The weather has finally been beautiful here in Iowa, much to my liking. I'm definitely a summer person, so if this becomes a trend where it's going to keep being cold for the vast majority of the year, I may or may not be moving to Arizona or Florida...
Before I deleted my Pinterest account, I saved quite a few quotes to my computer over various topics. Naturally, when my struggles with anxiety started intensifying over the summer, one of the things I did was go on Pinterest and look for any quotes that might be able to help me or just show me that the way I was feeling wasn't uncommon. And I did find a lot of great ones, ones that really do go along with God's command not to worry.
Without pasting the quotes on here word for word, I'll try to summarize what they were about, their message, essentially, and what I took from it. I'm very picky about the quotes I find and save that aren't directly from the Bible, because if you've never read this post before, it's where I go on Pinterest and find a bunch of common quotes that I disagree with. I might do one of those posts again if that would be of interest to anyone. ;)
I wouldn't just go along with any quote or live by any quote, as again, they're man made and don't always align with what God says. But a lot of these quotes don't go against His Word, or they're similar to things my Christian therapist told me when I had to go see one a couple times for anxiety. I have gotten a little better with managing anxiety, but trust me, I still have it. It's a comfort, though, to be able to stop and reflect on some of these quotes, to help put it in perspective. So here are some of the takeaways I've gotten from quotes dealing specifically with anxiety.
**Just a disclaimer, though: obviously I'm not a therapist in any way, nor is this post a substitute for professional advice. So I do encourage you, that if your anxiety is unbearable, PLEASE go talk to someone. I actually did have to go talk to someone for awhile, and I was worried about how awkward it would be and if it would help, but it did. I'm not saying it wasn't awkward at times, but please trust me on this, guys: asking for help doesn't always feel good, but it will help YOU in the long run. None of us can do it on our own, and you would be surprised at how many people fight these battles without telling anyone. Don't be that person who's drowning in their pain all alone—reach out to someone. Most people want to help, really.
1. It is only temporary.
One of the quotes I found most assuring and, honestly, probably what has helped me most when dealing with anxious thoughts, is to know that they are temporary. The anxious moods don't last forever. I have days where I could just have this perfect peace about something, and then I have days where I feel like I could vomit because of how worried I am. And it's very uncomfortable when dealing with those thoughts that feel like they are literally strangling you until you come up with a solution, but of course the thing with anxiety is that you can't ever come up with a good enough solution because worry just keeps coming even to practical solutions. So that's why I found that so important, to just know they'll go away.
Something about me, personally, is that whenever I get this thought of a situation that makes me anxious, I always think I have to have an internal solution for it right away. Like if this happens, what will I do? And that's where my anxiety comes from: because I don't always know what I would do, and I don't like that. But my mom has this saying, we'll cross this bridge when we get there, that used to annoy me, probably because I can't follow that advice, haha. And I also just realized that it really is pointless to play those mental games, like if this happens, what will I do. Who cares right now? There's such a thing as being planful, yes, but anxiety, of course, is beyond that. It's irrational worry. So I don't need to spend two hours torturing myself through the thoughts; sometimes it's just enough to know that, you know, these thoughts have been here before, and they'll go away again, and you'll be fine. So don't even entertain them.
It really is just the devil's attempt to shake us up. A verse that I loved and held close when I battled really anxious thoughts: James 4:7, resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
This is also why, in a strange way, part of me finds looking back on all of the times I've felt anxious before comforting. I know that sounds really weird, like how could I find comfort in remembering how anxious I used to be? But it really does, and I think it's part of that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger thing. When I look back, I remember that me feeling anxious isn't anything new, and that if I conquered it before, I can do it again.
2. Take it one day at a time.
Don't try to visualize years in advance of how things might be. That's just going to make anxiety worse. Focus on making it through, one day at a time. At the time, it might seem hard, but then looking back, you can see how it's those days you feel you can't go on that define you and make you that much more stable, if you allow them to be, meaning that you turn to God with your anxious thoughts and, even if you don't feel it, make a conscious effort to keep doing the right things, not allowing anxiety to overpower you. And again, if you need help with learning to manage it, don't hesitate to reach out to somebody that specializes in that. You don't have anything to lose by doing that, but more to gain.
3. Be conscious about where you let your mind take you.
One thing that people close to me said when I was battling anxiety—and I hated it at the time—was things like how I choose to think that way. And I do think, to a point, there's some truth to it. But then again, saying that people with legit mental illness choose to think that way can be dangerous. I don't know if anyone likes to fixate on depressing thoughts or anxious thoughts. Nobody willingly chooses those. So I think instead of focusing on NOT thinking those thoughts—I read an article that made an excellent point about how by trying not to think of something, you're actually going to think about it more—try to instead focus on redirecting your thoughts. That's a lot easier to do, I found for me. Because that we can control.
I'm a massive overthinker, which is exactly why I think my specific personality is more prone to depression and anxiety. And one quote that I loved said something about not thinking so much, or else you create problems that don't even exist. And that's what I mean by the mental games. Don't even entertain them. They're NOT worth it. Anxiety, when you think about it, is worrying about things that haven't happened. So don't let your mind think up possibilities of things that haven't happened—when you feel it heading that way, the thing that has helped me most is just to pray to God to redirect my thoughts elsewhere, and then TAKE ACTION and do something else. That's why music has helped me so much. It's a distraction from thoughts that worry me and actually helps me focus more on things I want to do, like writing. (I make music playlists for each of my books, and it's cool because I have specific songs that go with my characters, theme, etc.)
4. Anxiety does not come from God.
One of the lies I actually got stuck into believing at one of my darkest points, is that God wanted me to be feeling anxious. Nevermind the fact that He says do not fear in the Bible over 365 times; that's what I thought. I thought these ideas of bad things were coming from God, like this is going to happy, so be ready, or something like that. That's actually what led me to make the decision to go see a therapist, because of course my natural response was that, well, if God is telling me these things, then I'm not going to pray, or read my Bible, or cultivate a closer relationship with Him. And so I could see this pattern of what was happening with my relationship with Him, and I knew enough intellectually that I did not want that to happen. I knew without Him, these battles would be that much more harder. I wouldn't ever want to lose my relationship with Him, so that's why I decided to go, to get help in that area.
And of course my therapist assured me that of course fearful thoughts don't come from God (2 Timothy 1:7). Remember the verse I put up above? Worry really is the devil's tool, and I learned that. I always knew it, but now I had to really apply it to my life and not believe the lies.
5. Lastly, try to put anxiety in perspective.
One thing I did that helped me was making a list of all the things I can remember worrying about in the past, and guess what? They never happened. There is a percentage people say, about how many of the things you worry about never happen, and I know it's pretty high. And even in my own life, that's evident. One time I read this article that was trying to assure teen girls about their odds of getting breast cancer and how it literally is about the same odds as trying to win the lottery. And they made this analogy, about how when you buy a lottery ticket, you don't just buy a ticket to somewhere exotic because you just know you're going to win the big bucks. And so it goes with anxiety. Most of those irrational worries, try to be real: they're probably not going to happen. So don't waste your good days preparing for them as if they are.
Again, there's a fine line between being smart about potential situations and having excessive worries about situations that don't make sense or are not likely based on facts.
These are some of the main things I've learned from the quotes I like about coping with anxiety, and I hope they can encourage you, too. I have quotes over more subjects that I will also do reflections over in the future, so stay tuned.
Thank you for tuning in today and, again, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. And if you're NOT sure if you need it, it still can't hurt to ask. To be honest, I've battled worry even as a kid, and most of the things I heard in therapy I had already learned through my relationship with God or by prior knowledge of the subject. But you know what? It certainly didn't hurt me to hear those things again, and it was actually kind of assuring to know that I DID know a lot about what I needed to be doing.
Also, and this could apply to anything, not just anxiety, know that God cares about you and every part of your life (1 Peter 5:7). Don't try to hide things from Him out of shame. That could be sin you're fighting, or even anxiety you think shouldn't be there. Just going back to my battle with anxiety, I can't tell you how guilty I felt and how much I felt like a failure as a Christian. It's like, I'm dishing out at advice about letting go and letting God, and I can't even follow that myself. I think there's this unspoken assumption, which is that Christians don't get depressed or anxious, but that's actually very naive, to put it bluntly. It's almost the same as saying that Christians don't ever have to face problems in life, and we all know what a lie that is. Christians are still fallible human beings with the same emotions and struggles as anybody else.
When I would get really sad in eighth grade, I can remember this one point, I had been crying intensely to my mom, and afterwards while I was still upset, she told me to read my Bible. And intellectually I knew I needed to, so I grabbed my Bible, and I was kind of shocked at how I felt: which was completely empty. There was almost this sense of lostness that came over me, like WHERE would I even go in my Bible to possibly make me feel better? And I felt so guilty about that. I felt guilty battling anxiety, like I couldn't trust God. I wanted to, but there was so much guilt about it, because I had this expectation that if I really were trusting God with my life, I wouldn't be crying all the time, wouldn't be freaking out all the time.
The one thing, though, that my therapist told me, and I'll be forever grateful for, is that sometimes in life with faith, it's not a matter of "trying harder." And again, this can go with anything, such as fighting sin. Sometimes, it's not a matter of praying more, or reading the Bible more, or learning to trust God more. Are all of those things excellent and something I should strive to do that will help? Well, absolutely. But sometimes there's this idea that when you read the Bible, you'll always feel better. But sometimes you don't. Sometimes you can do all of those things, and you still don't feel better. And the reason? Essentially she told me: anxiety is a part of life. And like in my case, you can't blame chemical imbalances in my brain on not trying hard enough.
And, ultimately, we live in a fallen world. Doing all of the above I mentioned with anxiety or life in general is fantastic, really, it is, but don't beat yourself up if you still have anxiety or whatever else it may be. Because some of that is just part of being in a fallen world. It's the same with battling sin. We can't ever obtain perfection in this life, and so sitting here working our tails off trying to become perfect is insanity. It won't happen in a fallen world. So as long as we live in a fallen world, there is always going to be a sin we struggle with—we might do better at some points than others, but there will still always be areas of our life to improve. There will always be a sense of sadness and longing because this world isn't our home. And there will always be a sense of worry because living in a fallen world IS scary.
There are two extremes with this that you have to be careful for: you don't want to fall for the idea that you can fix all of these issues, because that's unrealistic and will end up hurting you more. But you also can't completely give up, either, and just let yourself fall into a pit of depression, sin, or anxiety. And how do you find that balance? You just do what you can every day to the best of your ability for God's glory. HE will give you the strength and the grace (2 Corinthians 12:9).
That's why sometimes when I see things that promise to help you conquer sin or conquer worry, I basically shake my head. I know those things are well meaning, but what if there's actually a dangerous message being sent behind those things? You absolutely should do your best to fight sin and worry, but getting this idea that you can completely get rid of it sets up this false expectation that you can become, essentially, perfect, and leaves you feeling incredibly guilty and worthless when you're done reading those books, and guess what? You still have times where you slip back into sinful patterns, and you still have times where you worry.
Do your best with God's help? Absolutely. That's the solution and what it all comes down to, that's why I saved the quotes I did. Because they all essentially say the same thing: acknowledge that we all have anxiety, and do your best to focus on the things of God and resist the devil. Anxious thoughts exist in our minds, and I don't know if we can ever completely get rid of them. But we do have a choice in if we want to indulge them or redirect our minds elsewhere, which we can do and can get better at by the grace of God. It all ends with Him, and one of the things that helped me most: He is more than willing to help you fight your battles, so don't go at it alone (1 Peter 5:7).