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.

Photos:
“Morning Cup”, Courtesy of Caleb George, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Man in Plaid”, Courtesy of Nathan Cowley, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Stay Away,” courtesy of M.T. ElGassier, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Devotions”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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.

Summary

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.

Photos:
“Anxious”, Courtesy of LoganArt, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Therapist Office”, Courtesy of Cater Yang, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Church”, Courtesy of Neonbrand, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yoga”, Courtesy of Matthew Kane, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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.

Photos
“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)