Aimee Thompson | Counseling I Christian Counseling Associates I Counseling4Hope | Plano, TX I McKinney, TX | Grapevine, TX
Seeking anxiety management tips that really work? Tired of struggling? Worn-out and exhausted by anxiety and stress? Want something different? We all struggle with anxiety and stress on some level. Yet, some of us experience it at more intense levels. These anxiety management tips are the most frequent things I teach in my counseling practice. I’m going to give them to you for FREE! So take a deep breath, get comfortable, relax, and keep reading.
Anxiety is a powerful emotion that can develop into a vicious cycle. It may start for one reason but the cycle can continue for different reasons. See my previous post on anxiety to understand how this cycle starts and continues.
Anxiety Archives - Counseling for Hope
Now, understanding anxiety is helpful but what someone struggling with anxiety really needs is in the moment help! When in the midst of anxiety, the natural response is to escape NOW whatever situation you’ve decided is causing this response. Unfortunately, this can lead to increased anxiety either now or in the future.
Aaaah! So what can you do? What does the Bible say? What does the research say? Is there hope?
YES! There is HOPE for those brave people willing to try something different. Let me tell you, I am serious about the word brave! It takes incredible bravery to face any kind of fear head on and I am humbled by those I’ve seen take these steps. To me, you are a real hero!
Below are methods for dealing with anxiety that I teach in my counseling practice. These are proven techniques that are both psychologically and Biblically sound.
5 Anxiety Management Tips
1. Accept the anxiety: Stay with me…I know it sounds crazy but give yourself permission to experience the anxiety. Instead of trying to distract or get rid of the anxiety…acknowledge it…expect it. This emotion is trying to speak to you. What is it saying? This turns the tables on the anxious experience. Instead of anxiety being the uninvited guest barges in your house, it becomes the welcomed messenger.
2. Calm the physical body: The physical response to anxiety is so overwhelming that it’s extremely scary. Fear is a physical experience because our body is preparing to fight or run. That is a natural and normal response to fear. When we experience fear: all the blood in our body moves to our legs, our breathing and heart rate increase, and certain hormones are released. This all happens to protect us but often in our culture, we don’t need to run or fight. So how can we short circuit this physical cycle? With deep slow breathing. Take a deep slow breath in (count to 4)….Hold (count to 4)…Breathe out slow (count to 4). Repeat as many times as needed, till the anxiety comes down. Pay attention to your breath…imagine you are breathing in calm and breathing out fear. Practice this type of breathing when you are not anxious so it is easier to do in the midst of panic. Scripture tells us we have the power to calm ourselves in the face of fear. “I have made myself calm and content like a young child in its mother’s arms. Deep down inside me, I am as content as a young child…put your hope in the Lord both now and forever.” Psalm 131:2
3. Focus on the Present Moment: This just means being fully present in the current moment. So much of our worry and fear is focused around something that happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
The present moment is all we really have power over. Focusing on the present moment brings us into a space we have power in and it focuses our mind. The psychological term is mindfulness.
For the Christian, this has two parts:
Being fully present with yourself in the current moment. This involves taking the focus off of your anxiety/fear and placing it onto the observable world around you. Using your senses, evaluate what you hear, see, taste, touch, or smell. Start describing you immediate present moment. Name 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you touch, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. Sometimes just observing the world with our senses can bring mental calm. When Jesus deals with his disciple’s anxiety, He points out what He observes in the present moment around them.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6: 25-30
Being fully present in the current moment with God. God is always with you no matter your experience. Remembering that in the middle of panic is one of the ways the Bible instructs us to handle the difficult situations we encounter. Jesus reminds his disciples of this in Matthew 6. God calls us continually to come to Him for REST.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6: 31-34
“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:9
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.” Psalm 37:7
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. Isaiah 46:8
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
4. Challenge anxious thoughts: Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think. In addition, we develop thinking habits over time. Do any of these habits sound familiar to you:Negative thinkingJumping to conclusionsPredicting an outcomeComparing yourself to othersReading other people’s mindsCritical internal voiceCatastrophizingHarsh judgments of self and others Thoughts are powerful and most of us believe whatever we think. In addition, we develop thinking habits over time. Do any of these habits sound familiar to you:
Jumping to conclusions
Predicting an outcome
Comparing yourself to others
Reading other people’s minds
Critical internal voice
Harsh judgments of self and others
If you identify with any of these thinking patterns (and let’s be honest, we all do this on some level) then let’s start here. You may not even realize that those thoughts are leading to anxiety….but it is! That is why anxiety must be accepted and listened to. It is telling you that something is off…often what’s off is our thinking. Learning how to challenge our thoughts and change our internal dialogue will dramatically change our experience.
But how? Start by: 1) Giving yourself permission to question your thoughts 2)Journal your thoughts, 3) Question whether your thoughts are true or balanced, and 4) Consider alternative self-compassionate thoughts. If you struggle with this, find a good counselor who can help you.
Scripture tells us to:
Pay attention to our thoughts: “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he” Proverbs 23:7
Renew our mind. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Evaluate and recognize truthful and beneficial thoughts. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 “Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.” Philippians 4:8
5. Look at your heart: What we are anxious about reveals what we value and treasure. I know that’s tough to hear but it’s truth. Matthew 6:21 tells us that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus tells people this right before he instructs them not to worry. Our worry reveals what we value. For some people, it is safety, for others control, for some it’s how they perform, and for others it’s the image others have of them.
What is deep behind your fear? What are you placing at higher value than God? Do you really trust that God is good?
God is enough. God is in control. God is good. God is at work. God can be trusted. Your identity is settled.
“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3: 18-24
Cling to Grace: All of the above things will help you manage and deal with your anxiety. After some consistent work, you will start to see your anxiety reactions decrease. However, anxiety may still sneak up on you. None of us are perfect nor will we achieve that status till God makes all things new. You know what is awesome? “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and your perfect record before God as a Christian is the sin free life of Jesus! Cling to that grace! Take a deep breath and start again! There is always hope!