The Bible instructs us “to be anxious for nothing,” but that is easier said than done. In our high-tech, high-speed world, we are forced to run faster and faster just to keep up. Countless magazines and Internet sites provide us with ways to deal with the urgency we feel to get it all done. They offer meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises as ways to relax, in addition to unplugging and turning off. Women are told that they can have it all – strong families, a loving husband, an organized home, and a full-time job outside the home. Even without the outside job, it seems that the demands of home, together with keeping up with the children’s activities and school work, don’t even allow enough time for them to breathe. Children face tests, projects, bullying, and the need to find acceptance by their peers. Men and women both face deadlines at work, looming projects that feel insurmountable, problem bosses, and coworkers. The lists are endless. You can probably think of many to add to this list yourself.
The Difference between Fear and Anxiety
In The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Edmond Bourne describes the difference between anxiety and fear. He says that “when you are afraid, your fear is usually directed toward some concrete external object or situation. … The event that you fear usually is within the bounds of possibility.” However, anxiety is often a response to a “vague, distant, or even unrecognized danger” (p. 6). There may be nothing that you can look to as the cause of this feeling, but you are uncomfortable nonetheless.
Mild and Severe Anxiety
Anxiety can range from mild to severe. Mild anxiety may simply involve a sense of uneasiness, while severe anxiety can include panic attacks in which you feel as if you might be dying because you cannot breathe or because your heart is racing. How often have you found yourself worrying over some future (or imaginary) event, only to find that it was not what you thought and that your world did not end after all? But there are times when anxiety or unease is appropriate. For example, facing a difficult test, or asking your boss for a well-deserved and long-overdue raise, will probably cause some anxiety.
Practical Ways to Deal with Anxiety
Here are a few suggestions of ways in which you can quiet the worry dragon:
- Don’t try to stop worrying thoughts. Thought stopping doesn’t work as you can see in the following example. You are worried about a medical diagnosis and your mind won’t let go of it as you wait to hear from the doctor. If someone tells you not to think about a zebra for the next 60 seconds, what do you think you will do? Try it. You won’t be able to stop yourself from thinking about the zebra.
- Write down what you are worrying about. Putting something in black and white can bring it into focus and get it out of your mind.
- Allow yourself to focus on a specific worry for a few minutes. For instance, if you are worrying about something that is happening at work, concentrate only on that problem for five minutes.
- Postpone worry. When you start to get anxious about something, write it down for later review. Tell yourself that you can spend all the time you want on it later.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Drink and smoke less. Both of these can lead to higher levels of anxiety.
- Take better care of yourself. Putting yourself first requires you to accept that it is okay to give yourself a break.
- Seek help from a therapist who can address these issues with you.
Christian Counseling to Tame the Anxiety Dragon
As a Christian counselor, I believe that there is help for anxiety. God knows all about worry and anxiety and it is one of the topics He addresses over and over again in His word. Whether it is called worry, anxiety or fear, He knows about it and He understands how hard it is for us to deal with it.