Shutting Down Anxiety + Worry
Life’s events or transitions can often feel like a turbulent storm. A received diagnosis, conflict in a relationship, finances, work, or school. These circumstances challenge our decision-making skills, our personal narrative, and our faith in God’s control over our lives. An appropriate reaction to problems, unknown situations, and change is often to worry. It tends to be our first reaction, but not the most helpful approach to use when waiting for God’s guidance.
Worry can often lead to an anxious way of thinking and as a result hinder the effectiveness with our coping. Although these are different for everyone, they have the potential to become overwhelming. When worry or anxiety begin to take over, consider the following steps to reducing their influence.
1. Here and Now.
Focus on the present moment. Ask yourself, “What am I doing in this moment? Am I using my time in a healthy or beneficial way? What is the next item on my list that I can achieve today? Focusing on our present tasks helps us concentrate on aspects that we can control. Anxiety generates fear of the future and instead consumes our current time.
2. Create a “Worry Period.”
You are, after all, human and the automatic reaction is to worry. Take 30 minutes to process the worry at the same time and place each day. Identify times where worry may be seeping in and influencing times of your day. Reflect on areas that you can control in regards to the event that is causing you worry or anxiety. It may be more useful to spend time distinguishing between problems that may have a solution over problems you can’t control. For example, if you’re worried about your declining marital relationship, which areas are actually in your control? Some options could including changing the way you react towards your spouse during conflict, learning effective communication strategies to practice with your spouse, praying more for your spouse, or developing healthy outlets to release frustration.
3. Differentiate the Facts.
If it is difficult to manage your feelings or thoughts about the problem, give yourself permission to take care of them. You cannot control the way you feel, attempting to do so will only make you feel worse. Focus instead on the information you can gather to address the problem or solve it. Another way to differentiate the facts is to allow yourself to identify the worst possible scenario. This often helps us rationalize situations. It usually lets us reflect how unlikely that scenario actually is, or provide us with better ways to cope with that scenario if it were to occur. Most of all, it can help us identify our biggest fears and allow us to share them honestly in prayer with God.
Circumstances outside of our control can often cause worry and anxiety. A turbulent storm can grow in our minds if we allow it to cause emotional despair. Although worry is an automatic reaction, we can stil choose where we place our focus while we sit through the storm. In Mark 4: 35-41, we see the disciples become overwhelmed with fear and worry during a storm. Allowing their emotions to take over, they forgot the facts in that present moment: Jesus was onboard. And His presence alone could have dissipated any anxiety about facing the storm.