Posted on August 29, 2022 by Rev. Dave Gunderson, LMFT
An anxious woman paced back and forth full of worry. Her husband attempted to ease her discomfort by stating, “Why are you so worried? Our children are grown and happily married. We are retired and have plenty of wealth for the rest of our lives, and our health is excellent. So why the worry?”
The wife replied, “That’s just it. I’m worried that I won’t have anything to worry about!”
I believe that woman has an anxiety problem and sadly she is not alone. Being anxious is a result of being a human living in a sinful world where “bad” things can happen and our mind and body react to such dangers. For example, if one is walking in the woods and a bear appears, our mind immediately senses danger and our nervous system reacts. Suddenly, our breathing quickens, adrenaline is secreted, and our heart begins to race. This natural survival mechanism is often referred to as the fight or flight response and its purpose is to help us escape a real life-threatening emergency. This response is a positive reaction when dealing with lions, tigers and bears.
However, when the threat is imagined (e.g., I’m going bomb this presentation and everyone will know I’m a fraud), then the fight or flight response is unnecessary and very uncomfortable. At those moments, anxiety takes over, and it can lead to multiple harmful effects on your health and well-being if you don’t know how to cope with anxiety. Some effects can include: fatigue, fear, irritability, insomnia, nausea, panic attacks, poor concentration, restlessness, and unwanted or intrusive thoughts. The effects can also increase one’s anxiety creating a cycle of increasing stress, fear and worry.
Thankfully, there are ways to cope with anxiety producing thoughts, and even stress that can lead to anxious thoughts.
In Genesis 2: 7 it states, “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Breathing is essential to life, but when we become anxious, we often fail to stop and take the proper breaths we need. By taking the time to breathe we allow our body to slow down and give the mind an opportunity to reevaluate the situation. A simple breathing exercise is to inhale and hold your breath for four seconds, then exhale slowly for four seconds, and then repeat this about ten times.
Dr. Norman Wright, the Christian psychologist encouraged people to write on a 3 x 5 card the words from Philippians 4: 4-7. He then added that in time of anxiety you should pull the card out and read it out loud two times. When reading something out loud the mind has to adjust and concentrate on what is being read. This shifts the mind from the worry to what is being read. Dr. Wright argued you can read anything, but why not use the Word of God. While this technique is a good short-term answer to anxiety, another option is to take a longer mental break by reading a book, playing a game, or watching a TV show that will shift your mind away from the anxiety.
Exercise is a great stress reliever. Some exercises like running, cycling, and swimming have been known to help produce certain chemicals like Dopamine which can produce a positive feeling. Walking is a great way to exercise. A short walk around the block can help shift your thoughts. Walking with a partner gives you a chance to visit about issues and may help you see your worries in a different light.
One reason for worry is not having all the facts. If you hear a loud bang, you might jump to the worry of a gunshot. If you hear that noise, but then sees a car back firing, the anxiety is reduced because the danger is eliminated. The more information you have can help you handle the issue with less anxiety.
You might worry about flying due to the possibility of an airplane crash. However, the National Safety Council calculated the odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident to be 1 in 98 for a lifetime compared to air transport the odds were 1 in 7,178 for a lifetime. Anxiety often causes you to assume the worst-case scenario instead of seeing that the odds are actually more in your favor.
St. Paul’s words in Philippians 4: 6-7 states it best:
“6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)
Peace doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles, but these words remind us we never face anything alone. God is with us. When our lovely daughter moved to Chicago, I was anxious. However, I knew I had no control over the situation. What I could do was to take any of my worries to our loving Savior in prayer. There is no safer place for our daughter, our family, you, and your family to be. When faced with worries, take them to the Lord in prayer and leave them there. Remember how God has taken care of you in the past? Live each day knowing that God will keep on caring for you!
We all deal with anxiety at times in our lives, but for some individuals the anxiety becomes so great it prevents you from doing basic things in life such as going to work, attending classes, or socializing with others. If you or someone you know is facing such anxious feelings and is unable to cope with anxiety in a healthy way, seek help from a medical or mental health provider.
Lutheran Family Service, a Christian ministry, provides mental health counseling through master’s level prepared counselors. Our counselors approach each session with hope and incorporate faith into our counseling sessions if the client wishes to do so. Reach out today using our web form at https://lutheranfamilyservice.org/contact/.
Rev. Dave Gunderson
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Lutheran Family Service
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