Overcoming Anxiety

Recently, I posted to my Instagram story, asking those who follow me for suggestions on future blog topics. And, knowing a little bit about my story and my struggle with OCD/anxiety, a friend asked that, if I was comfortable, I would share how I manage it.

And, I told her that I would be more than happy to share.😊

For those of you who don’t know me, or are new to my blog, I’ve struggled with OCD/anxiety on and off since around middle school. My struggle with OCD/anxiety is mostly a battle of the mind (to borrow a term from Joyce Meyers). It can look different for different people, but for me it mainly takes the form of thoughts. Thoughts that make me feel stressed, or that trigger my emotions in some way. When this happens, it often triggers a host of physical symptoms – symptoms like a racing heart, or the sensation of ‘tensing up’ under stress. The thoughts, mixed with the symptoms, brings us to what most people would dub “OCD” or “anxiety.

And while, dealing with this kind of anxiety can be hard, it isn’t impossible.

I believe that through Christ’s power living in us, we are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us (Romans 8:3). And as intense as anxiety can sometimes be, it is no match for the God who breathed earth into being and breath into our very lungs.

And, here are some tips that have helped me overcome my own anxiety.

1. Identify the source – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10. Back when I was in middle school, one of my youth leaders made us memorize this verse. I can still remember being in a line of middle schoolers waiting to recite it back to her to get a piece of free candy. Years later, as an adult, I am super glad that I learned it. Because as Christians on fire for Jesus, our enemy is constantly looking for ways to defeat us, and keep us from the plans that God has for us.

One of the primary way that he will do this, is through using anxiety to defeat us—putting thoughts in our minds and making us think that they are ours. He will also lie to us in any way that He can—about ourselves and about the people that God has placed in our lives. When these kinds of self-defeating thoughts come, it is important that we identify the source. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.When our knowledge of God’s truth becomes more powerful than the lies that we hear about ourselves, we are in a place where we can begin demolishing these thoughts and the anxiety that comes with them.

2. Surround yourself with a community – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25. I honestly cannot speak enough about the importance of community in the life of the believer. I fell into a season a while back where I struggled to find this, and it was honestly one of the worst times for me in regards to anxiety/OCD. When we surround ourselves with people who will speak truth into our lives and encourage us in our faith, it is so much harder for the enemy to lie to us and attack us with temptation and troubling thoughts. There’s a reason that God tells us to surround ourselves with other believers. It is not only good for our Christian walk—it is good for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

3. Pray – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 I know this one probably sounds so cliche, but trust me, it works. This is not to say that if you pray, all of your problems will automatically be resolved – after all, Paul still had his thorn even after he asked God to take it away (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). However, this does not diminish the power of prayer. Praying changes something in our hearts, even at the times that we struggle. It causes us to position our hearts towards God and ‘cast all of our fears unto Him because He cares‘ (Psalm 55:22). God is with you even in your hardest moments. When we begin to praise God in the storm, anxiety slowly begins to lose its power over us. Suddenly, the things that we were once so worried about, and that we were so stressed out about seem small—by comparison of the amazing, awesome, and powerful God that we serve! A God who is greater than any form of fear or anxiety!

4. Be Real—not perfect -“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Ironically, just last week, as I was planning this blog post, one of the other leaders at my church’s youth group was asked to speak on this very topic. And one thing he mentioned that stood out to me was letting go of the need to be strong and be perfect—opening up to God and others about our areas of weakness. As your classic ‘type A’ perfectionist, this can definitely be a struggle for me. It can be hard to say to a friend or someone close to you ‘I’m not OK.’ However, as God taught me over the course of last year, one of the healthiest things that we can do as human beings is confide in each other, and be real about our struggles. We are all human, and there is not a human on this planet who has their life completely figured out. 

5. Get in the word – “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. Staying plugged into God’s Word is one of our surest keys to keeping our anxiety and negative emotions in check. It has the power to break through the deepest places in our heart and penetrate through our whole being. A couple of days ago, I woke up feeling stressed about the future, and trying to discern God’s plans for me, and as soon as I broke out my Bible and put on some good worship music, I felt better. As Christians, the Bible is our lifeblood, and it is so important that we stay in the Word to steady our spirits as we go throughout our day to day lives.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with anxiety, or negative thoughts? If so, how did you combat it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.😃

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Christmas Classics: It’s A Wonderful Life

*Warning, this post contains spoilers

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10. (NIV) 

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“When the bell rings, an angel gets their wings.”

Today is officially the last day of my Christmas Classics series, and I am closing it with one of the most well-known Christmas classics of our time: It’s A Wonderful Life. 

It’s A Wonderful Life is a (black and white!) Christmas movie created in 1946 about a young man named George Bailey who learns the meaning of Christmas after being visited by an angel named Clarence. George is at the end of his rope and contemplating suicide, after being faced with a lot of disasters at work that feel too big for him to handle. He sees no point in continuing to live until the angel shows him how his life has touched others—and what the world would be like without him. Through this he learns to see the value of his life and goes back to be with his family—and celebrates Christmas with a renewed hope, joy, and purpose.

It’s A Wonderful Life asks the timeless question that many of us have probably asked ourselves at some point: Does my life matter? Am I making a difference? Would this world be different if I weren’t there? And despite the notion that an angel “getting their wings when the bell rings” might be a little theologically shakey, there are a lot of good lessons that we, as Christians, can learn from this movie.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV) and 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (NIV).

God has plans for each one of us, and whether or not we were ‘planned’ in the natural sense, God knew and formed each one of us before we were born! Though Jeremiah 1:5 is speaking about Jeremiah, it applies to each one of us—before we were even formed God knew us, and had an incredible plan for our lives! And in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter is speaking to every believer who has been called out of darkness, into God’s glorious light! God’s desire for each one of us is life, and that we live out the dreams that He has for us and impact those around us! 

If you’re reading this today, and asking any of the same questions that George Bailey asked in It’s A Wonderful Life, than I want you to know one thing above all else: your life matters! God would not have created you intricately and divinely in your mother’s womb if it didn’t. If you are alive and breathing today than God still has plans for you. If you just look around to those that you see each and every day, you will find lives that God wants you to impact—in your school, in your friend group, and in your family. And, there is no one else on this planet that can live out the life God created you to live! You matter. To God, and to so many people that see and interact with you every day! 

Maybe you’re reading this today and thinking ‘I already know this. I already know that my life and every other life on this planet matters.’ If that’s the case, than maybe you’ll find yourself in a different character in this story—Clarence. Maybe God wants to use you to encourage someone in your sphere of influence today, and remind them that their life matters! Maybe God wants to use you as someone’s guardian angel. God will often use us to speak to those who are hurting, and maybe as you’re reading this, the Lord is putting someone on your heart that you need to talk to. If that’s the case, than I want to challenge you to be obedient. You never know how God might want to use you in another person’s life! Maybe you could be somebody’s Clarence! 

If you get nothing else out of this post, than please remember this: God loves you, your life matters, and God wants to use you to impact the lives of others. In the words of the pastor/writer Max Lucado, “You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the Earth by the Master Craftsman.” 

May we always remember this; this Christmas, and the rest of our days!

World Mental Health Day

One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.

Around 450 million people currently suffer from mental health related problems.

Mental health disorders are among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide (World Health Organization).

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Over the last couple years, the issue of mental health has become a prominent subject matter in the public square. Celebrities have raised awareness for those who suffer from mental illness and websites like Twitter have allowed more people to have a platform to spread information about the importance of mental health. People are starting to realize that mental health is just as important as physical health—and slowly, the stigma attached to mental health struggles is beginning to fade.

Thus, with it being such an important and widely spoken about issue, I have decided that to write a post about mental health for my blog to help raise awareness for this issue.

If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you may know that I’m no stranger to this issue. For years now, I have struggled with OCD and anxiety, which can at times can be crippling—making it difficult to handle situations that most people would be completely comfortable in. I struggle with both stressful, unwanted thoughts and quirks such as not wanting to touch a doorknob and checking my cups to make sure they’re clean.

Nonetheless, over the last few weeks, I have made a conscious decision.

I have made a decision to be healthy.

By choosing to be healthy, I don’t mean that my OCD has gone away entirely or even that I believe it will go away entirely. In some way, shape or form, I’ve suffered with it since childhood. When I was in grade school, I used to arrange my crayons by color and run to my mom whenever I had a thought that I considered “mean” or “bad”.

Nonetheless, I have recently discovered that there are steps that I can take to cope with it and intentionally lessen it; and I believe that many of these things can help those who struggle from other forms of mental health as well.

Pray

To clarify, I don’t believe mental health problems are a sign of a weak faith or not trusting God, as some suggest. However, I do believe we serve a God who cares about the well being of His children. James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” The Bible encourages us to pray during times of trouble, and I believe that if we ask, God will give us peace during our storms—and the strength to get through them

Eat right

Before I tried it myself, I used to think that people who touted healthy eating as the answer stress and anxiety were crazy. Nonetheless, after changing my diet and implementing more whole foods and vitamins, I’ve noticed that my anxiety and even my acne has decreased tremendously. It is obviously not the answer to every problem, but it can help you feel better and more at peace. Eating less processed foods and more foods with vitamins shown to treat anxiety has helped me leaps and bounds in my journey to mental and physical health.

Exercise

I’m going to be honest—I am a complete and utter bookworm. Given the choice, I would much rather read a good book than hop on a treadmill. However, despite the fact that working out isn’t always fun for me, I have begun to take more initiative to exercise. Exercising naturally increases serotonin levels in our brains, which is often something that people with high levels of anxiety tend to lack. Through exercising, we can increase our serotonin levels while staying fit in the process.

R&R

In a world as fast paced and intense as ours, it can be hard to force ourselves to relax and unwind. There’s always something we need to do or that we can worry about. However, God didn’t intend for our bodies to work like this. As finite creatures, we cannot keep going without facing some serious burnout.

So, the next time you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, or worried, take some time for yourself. This isn’t selfish—it’s healthy. Read a book. Soak in a bubble bath. Watch your old favorite movie. Do whatever it is (within reason) that helps you relax and calm down. Don’t be afraid to slow down and let yourself rest. If you do this, you’ll be refreshed and ready to face those tasks when you return to your daily to-do-list.

Self-talk

Oftentimes, our worst stress is caused from out-of-control worry and stress. When our minds get out of hand, sometimes it’s best to try to talk ourselves down. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Sometimes we can be nicer to others than we are to ourselves, but according to the Bible, we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12:30-31). It’s important that we show the same kindness to ourselves that we show to others, and part of this is remembering that things often aren’t as severe as we imagine them to be.

Talk to someone about it

Sometimes, one of the best ways to stay mentally healthy is to talk to someone—whether it be a pastor, a counselor, or a friend. Maybe you have something you need to work through, or maybe you just need another person to tell you it’s all going to be OK. There’s no shame in seeing a counselor or asking for prayer and advice. We weren’t meant to do this life alone—God has placed other people in our lives and our paths for a reason. Never be too prideful to ask for help. Furthermore, if you feel it is serious, never be afraid to contact a professional.

Note -– If you’re in a moment of crisis and you’re in emotional distress right now, don’t hesitate to talk. Call 1-800-273-8255.  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

How about you? Have you ever struggled with mental health? And do you have any advice for those who do? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!