rather than just when they are interacting with adults.

The individual has anxiety and fear of acting in a certain way or of showing the symptoms of anxiety in a fashion that will be viewed negatively such as being embarrassed or humiliated which will ultimately lead to being rejected by or offending others.

The situations are typically socially oriented and almost always instigated by anxiety or fear. It is common for children to express their anxiety and fear through crying, freezing, clinging, throwing tantrums or not speaking when they are in social situations.

Social situations which provoke negative emotions are either endured with great anxiety and fear or avoided altogether. The degree of anxiety or fear is exaggerated in comparison to the threat that’s posed from the situation or the socio-cultural context. Generally, the individual experiences the anxiety and/or fear for a period of six months or longer.

The negative feelings of anxiety or fear or the action of avoidance bring on significant clinical distress or the inability to function properly in the individual’s occupation, social life or another important area. It’s important to note that the avoidance is not brought about by drugs, illicit or prescription.

If there is a medical condition that exists (like Parkinson’s disease, disfigurement from injury or burns, obesity or such) the problem is only classified as social anxiety if it is not caused by the medical problems or if it is in extreme excess.

Self-diagnosing is not wise when you are concerned if you have a mental disorder just as it is not advisable to self-diagnose when wondering about medical problems. It is imperative to be certain that you are given the correct diagnosis and, if warranted, the right treatment as well. It is recommended that you incorporate time with a therapist to ensure you get the proper diagnosis.

Rekindling Our Bodily Connection

Anxiety is never comfortable. That is why our natural reaction is to get as far as we can away from it. We do whatever we can in order to avoid feeling it. The problem is that this type of reaction is counterproductive to the diagnosing of the problem and to successful treatment. With this in mind, the next time you feel anxiety creeping in, try to turn to it instead of away from it. Acknowledge your feeling. Don’t hide from it.

It is also helpful to approach it with curiosity. Ask yourself where you are feeling it. Perhaps it is in your stomach, or the area around your chest or in your neck. Sometimes, tingling fingers or hands accompany fear and anxiety.

Try to get a grip on it through taking deep, controlled breaths. Breathe in through your nose and then out slowly through your mouth, counting to three. Once you have completed the deep breathing exercise, attempt to figure out what the trigger is.

There are times the trigger will be obvious. You may suddenly recall that you are about to go to a party where there will be a number of people you don’t know. Or, it may seemingly come out of nowhere. It is a good idea to ask yourself where it came from anytime your anxiety or anger rises suddenly. Even if you don’t have the answer, you will be taking a step toward your recovery.

Trigger Complexities

Our mind, body, and emotions are all interconnected which means there can be a myriad of possibilities when it comes to causes for our anxieties, social ones included. It is a defense mechanism that we develop early on to deal with traumatic experiences. We naturally defend ourselves against further harm and protect ourselves from the pain as well.

Imagine you are in a dark room full of furniture. You can’t see the furniture so you continue to bump into it time after time. A therapist helps you to identify and understand the triggers you have, much like illuminating the furniture, one piece at a time.

When you can clearly see the furniture, the less likely you are to run into it as much and when you happen to, you know just what you ran into. Throughout the course of time, you may even decide to move the furniture elsewhere rather than it being in the middle of the room where you easily bump into it.

Understanding Social Anxiety

It is conducive to have a range to work with when we are trying to get a handle on our anxieties in social situations. When you note that it is rising, assign it a suitable number. “I feel my anxiety is at a 7 on a scale where 10 is the highest,” you may tell yourself. If you find your anxiety is in the 7-and-over range much of the time, it would be a wise idea to set up a meeting with a qualified therapist.

If you leave high anxiety unchecked, you can condition your body to be chronically anxious. That is why there are some disorders of anxiety that only get better with medication.

When you have identified the degree of your level of anxiety, the next thing you will want to do is to make an attempt to lower it by using the tools you have at your disposal. When our anxiety is soaring, it is very difficult to think with a clear head and deep breathing can be helpful at times like this. It sends a signal to your sympathetic nervous area (the system that deals with fight or flight) that it is alright to be calm as there is no danger.

While you are doing deep and slow breathing, you can try to think and focus on just one thing. It might be a smooth stone, a waterfall or a word. Since our minds can only handle thinking about one thing at a time, it becomes impossible to dwell on the fear at hand when we are thinking about a stone or waterfall. Initially, it may be difficult to do because we feel as if we are thinking of a million things at once, but in reality, our minds are just racing with many thoughts coming at us, one by one.

Controlling our focus is the key to stopping the circus. It takes some practice but it can be done. When you think of positive things about yourself, you will find that your anxiousness subsides. A good bit of the worry we have is based on things that are not true. You may feel God is going to punish you for something or that you are going to get a disease. Think of fears you had in the past that never came to pass. That is very helpful in recognizing the unwarranted fears.

Putting your thoughts and feelings into perspective is helpful too. Since there are millions of things that have the ability to kill you, you can see how it is a complete wasting of your time to try to figure out which of those things you will die from. Living in the here and now means not being obsessed with the past or the future. Now is all we have anyway so, why not chose to live in it?

It will be easier to think clearly when your anxiety has subsided and is under control. That is the time to think about the root of your social anxiety. Know the difference between normal anxiety and anxiety that is not typical. If you are at odds with someone and are nervous about running into them, that is normal. But, if you fear to encounter anyone, that is not.

What is it that scares you about the given situation? Do you worry that you will not know what to do or say and will look foolish? Are you afraid you will say something but it won’t be appropriate? Do you fear you will fall or break something and look clumsy?

In each one of the cases mentioned, fear is the underlying factor. You are afraid of looking foolish or like a jerk. You are afraid that you will be rejected or hated. While the fear is not legitimate because it is exaggerated, it certainly feels true. Until you take it by the horns. Realize that one of the greatest fears humans have is abandonment. Do you fear you will be left alone?

The stakes seem incredibly high when social anxiety tells that you will do or say something so bad that you’ll be hated, despised or abandoned. But when you start to understand more about the situation, you can make a plan and have a way out. You can control and manage your situation and fight the lies that you have let yourself believe.

Managing Social Anxiety

There are many experiences when it comes to anxiety and everyone is different. It is not possible to address each possible situation so I will be using a few vignettes with various examples of possibilities for the approaches. These are generalized in order to hopefully paint a picture that many can imagine themselves in.

First Vignette – A twenty-eight-year-old male is employed at a large company where there are no inside walls and the individual desks are grouped. Each person in the area views and contributes to everyone’s work. One day, the man walks into the area and his heart begins to race. He feels like he is getting dizzy and reaches to steady himself. He gets out of the building as quickly as he can and the thought of ever going back paralyzes him with overwhelming anxiety.

Approach Possibilities – When there is a symptom of dizziness or any form of chest pains, it is certainly recommended that a physician is consulted in order to rule out any medical causes. If medical causes are ruled out, then you can look further into the root.

One thing to check into is if anyone he is not comfortable with moving in closer to his proximity. Has the work he has been doing been brought into the spotlight and he has been ignoring it to where it has become an insurmountable anxiety? Perhaps the close quarters in his work setting is finally closing in on him. Is there anything about the area of his workspace that has undergone change or has any of the relationships changed?

If all environmental factors have been ruled out, it could very well boil down to a psychodynamic contributor, like having an overly critical father or mother who continually made him feel belittled. While this issue is one that can take some time to really work through, there are short-term solutions that can temporarily help to boost his self-confidence.

This is where the tools mentioned above could really help to calm anxiousness in the moment. Focusing on one single thing could be very helpful. If the given anxiety has continued for over six months, it might not respond to somatic techniques in which case, a visit with a qualified psychiatrist might be in order to talk about the possibility of an anti-anxiety prescription. Persistence and patience when pursuing a diagnosis is the best route to getting the best care possible.

Second Vignette – A thirty-something-year-old female always has anxiety creep up when she is in public, but one night when she is at a party where she doesn’t know hardly anyone, she gets so anxious that she has to flee the party.

Approach Possibilities – Like the man in the first vignette, the manifestation of chest pains or dizziness is a good indication a doctor should be seen as a first step.

If leaving the party helped to calm her, it might be of help to rule out the environmental factors that could have possibly been present. Asking if there was anything in the room that seemed to be threatening in some familiar way is a good place to start. Smells can initiate triggers too. Was there a smell that could have triggered an old trauma response emotionally?

Perhaps someone vocalized something that triggered the response. Maybe there was a person who appeared to be familiar but who she couldn’t seem to place and that mentally distressed her. And, there might be a person who had a similarity to someone within her past who was threatening.

Environmental factors should be ruled out and psychodynamic roots can be addressed and looked into too. Taking steps of desensitization may well be the most helpful answer so that she doesn’t have to avoid going to parties for months or even years.

The first thing she might attempt is to go to another party in order to see if the problem is a recurring one. Then, she could try meeting a stranger and a friend together. Then she could be around one friend and five or so strangers at once.

As she does this, she should monitor her anxiety level and also watch for triggers. She can then begin to get in touch with the level of her anxiety and can work to develop solutions for workarounds and also to address the specific issues she has.

While there are common factors, everyone’s individual anxiety is different. It is something that is unique to them and only them. It takes courage and it takes determination to face fears and to wonder about them so we can reduce anxiety by developing and using techniques.

If anxiety is disrupting your life, it is time to get help so you can explore your thoughts and feelings. Getting help will help you take steps toward a life of growth and better health. You can be free.

“Anxious,” courtesy of Sascha Berner, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Thinking,” courtesy of Jacob Botter, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “Stretch,” courtesy of Jacob Postuma, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alejandra thinking II,” courtesy of Luis Alejandro Bernal Romeo, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0)