The Champion in Me Is Still: Finding Confidence through Anxiety
- Kyle Blevins Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2019 21 Feb
Stillness is defined as the absence of movement or sound. In Old English, stillness is defined in more detail. It is described as relaxation, silence, an absence of disturbance, tranquility, and perhaps the most relevant of all, it means to release. To release something simply means to let it go from your responsibility. Mentally, it reflects a time of letting go and relinquishing the urge to control and fight.
Many scriptures come to mind about stillness. Psalm 46:10, the most recognizable, says, “Be still and know that I am God.” So many Psalms make the case for stillness through outreach to God. Job pleaded with God to “Teach me, and I will be silent.” Jesus taught us to be still as well when he demanded the wind and sea to “Be still!” in Mark 4:39. Throughout time, we continue to reach out to God through our weaknesses.
It is so easy to read scriptures or encouraging articles and be temporarily encouraged, yet anxiety can be relentless. It can thrive on very little fuel, so those of us that battle it must be diligent and unwavering. Sometimes the best thing we can do is be still. To do that, we need to ground ourselves firmly in why that is ok. Let’s explore this idea further together.
The Benefit of Trials
The first thing we must be grounded in is knowing that we are not going through this thing in vain. There will be fruit from this! The good news is that we can influence what that fruit is. We obviously want good fruit, like peace and growth, rather than pain and brokenness. In Isaiah 55:11, God tells us that His word always produces fruit. “It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” We can apply this same belief to our own trials, believing that there is a purpose for this.
To further this hope, which is the evidence of faith and a healthy belief, we can reference Romans 5:3-5, which says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” James 1:3-5 also tells us that “when our faith is tested, our endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow! When your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
You might have this feeling inside you right now that feels like you want to let go, but you just feel like you can’t. You just have this feeling that you need to keep thinking through this, you need to keep working at it. This might feel foreign to you, but start by allowing the above to penetrate your heart. There is no thought that can “cure” your anxiety. It will begin to pass as you release it. Knowing that something big is building in your spirit allows you to let go a little bit with the belief that you are actually working through something better by letting it go.
What Is Going on in My Body?
As anxiety fighters, and my friends, I won’t call us “sufferers,” we have a unique power to us. Most people don’t understand what we go through. We fight twice as hard as some just to get through a routine task at times. When we experience anxiety, we are typically running away from, or seeking, a feeling. We run from the fearful feelings, and we run toward familiar feelings of “being ok.” I have often thought to myself, “Man, if I could just feel like I used to.”
What’s going on in our bodies during anxiety is developed through fearful thought habits. These fearful thoughts can be as simple as I might wreck my car, to my husband could cheat on me, or I could lose my job. Typically we’d just write these thoughts off, but for the anxious, these thoughts become a task and each task causes another task. We need to attach meaning to it, as humans are naturally created to do, but when it doesn’t make sense, we become afraid and begin looping. In turn, our bodies dump stress chemicals like cortisol to prepare us to fight or run, known as the fight or flight response. We are now on high alert. It is extremely difficult to break this habitual thinking as we naturally want to make sure we are truly safe before we allow this feeling to pass. When we almost get in a car wreck, we have a surge of the same stress chemical, but once we realize we are safe, it passes. In anxiety because there is often no clear trigger, the feeling lingers and we become stuck in looping thoughts and high anxiety. This is where panic attacks come in, insomnia, trust issues, and so on.
When it comes down to it, this is simply fear. It is a perfectly normal response that we have obsessed over and made into something that isn’t actually there. It requires rewiring to move on and that rewiring is often simply allowing it to pass. We have to be still even when we are in fear. This is actually a perfect setup to grow spiritually.
Stillness through Fear
James 4:7 tells us, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Is anxiety really comparable to “the devil” though? If we look at the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, they are love, joy, peace, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Anxiety directly impacts our joy, which impacts our goodness, our self-control is all out of sorts trying to work through the mysteries of feelings, and our peace is disturbed. If the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), these are certainly the things we should find most valuable. Based on this, I am comfortable releasing control knowing that the fruits of the spirit are of God, and what is from the devil I just don’t want. If I don’t want it, I can start to let it go.
So how do we “resist” this? “These feelings are so strong!” you might think, and I agree. Joshua Fletcher in his book Anxiety: Panicking About Panic describes an exercise called the “anxiety umbrella.” Typically when anxiety strikes, it brings with it this onset of additional symptoms. Maybe it’s arm pain or chest pain, or an emotional fear like jealousy, and we begin looking into each of these things trying to apply meaning to them and understand them. As we do this, our stress climbs higher and higher and before we know it, we are in a panic attack. This approach suggests that if we just classify it all as anxiety and not try to answer each thought or symptom, the anxiety actually passes faster. So rather than your train of thought taking you from a scared feeling, to heart palpitations, to chest pain, to anger, answering each one, you instead just determine in your heart, “That’s just anxiety. It will pass.” The stress chemicals adrenaline and cortisol cannot continue dumping, so physically, the feeling will pass if we allow it.
The Joy of Weakness
Another strategy for standing firm in your battle against anxiety is simply allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling. I have learned that anxiety brought about by physical symptoms is much easier to defeat than anxiety brought about by emotional pain. Having just struggled through this over the holiday season, I had to learn that my subconscious is simply trying to tell me something. I was hurting and angry about something. I declined myself the ability to feel those feelings fully and in turn, I became what mental health professionals would describe as “incongruent” with myself. This basically means that our perceived self is not matching up with our ideal self, and we have this feeling when we do not allow ourselves to experience the moment. I was angry and hurting, yet because I did not want to feel those things, I suppressed them and they blew up on me, overtaking me. I became anxious because I didn’t understand why I was having the thoughts I was having or why I wasn’t able to do or feel the things I would normally feel. Allowing feelings to simply be, means not overthinking them, but just feeling them. As I fought tooth and nail to attach meaning to this, I felt weak for not being able to just “be ok.”
Have you ever felt this way? If so, you have done a great thing allowing that weakness to be present. Jesus taught us that his “grace is all we need. My power works best in weakness.” Paul adds to that in 2 Corinthians 12:9 by saying, “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” We are incomplete beings. We have a deep need for connection with God and with people. Stand still, and allow yourself to feel what you feel. This doesn’t mean you have to act on it, but allow yourself to feel anger, allow yourself to feel sadness, shed a tear, and if you feel led at that point to share with someone then do it. At that point, you will feel more in control. Don’t be afraid of anxiety coming. Allow it come, but stand firm in that resting place knowing that anxiety is not a problem solver in itself. Anxiety doesn’t have to be in control.
Be at peace knowing that a thought in itself cannot make thoughts stop. Also, know that we are not God and we do not have to have all the answers. We are imperfect, incomplete beings, needing a connection to the vine (John 15:5) and people in order to thrive. Understand that even if you could control everything, control these feelings, control people or their reactions, there is no growth in control. There is growth in peace and rest, in trust.
The Fine Line
You might be concerned that by being “still” you will be ignoring things that you should address. After all, anxiety can be our friend. When something is about to fall on us, that adrenaline kicks in and can save us. It is a completely natural physical response. There are so many opinions out there on whether you should freely allow thoughts to come and go versus taking those thoughts captive and spelling them out. What is “right?”
There is no right or wrong when it comes to emotions. Your heart is the true balance of what you need in a given moment. You know that if you are convicted of something, you should stop it per James 4:17 and then to get healthy, you should share it per James 5:16. If you know you should let something go through forgiveness, pray for the strength to do it. Most of all, the gauge we should be looking for when it comes to letting feelings be vs. taking action is found in this goal: Fruitfulness.
What adds to your life? What propels you forward? What feels right in your spirit? What restores relationships? Sometimes it is us letting go, feeling it, and moving on. Sometimes it is a tough discussion with someone. Sometimes it is praying to God for guidance and then waiting for his direction. At the end of the day though, what you need to do is led by fruitfulness.
Taking Control of Our Emotions
Tony Robbins, a famous life coach and inspirational speaker, touched on the direct physical impact and signs of anxiety and depression in people. They show it in their closed off, slumped posture. In his explanation of how to reset your mind and mood, he says we generally believe that our minds impact our bodies’ reaction. However, he suggests that our bodies can actually change our state of mind.
Amy Cuddy, who gave one of the most popular Ted Talks of all time in her Power Poses talk, suggests this as well. Her inspirational talk shares some statistical evidence through experiments that standing tall or firm, a “power pose”, for 2 minutes can actually increase our testosterone, which is the chemical that helps us feel good and in control and lowers our cortisol, the stress chemical. While I am not suggesting that simply standing a certain way can cure anxiety or depression, I am suggesting that this evidence supports that regardless of how we feel, we have a power that we can exercise if we so choose.
In addition to sharing other ways to stop discouragement from getting the best of you, I also want to encourage you to change any negative association you have with “feelings” and God. Many of us believe we should not allow discouraging feelings, or angry feelings, or jealous feelings, and so on, because “our trust is in God.” While this is certainly true, instead of trying to force those feelings away, what would happen if you embrace the heart inside? What if we took these feelings to God in conversation? If God lives in our hearts, perhaps getting in touch with ourselves there we would also find a deeper healing and connection with God as this podcast with Melissa Helser discusses.
So staying grounded in confidence through anxiety or depression must begin with a foundation of self-love. Self-love starts with resting in God’s love and the faith that He is doing a good work in us, even if it feels scary. If we accept God’s love, we have life in our hearts and that life gives us the strength we need to endure all things. This develops a trust in God that makes us comfortable enough to just allow our hearts to feel as they feel. We should not aim to “not feel” things, instead, we should aim to feel things, but just not stay there. Spend time in His presence, and in silence, and in uncomfortable places, and anywhere that an opportunity to develop exists. Stillness is not doing nothing, it is being at peace with where you are, knowing you are not fighting alone.
Kyle Blevins is the sole contributor to the blog, REDIRECTED, which focuses on rediscovering purpose through love. His broken life took a turning point after being surrounded by positive people who believed he was capable of more. His passion is connecting with and encouraging those looking for a new beginning in life and in Christ. You can follow his blog at iamredirected.com.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/M-ImagePhotography
Kyle Blevins is a writer and speaker from Chattanooga, TN. His writing has been featured on Crosswalk.com and related sites, the local GoodNews magazine, Devotable, and other sites like Uplifting Content. He spends most of his life enjoying time with his wife, Tori, and their three sons. When he isn’t leading an operations quality team, he is being active either physically or in volunteer work. You can follow his Facebook page by searching KBlevinsredirected.