Do you ever feel like no one understands your struggle with anxiety? Finding encouragement for working through anxiety can be difficult. Many times others only offer quick fixes for stress relief without really hearing you out. This can leave you feeling like you’re the problem or worse, that it’s all in your head. Anxiety is an oppressive emotion to feel and navigate. Over time, this misunderstood emotion becomes a chronic cycle that seems endless.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Where we learn some easy ways to be more present “in the moment” at our jobs, in our homes, with our families and friends.
Learning to recognize God and what He has for us in each divine moment He offers. We acknowledge the belief that God is with us always.
We confess His presence is available to us, lifting our spirit and helping us with power and grace. Learning the art of “stillness” so we can hear His voice and view ourselves, others and our surroundings through His eyes.
understanding more about anxiety
Anxiety is an emotion related to fear, but distinct in that it is more future focused and can border on irrational, distorted thinking. To be clear, I am not a psychologist; this post addresses everyday anxiety, not a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Unfortunately, like the word “stress”, in today’s culture, anxiety can mean anything from excessive worry to phobic responses.
Since anxiety, is an emotion similar to fear, it occurs in response to a perceived threat or danger. They differ in that fear is a response to a realistic threat in the present, while anxiety manifests as an unrealistic or imagined threat in the future. Anxiety dwells on hypothetical outcomes, that persist however unlikely they seem. For example, after reading an article on the increase in snake sightings due to the extreme heat, you go outdoors less. Pretty soon you avoid parks, lakes or hiking trails. Finally you begin planning your days primarily to avoid ever encountering a snake. In order to find encouragement for working through anxiety, we must acknowledge the problem.
the anxiety cycle
Anxiety begins with a trigger; what is called a “stressor”, better understood as a perceived threat. This in turn causes an “alarm” to sound in the brain, which triggers symptoms of anxiety. These vary with each person, but could include increased heart rate, shallow breathing, sweaty palms, fidgeting or irritability. Then avoidance kicks in as the person attempts to flee the stressor. This results in short term relief, and life moves on temporarily. Unfortunately the anxiety does not go away, thoughts of the stressor continue to surface causing rumination or “worry”. These thoughts bring focus back to the original stressor, exaggerating the threat resulting in arriving back at the “alarm” stage of the cycle. This creates the physical symptoms of anxiety and we go through the never ending cycle again.
While everyone experiences anxiety now and then, without encouragement for working through anxiety, the cycle becomes chronic. Over time, this causes chronic physical symptoms like muscle and joint pain, fatigue, weight gain, uncontrollable itch and shortness of breath. The physical symptoms are unique to each person, but one common factor is an inflammatory response throughout the body. I’m including a link to a helpful worksheet below with the cycle and some questions for you to work through to see how this cycle is happening in your own life.
Anxiety Cycle Worksheet
the importance of anxiety awareness
The importance of understanding the anxiety cycle in your own life helps you begin recognizing it when it happens. This allows you the opportunity of learning to stop the cycle at any point, ultimately at the point of the stressor. Finding encouragement for working through anxiety involves building confidence and facing the stressor rather than avoiding it. Additionally, once encouraged, you begin challenging distorted thinking and self talk that keeps you in the cycle of anxiety.
Working through the cycle of anxiety in my own life revealed how often I avoided stressors keeping myself in the cycle. As I began noticing my thoughts when in the cycle, I observed the distorted thinking patterns and self talk that fed my anxiety. Awareness opened the door for me to better manage my anxiety. Mindfulness coupled with speaking truth to myself when I felt the cycle of anxiety begin, freed me from the tyranny of anxiety.
tools for working through anxiety
Whether you deal with anxiety often or just now and then, having the tools to effectively work through your anxiety is crucial. Waiting until you are in the vortex of the cycle to grasp for help is too late. My approach is two-fold; upon facing a stressor or threat, I immediately begin a mindfulness technique, which keeps me from avoiding the stressor and grounds me in the present. Mindfulness slows the rush of panicked thoughts and gives me time to respond with truth. While each of my anxiety situations vary, I must pursue speaking specific truth relative to each situation. But also, timeless truths that apply in any situation.
Below, I’ll describe three mindfulness techniques that you can use at the moment of the initial stressor or threat. Afterwards I’ll share some timeless truths that you can speak into the situation to help prevent distorted thinking. Try these techniques the next time you feel threatened before you start running.
Mindfulness For Anxiety
The moment you sense a threat that begins your cycle of anxiety, the very best thing you can do is Pause. Don’t push it from your mind, don’t engage with it, find a quiet place even if it’s the bathroom, to sit for 5 minutes. Then walk through these steps. You can also grab my FREE Calming Techniques Guide at the end of the post for more help.
- Mindful Check-in. I mention this often, but it is the best tool to stop the downward spiral and get in touch with what emotions are present. The full process takes five minutes, but you can spend two or three minutes and have the same effect. Find the instructions in this post.
- Four Square Breathing. Employ four square breathing. This mindfulness breathing technique can even be done while at your work desk, driving in the car or standing in line at the check out. Simply breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four. Breathe out for a count of four, hold for a count of four. Repeat at least four to six times. This stops racing thoughts effectively. For an even stronger effect, draw one side of a square with each count of four, either in the air or on paper.
- Four-Seven-Eight Breathing. Take a full deep breath and exhale. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of seven. Breathe out for a count of eight. When doing this breathing technique, keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. When exhaling, open your mouth slightly and purse your lips. This technique calms the parasympathetic nervous system. Simply pressing your tongue firmly to the roof of your mouth has a similar effect. This is why children suck their thumbs to self soothe.
Timeless Promises For Anxiety
- God is bigger than life’s basic necessities. In Matthew 6:25-26, God tells us not to be anxious about food, drink or clothing. Our bodies are vastly more complex than food or clothing, yet God created our bodies! Surely He can clothe and feed them. For emphasis, He reminds us that He feeds the birds, who don’t worry about provisions. As we are of more value than the birds, will He not care for us?
- We are destined to spend eternity with God. Matthew 6:27-30 reminds us that anxiety accomplishes nothing worthwhile. We see God lavish His creative powers on clothing the flowers of the field, which are fleeting. Will He not clothe us who He created to live with Him forever?
- God knows all our needs. Matthew 6:31-34 re-states that God knows all of our needs, He will supply those needs in His time. We need not be anxious about tomorrow, for God gives us only what we can bear each day, don’t borrow trouble!
- Nothing can separate us from God. Best of all Romans 8:32-37 promises as our gracious Heavenly Father, God will give us “all things”. Not only that, but nothing can ever separate us from His love in Christ. No threat we face, real or imagined can remove us from His perfect care.
encouragement for working through anxiety
Finding encouragement for working through anxiety is a difficult process, but offers hope for finally breaking the cycle of chronic anxiety in our lives. Beginning with an honest evaluation of the pattern of anxiety in our lives is the best starting point. Identifying the pattern creates awareness. While some people suffer anxiety over just about everything, often specific trouble areas will arise after analysis. You may discover financial related triggers, work related triggers, or parenting related triggers as your trouble areas.
Once you begin recognizing patterns, you can create lists of specific truths to speak into these situations when they arise along with timeless truths. This will challenge and begin changing your distorted thinking more quickly. As your awareness to your triggers builds, you will also employ mindfulness techniques more quickly to stop the cycle before it starts. Sharing this awareness with a trusted friend or spouse adds a layer of support because they can also speak truth into your situation, bringing encouragement. These tools empowered me in my own battle with anxiety. Though ultimately embracing the truth of God’s perfect care and plan for me truly freed me from the destructive grip of anxiety.