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8 Unexpected Ways to Counter Your Anxiety

8 Unexpected Ways to Counter Your Anxiety

If you battle anxiety, you know what a thief it can be. It steals our sleep, our peace, our time, and our effectiveness. We know God commands us not to worry, and we long to surrender all of our concerns to Him. But when uncertainty hits, our anxious thoughts gain power and momentum, drowning out all we know to be true. And many of you feel defeated, unable to fight, and perhaps even as if you’re failing as a Christ-follower. I understand that feeling.

There was a time when I felt enslaved to anxious thinking and unable to break free. But then one day, a powerful truth halted all other thoughts: God does not want me to live enslaved to fear. God called me to freedom, therefore, He’ll give me everything I need to break my emotional chains.

I could no longer accept it as an inevitable way of life. Rather, it was a parasite I needed to starve and an enemy, with Christ, God called me to conquer. That day was my moment of decision, and while I still have a ways to go in this journey to freedom, by God’s grace, I’ve come a long way. Not only has He provided supernatural courage to fight, but He revealed tangible steps I can take as I actively pursue the “beyond-expectations” life He promised.

As I sought His guidance, He showed me how to be strategic. Here are 8 unexpected ways God helped me counter my anxiety.

Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Joice Kelly

  • 1. Take control of your schedule.

    1. Take control of your schedule.

    Most days, would you say you feel busy and tired or energized and fulfilled? Is your calendar filled with activities and responsibilities that feed your soul and help you fulfill your purpose, or do you find yourself chasing “urgent” yet largely insignificant fires? In short, are you in control of your schedule, or is your schedule controlling you?

    Unchecked busyness often elevates our anxiety level in two ways. First, it creates an ongoing sense of urgency for which our minds and bodies weren’t created. Second, it can rob us of time for numerous important, soul-nourishing activities like exercise, engaging in a creative outlet, resting, enjoying nature, and connecting with our loved ones.

    In Psalm 90:12, Moses, the man who liberated ancient Israel from 400 years of slavery, wrote this prayer, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (NLT). We read similar words in Ephesians 5:15-16 which state, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (NLT). Both texts emphasize the brevity of life and the importance of living with God-led intentionality.

    We cannot chase every fire tossed our way and faithfully follow God’s leading. At each moment, we will choose to do one over the other, but only one path leads to supernatural joy and peace.

    When we learn to manage our time, in obedience to Christ, we’re more likely to accomplish our high-value tasks and reach our goals with reduced stress.

    To experience the joy of God, regularly evaluate your responsibilities and calendar in light of your priorities. Does your schedule reflect what’s most important to you? What commitments did you accept out of obligation or your fear of rejection, and what are those burdens costing you? What is God asking you to eliminate so that you can create margin in your typical week?

    2. Schedule free time.

    When was the last time you enjoyed a completely uncommitted day? Do you remember the sense of relaxation and freedom, knowing you didn’t have anywhere to be or anything you necessarily had to get done?

    We need space to simply be, but those simple, unhurried moments aren’t likely to arise naturally. We’ll need to block out sections of time where we can do whatever most nourishes our soul in the moment. Initially, this might feel uncomfortable, especially if we’re accustomed to a more rushed way of living. But soon, we’ll come to crave these guarded moments.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images

  • woman with eyes closed thinking and praying for peace and rest, top bible verses to relieve stress

    3. Slow down.

    Pause to consider your typical day. How often do you feel as if you’re constantly dashing from one activity to the next? Sometimes life hits hard and fast, leaving us scrambling to catch up. Other times, we’re simply hustling about out of habit developed over decades of hectic living. No wonder so many of us battle increased anxiety.

    Experts call this behavior “hurry sickness,” and this self-inflicted illness negatively affects more than our emotional, mental, and physical health. It impacts our relationship with Christ, our source of peace as well. As John Ortberg, author of the Life You’ve Always Wanted, writes, “Following Jesus cannot be done at a sprint. If we want to follow someone, we can’t go faster than the One who is leading.” Perhaps most convicting, he goes on to say, “Hurry is not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.” And a disordered heart is not typically filled with joy and peace.

    4. Do something creative.

    During our daughter’s teen years, she experienced significant anxiety and depression and lost interest in most activities. Wanting to help, my husband and I bought her numerous art supplies and began encouraging her to paint. Then we praised her for every completed project. We believed if she found success in one area, this would increase her confidence which would in turn elevate her mood. This is precisely what happened, so much so, that she used this self-care activity to combat stress throughout her college years and into adulthood.

    This endeavor has helped for numerous reasons. First, painting pulled her into what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the “flow,” which is when a person becomes absorbed in a particular activity. This elevated her mood and helped her temporarily disconnect from technology and other life stressors.

    Second, numerous studies suggest regularly engaging in creative endeavors decreases stress and anxiety levels, advances brain connectivity, increases interest levels, and elevates mood.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Finn Hackshaw

  • 5. Learn to be proactive (rather than reactive).

    5. Learn to be proactive (rather than reactive).

    The other day, I was coaching a couple dealing with a stressful parenting situation. They felt frustrated whenever they had to follow up on a request that hadn’t been honored. Because this elevated their stress level and the tension within the home, we began brainstorming ways to reduce their involvement. Together, we arrived at this solution: They would give the youth a list of requirements and responsibilities. When the kid chose not to do as he’d been asked, they wouldn’t nag or pester. They’d simply charge him for the time they spent completing the task. After discussion, we decided to avoid the stress that might arrive when they attempted to collect the funds, the teen would give them a “deposit” at the beginning of each month from which they’d take their hourly fees.

    In short, they evaluated their situation, what specifically elevated their stress, and how they could eliminate or reduce those actions. This is an easy way we can all increase our peace. Take a few hours to contemplate your typical day and all those things that cause your pulse to spike. What can you avoid altogether? What can you do or say to reduce your involvement in that area (or perhaps, conversation)? What can you delegate, eliminate, or simplify?

    6. Prioritize physical activity.

    A while back, I noticed my anxiety level steadily climbing, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. I wasn’t dealing with anything significant nor had my life become more stressful than normal. But then I realized, it’d been over a week since I’d exercised.

    While I wasn’t exactly excited to hit the gym, I was excited to increase my peace, so I went. The almost immediate—and progressive—relief I experienced has motivated me to prioritize cardio. In the moment, it might feel like I’m sacrificing time or another pleasurable activity, but in truth, I’m saving time, effectiveness, and joy my anxiety might otherwise steal.

    Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Yakobchuk Olena

  • loss

    7. Get sunshine.

    Have you noticed how much brighter life feels on a cloudless spring day? Does simply sitting outside, breathing in the fresh air and soaking in the sun, seems to elevate your mood? Do you find it challenging to maintain a positive, peace-filled outlook during the long, gray winter months?

    If so, you’re not alone. According to statistics, about 5 percent of Americans experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a recurring condition often characterized by difficulty sleeping, decreased energy, and increased anxiety.

    Psychologists believe the decreased sunlight many individuals experience during the darker and colder months plays a significant role in these symptoms, for a few interconnected reasons. Our skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D, in turn, stimulates serotonin activity, a neurotransmitter known to be deficient in anxiety-sufferers. Decreased sun exposure can also lead to decreased melatonin production, which can cause insomnia and increased anxiety.

    The solution: Spend at least 5 minutes a day outside when possible and consider investing in sunlamps for the drearier months.

    8. Turn on the praise music.

    When I’m feeling particularly unsettled or anxious, I love to light a sweet-scented candle, open my windows to let the sound of chirping birds in, and turn on my favorite Christian jams. Not only does the upbeat music help elevate my mood, but it also deepens my connection with the Holy Spirit while filling my heart and mind with truth. And God’s truth is by far the most powerful weapon we have against fear.

    The solution: Keep Christian radio playing in your home, while you work, and in your car and trust God to flood your heart and soul with His supernatural peace and joy.

    This is God’s will for us. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Or to phrase it another way, He came that we might experience the vitality that comes with living as a fully free and empowered child of God. Anxiety might try to enslave us, but in Christ, we have all we need to stand in victory.

    Photo Credit: © Unsplash

    Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.

    As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event  and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE  and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

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