My mind is tangled. My heart races. I can’t breathe. No matter how much I try to regulate my breathing, I can’t calm it down. So I sit in a type of silent pain, waiting for the hours to pass.
. . . . . .
This is what my life is like a lot of days. Struggling with anxiety means your head hardly has a quiet moment. Sometimes it has to do with a situation or event, sometimes it doesn’t. My anxiety has been around since at least high school. I think I hardly noticed it in school because anxiety and stress is “expected” in college. When life after college got out of my control, my anxiety “came back”, and it did so with a vengeance.
As a Christian woman, I have been given the “Christian answers” to my anxiety:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know not God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11
But these didn’t really help because I didn’t understand what was behind the anxiety. And there is something behind the anxiety: a voice whispering all my insecurities.
You’re not really qualified for that job, so don’t even try.
You’re not a good woman or a good wife; it’s no wonder you’re struggling. He doesn’t want you. Who would?
You’re a terrible dog-mom. You don’t know what you’re doing at all.
But that isn’t God. It’s the enemy. And I have to tune out the enemy or I will continue to suffer.
“The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.”
If I continue to give space to the enemy’s voice, I will experience an anxiety-ridden, miserable future. If I choose to turn my mind to Christ, though, I will experience His peace, love, and mercy–and a more positive future.
Over one year ago, I felt a nudge that I felt was from God. I felt like He was telling me that what was about to happen would lead to a positive future. But then things crashed around me, and I began to question if I had truly heard Him.
And that is when the enemy comes in and whispers lies: Did you really hear from God? Did He really tell you that? Maybe He really doesn’t want good things for you. He’s just watching you suffer, and He isn’t going to do anything about it.
But getting out of my head long enough to even try to focus on God’s voice and promises can be a lot. It can be emotionally draining.
. . . . . .
I had to find something to get out of my head. So I started taking exercise more seriously. I began running–and have even done a few 5K races–with my dog, Belle, and I was finally utilizing the exercise facility at my apartment. I noticed a difference within days. My mind was focused on running pace and number of reps, so it didn’t have time to entertain any more lies.
Exercise helps me refocus my energy and push myself in positive ways–in ways that will make me physically and mentally stronger. Adding Belle to the mix actually helped my head because I became focused on our combined abilities and we bonded.
Even with music in my ears, I often start to silently pray, especially during races. This helps my spirit and it makes the time fly by.
And when I get home from a run, I feel motivated to read my Bible and journal.
. . . . . .
But some days are better than others. Some days my heart races for no reason. And if that happens when I’m at work, I have to wait it out until I can go on a run. Today was one of those days. As I was running, lies began to seep in again: you won’t make 3 miles. Just give up now. Stop trying. But I didn’t listen; I pushed through. And when I refocused my energy on my music, on running with my dog, on the moment, I was able to push that whisper away.
My story with anxiety isn’t over. There are so many other components–exercise and nutrition, therapy, practices. But I know God has plans for me, and I believe that now. I am better at discerning what is God and what is the enemy. And that is progress.
. . . . . .
Do you struggle with anxiety? What do you do to manage it? Is there a way you could manage it better?