By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
I've had many episodes of anxiety over the years. Growing up, I struggled with anxiety. Even as a kid, I struggled with it. I had a controlling mother who often yelled to express herself. I walked on eggshells in my home because I never knew where I stood. Some days, she'd be great; other days, she'd be in an angry, silent mood. I withdrew to my room and spent many hours there. As an adult, however, I used the same tactic. When my kids were little, I got angry and yelled at them. It wasn't until I gave my anger over to the Lord and fully healed from my childhood trauma that I became a more peaceful person as a parent.
Having said this, overly tense or stressful situations still tend to overwhelm me. But I don't allow anxiety to win. In 2020, I had a particularly difficult bout with anxiety. My anxiety became waves of panic that I struggled with day in and day out. It became so bad I didn’t function normally. I sought the help of professionals, got medication, and used other therapy modalities to help me function normally. Today, I'm proud to say I am I'm so much better with my anxiety. The medication I once needed I don't need as often anymore. Additionally, I have had to adopt strategies that help keep me calm if I can anticipate tense situations.
Here are five ways to quiet your heart when stress and anxiety take over:
This is the first strategy I use when I'm feeling anxious. I created a quiet space in my home that I go to each morning. After my morning exercise, I sit in the designated chair for ten to fifteen minutes. I begin by praying, asking and telling God what I'm feeling. I avoid being superficial; I pour out my emotions. If I'm angry, I tell God. If I'm sad, I cry out to God. If I'm happy, I thank God for all he's done in my life. No matter my emotion, I go to God with it and ask him for help with healing rather than blaming him. For years, I allowed my feelings to deter my relationship with Him. For many years, when I was less mature in my faith, I often blamed God for feeling these painful emotions. I wondered why a good God would do that to someone striving to be a good person. As I dove into the Word and understood God better, I realized that God allows these situations to take place so that He can be glorified and we can become dependent on him. Because none of us are good and we all need the cross of Christ to give us access to God, I had to accept there are no good people, just a good God. God sacrificed his son, so we all could have salvation.
After I'm done praying, I spend time in silence. This can be as small as five minutes or thirty minutes. Sometimes, His silence is so calming I want to stay there all day. I can ask God if there's anything of which he wants to speak to my heart. Some days, I hear from him; other days, I hear nothing. The purpose is not to have God speak all the time but to spend time in his presence. This is the thing God wants from us the most. He wants us to want him. Even when he's doing nothing for us, he wants us to bask in simply being with us.
However, sometimes I do hear from him. When I do hear from him, it comes in many ways: I hear from him through pictures or words in my mind's eye. Other times, it’s through a sense in my gut - a particular Scripture will come to mind, other people with godly wisdom speak to me, or I hear an inaudible voice. God speaks to us in many ways, and we see all those ways throughout Scripture. As I became more in tune with how God speaks, I understood better how to hear from him. The more I've practiced hearing from him and being obedient to what he says, the more I realize God wants an intimate relationship with me. That is worth more to me than any difficult circumstances in my life that I want him to fix.
As Christians, we sometimes get this confused with New Age meditation. New Age meditation involves us clearing our minds and focusing on our breathing. However, this is a breeding ground for Satan to implant lies in our minds that, when gone unchecked, can invade our hearts. Scripture tells us we should meditate: “meditate on the law, day and night…” (Psalm 1:2-3). Christian meditation involves meditating on an actual Scripture. This allows us to empty the lies and negative thoughts we carry with us and replace them with the promises of Scripture and the truth of who God believes we are. Make a list of your favorite Scriptures. Place them on your phone as a daily reminder. Allow them to come up during the day as a reminder to you. As the workday gets stressful, think about these Scriptures that are used to remind us of God's unconditional love.
3. Receive Affirmation From God
No television show, song, person, or situation in our lives will ever affirm who we truly are better than God the Father. He made us; he knows everything about us. Psalm 103:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” Ask God to remind you who you are in Christ. Author Neil Anderson has bookmarks that systematically capture who we are in Christ. Purchase one and use it as a Bible bookmark to remind you daily of who God says you are.
4. Call on Your Prayer Team
Life is not meant to be done alone. When we do life alone, it only leads to trouble. We need people in our lives who will keep us in prayer through many situations. This is especially good to have when we are feeling anxious. Confide in three people who will commit to praying for you. Make sure these are people you can trust. Let them keep your anxiety in prayer and give them updates. When you feel better, let them know so they can be encouraged.
Whether that’s physically going to church, watching online, or turning on the radio or favorite song, worship the Lord. First, it helps to take the focus off us and onto God, which is the best place to remove our anxiety. Take it one step further and rid yourself of secular music for one month. Play your favorite worship songs on a loop. Turn it on while at work, driving, before bed, and while you shower and eat. Sing wherever you are—if you dare! Nothing takes our minds off an unknown situation better than a knee bowed to Jesus.
Anxiety can plague our minds and hearts if we let it. Anxiety and depression rates have soared since COVID. Rather than ask God to rid our lives of anxiety completely, take some time to observe the suggestions above or create some of your own. The best way to combat stress and anxiety is to create strategies to help produce peace and lessen fear.