This post may contain affiliate links. You are never required to use my links, but by doing so, you will be supporting my blog at no additional cost to you.
This is Vicki.
Her drink is a lady grey tea like a proper Brit.
And I can’t go any further without pointing out Vicki’s adorable mug. She was gifted this mug which comes from a smallshop called I Am So Many Things. And if you look at the detailed picture here, it is filled with beautiful affirmations to take in as you sip.
Vicki is from Scotland, which means I have now had two Sips & Scripts in a row with women who have the most enchanting accents (I recently chatted with Aimee Walker from New Zealand on “Discerning One’s Life Season”).
And before the end of our chat, Vicki and I decided that we are kindred spirits, because as we chatted along, we realized just how much we type-A, anxious-types have in common.
VICKI IS NO STRANGER TO ANXIETY
“I wrote a piece recently for The Joyful Life Magazine about finding peace of mind in the midst of anxiety and fear, but once I was faced with some unsettling health problems, I fell back into an anxiety spiral and felt like I failed my own test. How can I sit here and offer advice on anxiety and then not take my own advice in the midst of the anxiety?
But I felt the Holy Spirit answer: of course you can talk about it. All humans approach anxiety from a place of weakness. You need to talk about this because you need to show people that My strength is needed in order to overcome these things.
No matter how much I know about anxiety in my brain, it takes God to help me along through my spirit.”
BREAKING THE PATTERN
“I’m becoming very aware of the generational pattern of anxiety and the self fulfilling prophecy that can result. When you constantly hear yourself described as an anxious person, it’s easy to believe it—and allow yourself to be defined by it. Subsequently I grew up with the understanding that I was an anxious person, and there was nothing I could do about it.
As a mum myself now, I am very aware of the words I use regarding my daughters’ identity and mental wellness because of the impact they can have.
My daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was four. Though she is high functioning, anxiety is a common symptom for many with an autism diagnosis.
As her mom, I want to model to her how we can manage (as best we can) the symptoms of anxiety. She is old enough now to be able to see when I am struggling.
For instance, when we received the diagnosis, I felt myself starting to spiral: what will this diagnosis look like for her life? What will happen to her when she is an adult?
An anxious experience for me is like being caught in the whirlpool of water as it empties from a tub. The spiral of thoughts gets tighter and tighter until I am literally circling the drain. This is the point in which I get the physical symptoms of anxiety like panic attacks.
When I hit this point, I reach up my hands to God and say, ‘Heavenly Father, I can’t get fully on top of my own anxiety, and I need your help. Help me and, also, help me help my girl.’”
RECOGNIZE, REFRAME, RELEASE, REFOCUS
Last summer, I did a great Bible study on stopping the spiral of toxic thoughts called Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen. From there, I started to adopt a process to help me manage my anxious thoughts which can be summed up in four parts:
- recognizing the thoughts I am frequently having
- reframing these thoughts in light of the gospel
- releasing these thoughts to God
- refocusing my attention on worthy thoughts and actions
STEP 1: RECOGNIZE
“Jennie Allen suggests that we make an inventory of the thoughts we are having in a given length of time, and then examine them, which becomes the first step in the process of managing anxious thoughts. So I asked myself: What are the thoughts that I am thinking? What are the patterns? What am I noticing in these thoughts?
So, really, what we are doing in step 1 is capturing our thoughts for examination, just as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it to obedient to Christ.NIV
In doing this exercise, I was able to identify the triggers to these thoughts. I would look at a social media post and spiral, or I would find myself comparing myself to other mothers.
The key is to keep the thought captive and not allow it to take hold. Similarly, Ruth Chou Simons has a book based on the premise that we become what we behold (Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship). What we pour into our senses become the things that begin to seep into our souls.
This practice of capturing thoughts really allowed me to take stock of what ideas I was feeding myself on a regular basis.”
STEP 2: REFRAME
“Next, I take the captive thought and reframe it. I am afraid of X,Y,Z can be reframed in the light of our Savior: I have nothing to fear because God is in control.
I am not enough can be reframed as He is enough.
Reframing takes strength, and another line from Allen’s companion study guide to her book that is revolutionary to me is this one: As God’s children, filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ already in us. The issue is whether we are using it to think the thoughts that Jesus would think.
God has given us the tools we need by His power, by His spirit. And so, if I have His spirit inside of me, I can choose to think the way Jesus would think.”
STEP 3: RELEASE
“The next step is releasing that initial anxious thought.
Because, in truth, I can reframe the thought in my brain, but I really need to release it from my heart. Some fears and thoughts are so heavy that we can’t even reason with them; we can’t carry them on our own. We have to give them over.
Often, in my attempts to find peace of mind, I sometimes still slip into the practice of seeking peace by the world’s definition (i.e. Googling symptoms for reassurance). But in fact, He is the source of our peace. We can only attain that peace if we are surrendering that which we can’t control to the One who has control over all of it.
One of the best examples of the need to surrender is my daughter’s diagnosis. I was very active in getting my daughter evaluated and advocated for her in light of her diagnosis, and my involvement was a means of asserting some semblance of control. If I am actively working towards something, then the anxiety is kept at bay, but only for so long.
I just had to release her, and her diagnosis, to God: I cannot carry this, God. I know you created her, and this is part of your plan for her life—whatever that looks like.
When I release these things to God, I can literally feel the tension leave my body.”
STEP 4: REFOCUS
“There is a beautiful verse on refocusing our minds on God:
Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.Philippians 4.6-9, NLT
This verse becomes the guidebook for lessening anxiety.
It reminds us to offer up our fear in prayer (both big things like a child’s diagnosis, but also the small things). And that the type of prayer matters. I need to forego the prayers of Why? Why me?! Make it stop! and instead ask God for His supplication, His provision.
I often pray about the big things, but I am guilty of neglecting to release thousands of small things to Him. The small things are the ones that idle in the corner of my mind and eventually build up in a big way.
The verse also implores us to thank Him for all he has done so far and to praise His name.
Intentional gratitude, especially when it manifests in the act of praise, forces us to take our eyes off what is making us fearful and fix our gaze on Him instead.
Another part of the verse spoke to me in light of my recent backslide into an anxious spiral:
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me… then the God of peace will be with youPhilippians 4.9, NLT
These words act as a reminder that the skill of managing anxiety is like any other skill: it takes practice.”
THE POWER OF PRAISE
“My daughter experiences intense night terrors. If any parents have gone through night terrors with their children, they know how troubling they can be. The child is very distressed, but they are not fully awake nor responding to typical methods of soothing.
The only thing that has worked to bring her out of her night terrors is to recite scripture over her or sing worship songs until she slowly and steadily comes out of it.
Here are some of my favorite songs to sing to her
- ‘The Battle Belongs to You’ by Phil Wickham
- ‘By the Grace of God’ by Bethel Music
- ‘It is Well’ (so many versions but Kristene DiMarco has a powerful one)
There is power in praise.”
WHAT WE CAN AND CANNOT CHANGE
“It is important to mention that there are definitely genetics at play when it comes to anxiety; not all anxiety is a reflection of a poor prayer life. What we don’t hear enough from Christians is that it is perfectly ok to use medicine to solve the chemical imbalance while still putting the powerful spiritual tools into play. Though I am not currently on medication, it is always an option for me should I need it.
I simply don’t know how nonbelievers navigate fearful and trying times. At the end of the day, I can have all the anxiety tools in the world, but I still need God. No matter my circumstances, He is the ultimate Source of my peace.”
In listening to our recorded chat, I discovered just how many times I jumped in to agree with Vicki; all that she describes about anxiety I have experienced myself.
It’s amazing how when we open up about our struggles we realize how much we all have in common.
with His love,