just a little something
to begin your week.
Okay, full disclosure: If you haven’t already figured it out, I tend to be an anxious person. I have experienced low-grade anxiety for most of my life; I can remember lying in bed when I was young wondering why my parents weren’t home yet and worrying about the possible scenarios. When I was in high school I clenched my jaw so tight that it was sore, and to this day whenever I watch a frightening scene in a movie, I have to close my eyes because I have such a vivid imagination.
Over the years, I have grown in understanding the root causes of some of my anxiety. Yet, I have also come to terms with the fact that part of this anxiety is my body’s chemistry and so I have been trying to learn how to manage it the best I can.
In my conversations with women, both young and young at heart, I have been surprised to learn that many struggle with this same issue. I guess in some ways I thought I may be the only one. (Interesting how the evil one tries to tempt you to believe you’re alone in your struggle.) As a result, I have felt more emboldened to find natural, God-honoring ways to handle anxiety. After much reflecting, researching, and praying, I thought I would share a few insights that I have found to help manage my anxiety. This is not to say that I have mastered my anxiety, but when I experience anxious thoughts, I try to do a mental check in my mind of the following:
1) Examine the underlying emotion.
This insightful piece of advice from my counselor has helped me tremendously in my moments of anxiety: examine the emotion you are feeling underneath the anxiety. For instance, as I await my one-year-check-up, I am feeling more anxious than usual. Instead of just coping with the anxiety by distracting myself, I am trying to look underneath the anxiety and ask God to give me wisdom to understand what emotion is driving the anxiety. In this particular instance, the emotion underneath my anxiety is fear. I am fearful of the lingering what-if scenarios. Identifying this underlying emotion has helped me manage my anxiety instead of allowing it to wage out of control.
2) Invite God into the anxious moments.
There are times I can’t identify why I feel anxious. In those moments, I invite God into my anxious feelings and ask Him to help me see what is going on below the surface. I take great comfort that God is called my Counselor, and I regularly refer to Him in that way, especially when I can’t seem to put my finger on what is bothering me. There have been certain situations where I have asked God to give me wisdom about my anxiety and He has opened my eyes to see my misconceptions and faulty beliefs that I was completely unaware existed. Although I wish I could remain peaceful at all times, I am learning that when I allow my anxiety to bring me toward God, I grow in intimacy with Him. And after all, that’s the point, isn’t it?
3) Take every thought captive.
Once God has helped me identify the root of my anxiety, I know the next step is to reign in my thoughts before they swirl out of control. I wrote about this in more detail in a past Monday Morsel. Controlling my thoughts takes constant effort for me. As weird (and inaccurate) as this may sound, entertaining crazy what-if’s gives me a sense of control because I fool myself into thinking I am prepared for the worst-case scenario. However, any control or comfort I think I receive is only imagined and counterfeit because it does not last or help.
I am instead learning to take my anxious thoughts captive and replace them with truth. The way I’ve found to help me practically do this is by writing particular verses related to my situation on bound note cards and continually review them so I memorize them by heart. It is good for me to constantly focus my mind on truth rather than negative thoughts and worries.
4) Run off some steam!
Although all of the books say how beneficial exercise is for our bodies, it has taken personal experience for me to realize that moving my body really does help manage my anxiety. It shouldn’t surprise me that God made our bodies in a way that they work better when engaged in physical activity. As Dr. Don Colbert says in The New Bible Cure for Depression and Anxiety, “Two main reasons active individuals feel better are that regular exercise may raise levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain, and it also increases the production of endorphins, which help relieve stress, decreasing the stress hormone cortisol” (86). That is enough reason for me to get moving daily. Plus, exercise encourages more restorative sleep which helps reduce anxiety as well.
5) Just breathe.
Learning to breathe deeply has been a new practice for me. I plan to write a more extensive post about breathing in the future, but I have been encouraged to learn that making a point to inhale and exhale deeply brings a calming effect on the nervous system. Isn’t it amazing to see how God intricately designed our bodies to function well?
6) Eat balanced meals.
I am finding that eating well is not just for controlling weight but also for an overall healthy body and mind. According to Dan Colbert’s book the following foods can aggravate anxiety:
- Sugary foods like soda, dessert, cereal
- Food additives like MSG and aspartame
- Processed foods
- White flour like pretzels, bagels, noodles
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Trans fatty acids and hydrogenated oils
*Dr. Colbert also mentions a possible allergy to dairy and wheat that may trigger anxiety.
7) Take appropriate supplements.
In the book referenced above written by Don Colbert, I found some helpful advice in managing anxiety with supplements. I appreciated how he explains each supplement and how it works with the body. As a disclaimer, supplements should never be taken without the approval of your doctor and should not be combined with prescription medications.
For me in particular, after meeting with my nutritionist, these supplements have seemed to help me manage my anxiety:
- Theanine (reduces mental and physical stress) – 200mg, two a day (*Also an ingredient in green tea!)
- GABA (calms body) – 500 mg, two a day
- 5-HTP (increases serotonin production) — 50 mg, three times a day (*When just beginning, take one a day and increase slowly.)
- Pantothenic Acid (helps nerve system functions) – 500 mg, two a day
- Siberian Ginseng (increases resistance to biological stresses) — 200 mg, two a day
It is important to purchase your supplements from a high-quality source. I have found mine at Whole Foods or Douglas Labs.
My list in this post is far from exhaustive; I would love to hear any suggestions you have that have helped you manage your anxious moments. May we learn and grow together so that God’s peace will overflow in us.
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers,
letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness,
everything coming together for good,
will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens
when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends,
I’d say you’ll do best by
filling your minds and meditating on things
true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—
the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly;
things to praise, not things to curse.”
Philippians 4:6-8, The Message