Today at work, I had an incredibly anxious day. Nothing bad or abnormal happened. I woke up, got dressed, clocked in, and already felt on edge. To my co-workers, I most likely appeared normal at my desk. I worked on my assignments, ate lunch, listened to my playlist, and went to my meetings. I doubt many of them that pass by my desk every day know I have about one anxious day a week. If anxiety looks so human though, what else does it look like?
For me, anxiety looks like me bouncing my leg, picking at my cuticles, biting my lips, playing with my hair, scribbling positive phrases on notepads, taking deep breaths (in the nose, out the mouth), and zoning out. Anxiety feels like a tight chest, a knot in my stomach that ruins my appetite, fatigue, sweaty palms, headaches, chronic overthinking, and a constant state of unease. Anxiety sounds like shallow breathing, stuttering, or a smaller voice. It can also sound like nothing at all, as the ability to speak up is usually overtaken by negative thoughts.
It’s more than just being nervous.
These symptoms of anxiety are your body's way of keeping you safe. But, in a modern world with so much stimuli, our minds get a bit confused as to what real danger actually is. What a beautiful Creator we have who gives our bodies a warning system. And what a beautiful Creator we have who offers comfort when our minds betray us.
Cope, Cope, Cope
How do you cope with anxiety? Every person develops his or her own response. One common approach I’ve seen (and practice) is talking to someone or having a positive phrase that you can repeat to yourself. Any sort of repetitive sentence or movement that brings you back to the present is helpful. God gives you these options and more through His love. Here are a few other ideas for coping with anxiety:
1. Feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts? Recite the Lord’s Prayer. It will help silence your racing mind as Christ pulls your thoughts to your Father in heaven. God will remind you of all the blessings He has given you, and how you are His child, while you say the prayer He has taught the world.
2. Need to talk to someone but the idea of doing so makes your anxiety worse for fear of repercussion or judgement? Pray. God always listens and doesn’t judge you for what has made you anxious. He’s there to comfort you and bring you back to Him—back to a place of peace.
3. Heart racing and breaths coming too quickly? Place your hand on your stomach and take big, deep breaths—as deep as you can. As you repeat this pattern, remind yourself that God breathed life into you (Genesis 2:7). Remind yourself that the Holy Spirit lives within you, and that God’s presence in your life can calm even the biggest storms.
Given His Peace
God knows anxiety. His Word is full of examples of people who experienced anxiety and reminders of what to do when anxiety strikes. He knows what troubles your mind. More important, He knows that dealing with anxiety is not easy and it doesn’t simply “go away.” Lindsay Hausch, in her new book, Take Heart, sums it up beautifully:
We cannot control the world around us, but we can control our thoughts. It takes a lot of work, but redirecting your intrusive thoughts toward positive ones can help keep you from spiraling. During anxious moments, it’s important to turn the negative, horrible ideas back to the positive and peaceful presence of our Savior. Christ shows us the same promise in John 14:25–27:
Yes, the reality is that cars break, the earth shakes, bodies slow, debt grows, war divides, loved ones die—yet God did not watch from a distance. Rather, He sent His Son to be with us so that His Spirit could be in us so that no matter the hurt, God is with us, refreshing us, reminding us that we are not alone. We get to experience life with Him as He renews our perspective and refreshes our thirsty souls. This means that the old chorus of not enough will still rumble in our hearts as we rumble with a broken world, but God’s Spirit within us offers a spring of hope and renewal as we shift our thoughts and hearts back to Him.
“My peace I give to you” is an incredibly powerful phrase. It’s Christ’s peace for you. Can you imagine a life with that kind of peace? God offers it to His children through their belief in the resurrection and Jesus. When your heart is pounding and your head is spiraling, God extends His peace and reminds you to worry no longer. He has everything in His hands.
These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
God of Comfort
One of my favorite places to be after a particularly horrible anxiety attack is in bed, wrapped tightly in numerous blankets. Having the weight from the blankets and their warmth helps me recenter. God brings the same kind of comfort as a big pile of blankets. The bonus is that He doesn’t need something physical to wrap you in. His Spirit and Sacraments do that daily, no matter where you are. According to 2 Corinthians 1:3–5, we share in Christ’s sufferings and also in God’s comfort:
Life is not an easy thing. Anxiety muddies the waters of life, but we can always take comfort in remembering that Christ has overcome the world. With Him, we can do anything (Matthew 19:26).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
If you need an extra reminder throughout your day of God’s comfort and love, download five Scripture cards to print out below. Put one in your wallet or purse, one on the fridge, and another in your car visor. Keep them around for when those feelings of panic surface; then read them aloud to point you back to Christ.
Remember God's comfort and love for you by reading Take Heart: God’s Comfort for Anxious Thoughts.