Becoming a Brave Mom: Attack Anxiety
Welcome back MOPS Moms!
I sat in my kitchen today while Olivia napped and chatted with a friend about fear. We both have felt the weight of suffocating anxiety. As we talked and shared the different ways we cope, I thought about the strategies I have learned over the years. It reminded me of this blog post I wrote almost four years ago about the ways I have found to help manage my anxiety.
I would now add a few more strategies to the list:
- Replace the anxious thoughts with true thoughts. Aside from examining the underlying emotion and inviting God into the anxious thoughts that I shared in my post mentioned above, I have learned the value of surrounding myself with true thoughts. For me that means keeping myself plugged into Scripture and listening to music that reinforces those truths. (I’ve shared many of my favorite songs in the Wednesday Wisdom Well posts but one I love to play in my anxious moments is Cast My Cares by Tim Timmons).
I also have mentioned before that I have post-it notes on my mirrors and verses on my kitchen chalkboard to constantly bring myself back to what’s true. One of my most favorite verses is Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You” and when I am in a scary situation, I repeat it over and over.
When I was going through chemo, I used a spiral-bound note card book and wrote verses that God was using to comfort and encourage me. I would take those with me to my appointments and read them over and over when I felt the panic rising.
- Take time out for myself–whether that be taking a nap (and let me just say, I totally agree with that quote I heard somewhere that, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”), going for a walk, reading a book, journaling my thoughts, or doing a little shopping. I’ve learned giving myself some time to think, pray and clear my head is really important to help lessen my anxiety. (Now to figure out how to do this with two children!)
- Share my fears with others. Sometimes it’s just me being honest about my fears with my husband but more times than not recently I have sensed God encourage me to open up with others about the various anxieties that are plaguing me. In doing so, it not only reminds others they are not alone in their struggles but it draws me closer to those who want to live authentically and bravely too.
- Lessen caffeine. Practically speaking, I’ve noticed when I get super anxious, caffeine really aids in making me more stressed out and giving me physical symptoms (heart racing, tension headaches, etc.). In those situations, I try to drink green tea instead because it still has some caffeine but also is known to help relax you too. (And I’ve also found lavender essential oil helps counteract the anxiety.)
In Sherry Surratt’s book Brave Mom, she also listed some “go-to strategies to deal with fears and worries before they [get] out of control” (see pages 140-144). I wanted to list a few that stood out to me.
- “Do a laundry sort…Sort your fear into two piles: things I have control over and things I don’t.” If you don’t have any control, “tell God what you are nervous about, acknowledge you don’t have control and ask God to give your heart peace…If it is a fear you can do something about…take action. Then tell yourself, okay, I’ve done all I can do.”
- “Frisk your thoughts at the door…I can’t control every scary thing but I can control whether or not these things strike fear in my heart.”
One specific way I have been doing this is when I hear a really traumatic story on Facebook or in the news, my immediate thought is, “Oh my gosh, what if that happened to me?” and then I start to feel the panic rising.
A few months ago I had just blogged about how I made it to the five year mark of being cancer-free. While I was elated, I also get nervous when I post things like that in writing because you never know what’s in store for the future, and though I don’t believe in jinxing myself, I always feel a little more on edge when I put myself out there. (I guess that’s just part of being brave and sharing more of myself even when I can’t control the outcome.)
So anyway, I felt a little emotional about the whole thing and a day or two later I received an email that asked if I would reach out to a young mom whose ovarian cancer had just returned. Immediately, I felt great fear and worried about that happening to me. After a few hours of ruminating off and on about this fear, I felt God remind me, “That is not your story right now. Stay in your story and where I have you.” I tell myself that all the time now. (It’s part of the “replacing the anxious thoughts with true thoughts.” I’ve become quite the self-talker!)
When I read a heartbreaking story that begins to stir up fear of “What if that happened to me?”, I literally tell myself, “That is not your story. That is their story and God is going to meet them in it.” As the quote says above, I have to frisk my thoughts and not let myself go down the imaginary road because it doesn’t do me any good! (And this is not to say we don’t empathize and reach out to those who are going through tragedies, but I am learning that I have to mentally remind myself the difference between their story and my story and not to take on what is not mine.)
- “Choose Gratitude…Fear makes us feel small and hopeless. What makes us feel the opposite?…A thankful heart.”
The best thing I’ve done as I’ve written this blog entry is look back at my past posts and read about how God has been so incredibly faithful to me, which stirs inside of me a thankful heart. I almost think the best cure for anxiety is to look at the ways God has shown up in the past and remind myself He will show up again because that is just who He is!
Writing this blog post has been very cathartic for me as I prepare my heart for our lives to change as we meet our next baby girl. Though transitions can frightens me, I am learning that fear and courage can exist at the same time. So instead of shutting down, batting away my fears, or letting them consume me, I am learning to come to God honestly, acknowledge what is scaring me, and take on the bravery He gives me. After all, as Sherry says, “Courage doesn’t mean we are not afraid anymore; it just means our actions aren’t controlled by our fears” (105).