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Navigating Anxiety

by Haley McBride, St. Matthew's Intern

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
A man dealing with anxiety

Everyone, at some point in their life, has dealt with some form of anxiety. Whether you had a big exam coming up that would determine whether or not you passed a class, or there was a performance to practice for that your parents would be watching, or an offhanded comment made by a friend bothered you for the following few days, you have felt some form of anxiety.

Often when people hear the term, they associate it with the disorder itself, and are quick to assume that feeling anxious is a sign that there is a bigger problem that has to be taken care of. However, anxiety is a natural feeling, and whether or not it's a symptom of a bigger issue, or just something like stress, there is never shame in seeking help for it. Asking for help is simply something easier said than done, though, and the thought of having to ask for it often leads to more feelings of anxiety and shame. Even if you know there's no shame in it, rationally, it doesn't make it much easier.

1.) What is anxiety?

Broadly, anxiety is a feeling of unease. A common trigger of anxiety is stress. While the two accompany each other more often than not, they're not the same feeling. Stress is a necessary feeling as it triggers the "fight or flight" response. Stress is induced by things called "stressors", and stress is what often gets the mind going. Anxiety, however, is different in the sense that it isn't a fight or flight response. Anxiety is a more internalized feeling, and rather than being something that gets the mind to understand that it has accomplish a goal, instead, it creates excess feelings of distress and worry that actually impede the body's ability to function as it should. While anxiety can be normal, when it becomes a constant feeling that starts to interfere with your ability to do things is when it's time to sit down and wonder if it's something more than being anxious from the stressors of life.

Other causes of anxiety are (not limited to):

  • Trauma

  • Stressors from life itself

  • Societal pressures

  • Social isolation

  • Negative life events

2.) What are some symptoms of anxiety?

Symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • Increased heart-rate

  • Feelings of unease and distress

  • Fatigue

  • Intrusive thoughts (thoughts that are harmful in some way)

  • Loss of appetite

  • Nausea

  • Feelings of irritation

  • Having a sense of impending danger/doom

  • Insomnia

  • Sweating

  • Trembling/Shaking

3.) What are some ways I can manage my anxiety?

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34).

A bath, for your anxiety

There isn't any cure-all solution to anxiety. What works for one person may not work for you, so the process of navigating and healing through anxiety can be a daunting one.

One important thing to remember is that no matter the anxiety you feel, you are never alone. God is always there with you, to support and guide you through it. Here are some ways to navigate your anxiety, while strengthening your faith and relationship with God:

1.) Memorizing scripture

  • The process of memorizing scripture and repeating it back to yourself can help redirect the brain's thoughts back to yourself and God.

2.) Prayer

  • Think of prayer as "positive god talk". Praying to God and laying out your feelings before him can give back some measure of control over the circumstances you are navigating through. See the end of the article for some prayers you can use in anxious times. Prayer also serves as a good reminder that God is always with you.

3.) Breathing

  • Breathing exercises go back to old faith practices. Sometimes, in the moment, taking a deep breath and then slowly exhaling will calm your nervous system in a process called "down regulating".

4.) Running worst-case scenarios

  • This may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes, running through the worst-case scenarios can bring you back down. It can be important to know that no matter how bad it can get, it won't be the end of the world, and there is a way out. What you're feeling and dealing with is manageable, even if it doesn't feel that way.

5.) Reconnecting with nature

  • Being outside is far more helpful than one might think. Here at St. Matthew's, a way to reconnect with nature and with God is through the faith garden. Being, or even helping in the garden, can help with feelings of uselessness or isolation. Reconnecting with nature and getting out of a setting that provides stress will also relieve some anxiety.

  • Learn more about the garden here:

Here are some prayers you can use when going through anxious times:

  • "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference" (Reinhold Neibuhr)

  • "Lord, you are a good God with good intentions behind all the works of your hands. Help me see the areas where I’ve allowed lies to be sewn into my life. Once they are revealed, help me to hand them over to you and allow you to remove them from my life completely. I ask that once they are removed you would then fill the newly freed spaces with the truths of your word. In the midst of anxiety, help me always look to you. In Jesus' name, amen" (Chelsey DeMatteis)

  • "Lord, it’s so easy to fall into worry. When my fears are reverberating in my mind, help me stop trying to fix everything myself. Teach me to turn to You in prayer, trust You to be in charge and let Your peace reign over me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen" (Francine Rivers)

  • "Lord, Help me! I am so frightened and afraid. Be near to me and help me feel your presence. Surround me with protection. Holy Spirit, settle my racing heart and mind. Help me breathe out - Abba Father -- and breathe in -- I belong to you. Your peace surpasses all understanding, this I know. Please give me this peace now. Abba Father - I belong to you. Abba Father - I belong to you. Lord, thank you that no matter what my mind or body tell me, the truth is I am your child, forever loved, forever protected, forever held fast by you. I love you Jesus. Thank you Jesus. Amen" (Emily Massey)

At the end of the day, anxiety manifests in many forms, and can be debilitating to experience. Knowing a few ways you can at least begin to navigate those feelings of anxiety or stress is, if nothing else, a good place to start. You are never alone, even when it feels like you are. You will get through it.

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