Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How do you prepare for the unexpected? - A look into anxiety.

If you have anxiety, or know anyone with anxiety, or want to know what it is like to have anxiety, well you should read this post. I am going to do my best to explain what goes through my head on a daily basis. 

I know everyone is different. No case of anxiety looks exactly the same. Our life circumstances and events shape our minds - whether we want them to or not. For me, there are two main things I fight on a daily basis:

1. I automatically jump to the worst case scenario of any given situation. I think this is because I used to think of the worst case scenario sometimes but I could shake it off because it didn't happen. Until it did. Until I had a sinking feeling something was really wrong with my dad. And then he had a tumor. and then that tumor was cancer. and then the tumor came back. The worst case scenario has happened multiple times. I can't tell my mind that isn't going to happen. Because it could. and how do I prepare for that?
2. I have a constant stream of worries playing in the background of my mind. Somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that if I worry about it, then I can control it from happening. Or at least I will be ready for it if it does happen. There is nothing worse than getting really bad news that you had no idea was coming, or so I think. So if I just think about all the things I don't want to happen - then they are less likely to happen. 

This is how my brain looked before I went to counseling:
The yellow circle is the main thought I am trying to deal with. The pink ones are the two competing thoughts that make me worry. The background is the news ticker of worries that I can "feel" in the back of my head. If I give it .01 second of thought I can grab one of those fears and dwell on it. 
It was exhausting. 

I used to think this was normal. --> then I learned it wasn't
When my dad passed away I enrolled into counseling. After listening to me for a few weeks my counselor asked me what percentage of my life I thought was controlled by anxiety.  I said "50%". She said she thought it was a lot more than that. It didn't take long for me to realize it was more like 90% yikes!

One time there was a severe thunderstorm warning in our area. Philip and I looked out the window and watched the storm blow in. I asked him "what are you thinking about right now?" He said "I don't know what I am going to have for dinner" That blew my mind! I said "so you're not thinking about the storm and how our basement could flood, or how a branch might fall on the roof?!?!" 
This is what Philip's brain looked:
 Ok, to be fair I can't guarantee that is his exact thought process, that is just what I assume it looked like.

I used to think this would never go away. --> then it started to get better.
One time I had to write down all of my fears. The things I thought about on daily basis that scared me. Sure, no big deal. They all seemed legit.  Until I had to read them out loud. That is when I started realizing some of them were a little, odd. Like "what if I got shot while driving" "what if The Earth fell off its axis". What are the odds of these things happening? Probably pretty slim. 
After I wrote them out I had to put them in 3 piles "Things to fix" "Things to fix later" "Things to throw away"
Notice how I didn't get a "things I can worry about" pile. Nope. I had to be able to have control over them to be able to hang onto to them.
Dude - 90% of my fears I had to throw away. Mainly because I can't control them.

Not that this cured me. Because I am far from cured. But it helped! A ton. I think, if I were honest with myself, I would say that now 50% of my life is still controlled by anxiety. 
This is what my brain looks like today: 
A vast improvement from before. I would LOVE for the background noise to go away. I would love to not to jump to the worst case scenario in .01 seconds. This is where I am, and I have to be proud of it. 

This is another reason why I love yoga. For that one hour while I am practicing I am literally thinking about how to inhale and exhale and I don't have the brain capacity to worry. When I leave, at least for a little while, the buzzing in my head is quieter. 

I used to think I wasn't a real Christian because I am anxious --> then God showed that I am. 
There are hundreds of verses in the Bible about not worrying, trusting God, not being anxious, casting all your cares on Him. So, clearly, since I am not able to do that - I am a failure. Right? Wrong. I can say, read, and dwell on verses about peace when I am scared. I do, actually. I can tell myself "God's Got it!" or "You can't control that, Mary!" And yet there is a buzzing of fears running through my mind all day. So what am I doing wrong? Why am I not better? Am I not praying enough? 

No - Some people struggle with anxiety, and that's ok.
I still love God. I trust God. God loves me even though I am an anxious person. 

But I don't think God wants me to be anxious. I think He wants me to continue to get better. To continue to read my Bible and dwell on hopeful things. And so I am.

I don't think God wants you to be anxious either. 
We, you and I, can't prepare for the unexpected. Life sucks sometimes. Stuff happens that we wish never would. So, take a deep breath - and realize you probably have no control over that worry. 

Do you or someone you know struggle with anxiety? What does it look like? What has helped you?

Linking up with Titus 2 Tuesday and Coffee Date Friday 


  1. Oh lady... I am sitting her with tears in my eyes because you totally put into words how I feel on a daily basis with worry & anxiety. I literally cringe all day long with worry on what could happen to me, to my loved ones, what the future looks like... &yeah, what I'm having for dinner. I need to categorize my worries as well. I'm afraid to even look at the list of things I worry about. its ridiculous. ... thanks for your honesty on this & openness!!!

  2. Thanks for being so honest. I have anxiety too, and at this time of year I worry constantly about bad weather affecting travel plans for Christmas, because my family live so far away. I am glad that the buzzing in your head is lessening.

  3. So true. And that great reminder to dwell on what is true and right which can be so hard. I can get this way from time to time. Panic comes and then my mind goes down a dark path. Then I started reading through Philippians 4: 4-9. It has helped to train my thoughts off of things that may or may not happen but on the Lord. A friend told me that God doesn't give us the grace for make believe trials. So true but He will give me the grace to get over my anxiety. He will help me and teach me through the pages of scritpure. He is so good. The book Safe in the Storm biblical strategies for overcoming anxiety is an execellent book. Praise the Lord that we can encourage each other and point one another to Christ.

    Thanks for sharing your heart.

  4. Mary-Keith, I could have written this exact same post. But instead of worrying about somebody breaking in and killing me, it's breaking in and raping me. Isn't that sick?! I worry too about the earth spinning out of control or getting into a car wreck with my son in the car. I was just reading through my blog list and saw your title. I had no idea the impact it would have on me. I seriously wrote down your suggestion of moving the worries into piles of what I can't control. Anxiety has been something I have dealt with for a very long time. Having my son only made it worse. I used to fly back and forth from Utah all the time to visit my family and then 2 years ago my husband and I flew out to attend my best friend's wedding. I was a nightmare, a total mess. I was terrified we were going to drop out of the sky. I wouldn't even taken a sleeping pill because I would scared I wouldn't wake up if the plane crashed... I can't believe I'm sharing all that, but it is true. Some of that was made worse when we sat in the Dallas airport for 2 hours being told they were having issues with the engine!!!! Anyways, I've had to seek out medical help too and it isn't something I've talked about on the blog...yet. I've talked about everything else, so not sure why I'm holding back. This post gave me the courage to maybe open up. You are amazing, thank you so much for sharing your story!!!

  5. oh my gosh. i absolutely absolutely absolutely love this. you are encouraging and wonderful and i am going to save and re-read this post on days when i super, ultra need it… because we both know those days are on the horizon.

  6. That is a really great way to categorize all your thoughts!

  7. Before I came to know the Lord, I worried about all kinds of things I couldn't control. I worried about the same types of things you mentioned and I knew that a lot of them were beyond my control. But now that I have that hope in Him, I'm able to throw a lot of that worry away. I can't imagine how hard it was for you to read aloud those fears--that takes a lot of bravery! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. What a post that speaks to all of us!!!!!! I'm so thankful that fear, worry, anxiety is never from the Lord, even though it's so easy to get wrapped up in! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  9. I guess I didn't realize that so many people struggled with anxiety. I wanted to shed some light so people could understand what we go through. Categorizing my fears was, well, scary but SO helpful! I so encourage you to do it!

  10. Thank you, me too! I have high hopes that I will one day conquer my anxiety completely! Any kind is stressful! Thank you for reading!!

  11. Amen! Thank you Ladonna! You are always so encouraging! I think it is so important to train our minds to focus on Christ. We can all get over anxiety with the Power of Christ!! I will absolutely look into that book! God Bless!

  12. Oh Whitney! I am so glad you found this post! Thank you for opening up about your anxiety! On my way home from my honeymoon (and there too, actually) I was inconsolable. I was GRIPPING my husband's arm until his shirt was soaked with sweat from my sweaty palms. he would try to talk to me about I would just snap at him because in my mind we going to blow up. it was TERRIBLE! I haven't been on a place since and (most likely) we are going to Hawaii in April to visit his brother. and I am so scared just thinking about it. I really need to get a handle on that, though. Seriously, categorizing my fears was one of the best things I have ever done! I encourage you to try!

  13. yes we do. I am so glad you like this :) I luh you.

  14. Thank you, Sarah! I am so happy for you, that you were able to throw that worry away! That is so amazing! Praise The Lord! The struggle is real for me but I know I am getting better and one day I will conquer it!

  15. Thank you, Caroline! Yes they are not from the Lord which is why I am so determined to get over them and how I know that it is POSSIBLE to get rid of them with His help!

  16. This is very beautifully written! I know that i struggle with anxiety on a small scale daily and on occasion to a higher degree. My girlfriend has anxiety that is much worse than mine and I feel like this is a good explanation to understand what is going on in her mind. Thank you for posting this and putting yourself out there!

  17. Thank you Emily! It was sitting in my drafts for a while but i felt like the time was right

  18. This is so good. I think we can all relate, even if our struggles with anxiety haven't been as difficult as yours. I am more anxious at some times than others, and it really affects my sleep. I stay up all night worrying and praying. Sometimes peace comes immediately and sometimes the worry lingers. I have fallen into that trap of beating myself up for not just letting it go and trusting the Lord too, but those times of weakness are when he shows us how desperately we do need Him.

  19. Thank you, Megan! I think my dependence on God deepens when I am most anxious and I just can't seem to calm myself down. Since nothing I do on my own can bring me down I have no choice but to depend on God to help me. I am so glad to see that my anxiety is relate and I am not alone and over here in crazy land by myself. At least that is how I was afraid I was going to feel when I wrote this post.

  20. I'm so glad you shared this! Although I think so many people struggle with anxiety, especially some of the people I work with...including me at times. It is so important to look to God and give worries to Him, but it definitely isn't easy by any means.

    Thanks for sharing your heart, and what you've learned through your counseling!

  21. This post was great. And sort of scary....it's like you can read my own mind or something! When I was only six years old I was nicknamed "the worry wart" by one of my friends because I always worried about EVERYTHING. It's still a daily struggle for me to not have this anxiety over every little thing.
    I read something really great the other day by Joanna Weaver. When her mind starts running wild with anxious thoughts, she asks the thought "where did you come from?" and "where are you going?" In other words, why am I having anxiety over this? And is there anything I can actually do to solve the issue? If it's an unfounded worry or if the result is outside of her control, then she releases it to God and continues on her way. If it's something she can control, then she takes those actions as soon as possible to relieve that stress. It's been a really great thing for me to remember so I thought I'd share with you! :)

  22. Thank you Sarah! It is such a daily struggle but I believe there is hope! I think those questions are really smart and will definitely help with the anxious thoughts that pop into my head! Thank you so much for sharing!

  23. I completely relate to this! Anxiety is definitely something I struggle with. Most of the time I don't even have specific worries, just a terrible feeling or foreboding. Not drinking caffeine has helped me a TON, plus when I am faithful about my diet and exercise, I usually don't have as much of an issue. But it really is the worst feeling.


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