How To Make Anxiety Work For You Instead of Against You

We’ve all had moments where we were afraid. Fear is a natural emotion, a normal response to a real threat. We may feel afraid if someone unknown enters our home. We may feel afraid if we are in a situation where our life or wellbeing is endangered.  I was afraid one night when I was driving down the interstate and a deer ran out in front of my car.  I was terrified the day I stood in front of my television and watched two enormous towers fall.

 

Anxiety can have some similarities to fear, yet anxiety is a response that describes lingering apprehension, or a chronic sense of worry or tension, the sources of which may be totally unclear or unknown. I’m anxious because I am uncertain at times how my words will be received. I get unsettled with worry that something will happen to my children, my husband. Living in challenging times, I can become overwhelmed with apprehension at what lies in store for our world, our country, our families.

 

Though fear and anxiety can have similar appearances, and though many people use the words quite interchangeably, they are unique. We can even distinguish the two by our bodily experience. The neurobiology of fear is different than the neurobiology of anxiety. The sudden re-arrangement of your guts when an intruder holds a knife to your back (fear), is different from the mild nausea, dizziness and butterflies in your stomach as you’re about to make a difficult phone call (anxiety).

 

The truth is, we all experience anxiety to one degree or another. We as individuals may express it differently, some through a stomachache, some through anger or depression, while others experience symptoms of panic, which can lead to panic attacks.

 

Anxiety, like all uncomfortable emotions, is a normal part of the human experience. It is what we do with these emotions that will ultimately determine how we face the challenges in life and how we engage ourselves and our relationships.

 

Many people spend their lives running away from anxiety. Though for some, medication is absolutely necessary, for many a pill is a quick-fix, a way out of feeling and dealing with this uncomfortable pain. Many of us seek to numb the pain with alcohol, work, success, food, relationships, sex, television, phones, games, etc. so that we can avoid feeling anxiety. In the church our focus has historically been in praying anxiety away.

 

Yet if emotions are God’s flashing lights to help guide us on our journey, do we miss healing and growing opportunities by simply praying these emotions away and avoiding them at all costs? What if there is something about which God is trying to gain our attention? What if there is an area in which He wants to teach us and grow us?

 

If we live our lives avoiding anxiety, I believe there is a chance we are missing out on God.

 

I am convinced the more we can look anxiety in the eye, with courage, diligence, and curiosity, the more we will understand ourselves, understand the heart of God, gain wisdom about life, and the less grip anxiety will ultimately have on us.

 

Only when we face our emotions, experience our emotions as both potential stumbling blocks and wise guides, can we begin to live more fully in the present and move into the future with courage, clarity, humor, and hope.

 

 

 

How do you deal with anxiety?

 

Do you run away, avoid, or medicate your feelings?

 

I encourage you to stop running, face your anxiety. Lean in. Listen to it. Breathe into it. Ask God to help you understand it.

 

Make your anxiety start working for you. Let it strengthen you. Let it build within you courage you never knew existed. Let it take you one step further down the road on your journey toward healing and wholeness.

 

 

44 Comments

  1. Angela Martin

    June 30, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    Over the past year, I have noticed the huge emphasis placed on the mind in the New Testament. The “renewing of your mind,” (Rom. 12:2) ,“at war against the law of my mind (my reason)” (Rom. 7:23), “to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6) “be renewed in the spirit of your mind,” (Eph. 4:23) etc., etc.
    This post is awesome. People forget that God created our psyche and that the enemy loves to twist up every good thing. So your emphasis on examining just what is twisting it at that particular moment is so wise. I know that medication of a chemical imbalance is valid and needed. But this is different. We love to numb out with anything possible to avoid examining the dark hole within.
    Thanks Lisa, for using your God-given analytical mind and sweet, encouraging spirit to bring about this point.
    So glad I came across your post on Purposeful Faith.

    • lisamurray

      June 30, 2015 at 8:56 AM

      Angela,
      YES!!! The Bible speaks a lot about this,yet we are so hesitant to deal with the emotions that are going on inside of us. We will experience health and peace as we make the choice not to run or numb the emotions, but to face them, experience them and learn from them! Blessings to you today, sweet friend!

  2. Good words this morning, Lisa.

    I struggle with fear and anxiety. I think that I “hide” it pretty well. Meaning, I don’t want it to get in the way of my family’s and my life, so I just pray over everything and try to leave it with God. I don’t do so well with the “leaving it” part though. It’s a process. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    Linking up today with you at #RaRaLinkup

    • lisamurray

      June 30, 2015 at 8:58 AM

      Brenda,
      Thank you for stopping by! Learning to deal with our emotions well is a process, in many ways a lifelong process. Yet as we face our anxiety and ask God to show us what He is wanting to heal or teach us, we will experience more abundance, and more peace! Blessings Brenda!

  3. My anxieties come in the night. Crazy things I never thought of during the day! Things that could happen, but most likely won’t.
    That’s when I pray the Scriptures, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace who’s mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee”. That’s always been my go-to because this has been a problem for me my entire life. I don’t worry much in the day time, just in the dark!
    And I pray for anyone and everyone I know going through dark times. That also helps. I rest in the comfort of His presence.
    But I do worry during the day about one thing: I can really relate to what you said about being anxious of how your words will be received. I am always super anxious like that every time I hit publish! lol, ah, the world of blogging.
    I’m your neighbor today on Life Giving Link Up, nice to see you again, Lisa!

    • lisamurray

      June 30, 2015 at 10:00 AM

      Ruthie,
      I always enjoy having you stop by for a visit! Yes, the nighttime can be the worst! Scripture can certainly help quiet my mind in those moments. I also think that anyone who is brave enough to put themselves out there via blogging, music, etc., can also relate to the anxieties of how their words will be received. Blessings friend!

  4. These are great questions to ask your readers Lisa! Left to steep in anxiety too long, I tend to shut down. These days, I’m much more aware of how important it is for me to get in quality God time in a quiet place. I think half the battle is understanding how each of us is wired, then seeking Him in a meaningful way!
    Wonderful job guiding us into understanding on a pretty important topic.

    Blessings!

    • lisamurray

      June 30, 2015 at 5:32 PM

      Meg,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the questions! You are so right, understanding how we are wired and learning how to deal with our emotions and connect with God so that we can experience His healing is vital for each of us on our journeys. Blessings friend!!

  5. Angela Parlin

    June 30, 2015 at 1:07 PM

    Excellent post, and interesting encouragement to lean into our anxiety instead of running from it. I especially enjoyed these questions: “What if there is something about which God is trying to gain our attention? What if there is an area in which He wants to teach us and grow us?” So true, and we will miss it if we avoid or escape. Thanks for sharing with us today at #RaRaLinkup, Lisa!

    • lisamurray

      June 30, 2015 at 5:35 PM

      Angela,

      Always a pleasure to have you drop by! I’m so glad you found the questions helpful. We do all tend to avoid and look for escape, but healing will never come from those places. Blessings, friend!

  6. Crystal Storms

    June 30, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    Lisa, I’ve noticed this to be true that when I embrace my feelings of anxiety (any emotion for that matter), I am better able to understand the root cause. Then instead of temporary relief of a side emotion, I can look to God for healing of the underlying cause. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your heart at #IntentionalTuesday on Intentionally Pursuing. : )

    • lisamurray

      July 1, 2015 at 7:14 AM

      Crystal,
      I believe that is the power of embracing our emotions – in coming face to face with them, we can understand the root cause and find God’s healing. Blessings always!

  7. I am generally out of touch with my emotions so I often don’t feel very anxious. But repression is costly and takes up a lot of energy. Therapy and writing have helped me get in touch with my feelings. I definitely feel more anxious than I used to as a result choosing to feel but I also sense more joy and peace.
    I like this: “If we live our lives avoiding anxiety, I believe there is a chance we are missing out on God.”
    I know God wants to feel more so checking out is not really a great option in the spiritual life. Thanks for sharing on #RaRaLinkUp

    • lisamurray

      July 1, 2015 at 7:16 AM

      Astrid,

      When we first start feeling our feelings, it can make us more anxious! Don’t give up! It won’t always feel that way. Things will settle. You will ultimately feel more calm overall. Blessings to you today!

  8. Samantha Landrus

    June 30, 2015 at 3:50 PM

    Anxiety is a quick clue that I am trying to manage all of life’s intricate details in my own strength. So, I do go to prayer as a reminder that God is in control- I’m not.

    “Do not be anxious about anything but pray about everything and the peace the surpassess all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (or something like that 😉

    I love your advice to lean into the anxiety and explore it from curiosity. I read something a few weeks ago about pain. Their advice was much the same. She said, “It wont kill you to experience it.” What a life changing statement. To actually allow myself the experience of pain actually brought healing and growth in a stagnant situation. I will definately apply the same principle to the anxiety that likes to stop by from time to time!

    • lisamurray

      July 1, 2015 at 7:19 AM

      Samantha,
      Creating a new relationship with our emotions can be powerful and bring healing to many difficult situations. As we learn to lean in and feel our emotions, it allows God to bring us healing in them as well. Blessings, friend!

  9. Hi Lisa 🙂
    I stopped by from Intentional Tuesday and I’m so glad I did. I’m really happy to “meet” you and read what you had to say about anxiety as it’s one of a few issues I live with every day. Oh how I would love to not have to take as much medication as I do!! I believe that the side effects of the medications a lot of times are as bad as the disorder it’s being used to treat.
    Near the end you wrote: “Only when we face our emotions, experience our emotions as both potential stumbling blocks and wise guides, can we begin to live more fully in the present and move into the future with courage, clarity, humor, and hope.” That made so much sense to me but I wouldn’t begin to know how to put it into action. The reason? Trauma.
    I look forward to reading more of your work. May our God of grace and mercy bless you abundantly.

    His daughter,
    Jodee

    • lisamurray

      July 1, 2015 at 7:23 AM

      Jodee,
      So glad you stopped by today! Healing and growth are both a process, but they usually don’t come quickly. Everything doesn’t have to make perfect sense today. Just take the step that is in front of you today toward your healing. It will lead you exactly where God wants you to go. Blessings on your healing journey!!!

  10. Katie M. Reid

    July 1, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    Good things to think about Lisa. “Yet if emotions are God’s flashing lights to help guide us on our journey, do we miss healing and growing opportunities by simply praying it away and avoiding it at all costs?”

  11. Lisa,
    Well said. A few years ago, my family and I went through a terrible, dark time. It was when I truly understood the reference in Psalm 23 about going through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. When I was younger, I remember just hoping that Valley would just pass me by (as if…right?). But when we were literally walking through it, I recognized that the word said (KJV here)…”yea, though…” not “yea, if….” Big difference. It taught me a lot about God, and trust, and faith. You have reminded me of that today. I agree, we need to prayerfully and faithfully lean into our fears and anxieties. God knows what He’s doing. And we’ll be better for it. I’m glad I stopped by from #TellHisStory. I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.

    • lisamurray

      July 1, 2015 at 9:19 AM

      Janet,
      I love when you say “God knows what He is doing. And we’ll be better for it,” when we prayerfully and faithfully lean into our fears and anxieties. Blessings over you today!

  12. Chris Malkemes

    July 1, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    Lisa, Oh my goodness. You said it! We can feel anxious.

    This is a warning sign that we are not looking in the right direction that’s for sure. I’m glad He gives us warning signals. The Scripture say “be anxious for nothing” not “Don’t feel anxious” Our anxiety is put in it’s right place in the prayer and praise of a yielded heart. Issue identified and now He can get to work on the places in our heart that cause such anxious thoughts.

    Blessings back at cha Lisa. Your Chris~

    • lisamurray

      July 2, 2015 at 6:39 PM

      Chris,
      So glad to have you stop by! Yes, God gives us warning signals to help us, not to harm us. Once we can identify the issue, then we can allow Him to heal and teach us. Blessings to you!

  13. Angela Howard

    July 1, 2015 at 10:43 PM

    Great post! This is my favorite quote: “Only when we face our emotions, experience our emotions as both potential stumbling blocks and wise guides, can we begin to live more fully in the present and move into the future with courage, clarity, humor, and hope.”

    • lisamurray

      July 2, 2015 at 6:40 PM

      Angela,
      Thank you, Angela! Yes, experiencing our emotions allows us to live more fully in the moment as well as empowers us to move into our future unafraid. Blessings to you today!

  14. I loved this post so much. I’m dealing with anxiety and this helped me! Thanks for blessing me and others in my blog. Thanks for sharing at Words of Comfort Link Up.

    Hugs,
    Tayrina

    • lisamurray

      July 2, 2015 at 6:42 PM

      Tayrina,
      I’m so glad you stopped by today and that this post was helpful to you.Love that I get to link up with Words of Comfort, sweet friend! Many hugs right back at you!

  15. Such a new and valuable perspective.

    Thank you.

  16. What a good word, Lisa. And, what an interesting perspective – to make anxiety work for you.

    I really like this thought, “Make your anxiety start working for you. Let it strengthen you. Let it build within you courage you never knew existed.”

    Thanks for such helpful and practical post~

    Came over on #Grace and Truth. Glad to find your site~
    Blessings,
    Melanie

    • lisamurray

      July 4, 2015 at 9:21 AM

      Melanie,

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful! Yes, our anxiety can work for us, instead of always working against us. The choice is ours how we approach it. Blessings to you this weekend!

  17. I have never thought of making anxiety work for me. Thought-provoking. How do we do this? We accept our anxiety as part of our natures and learn to be still and let God work in our hearts? Just some thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

    • lisamurray

      July 4, 2015 at 9:23 AM

      Mary,
      So glad you stopped by! Yes, part of making anxiety work for us is simply to stop running from it, numbing it, and avoiding it at all costs. Once we can do that, we are much better prepared to deal effectively with it. I’ll be writing more about that in upcoming posts. Blessings to you!

  18. Lisa,

    What if there is an area in which He wants to teach us and grow us?

    WOW! I had never thought of it this way, yet God even had the Jews EXACTLY where HE wanted them when they were hemmed in between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. TRUST HIM to remedy the situation…in ways we can’t begin to ask or imagine.

    Thank you for this powerful reminder to turn our anxiety to God and seek what He has for us even in these “sticky” situations.

    Susan

    • lisamurray

      July 5, 2015 at 8:46 AM

      Susan,
      Yes! He uses even our “sticky” situations to teach us, guide us, even heal us. I always love having you stop by for a visit! Blessings, Susan!

  19. Angela Caswell

    July 6, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    I am a social worker and I’ve recently started doing some online counseling (something I can do part-time from home and still take care of my keeper at home responsibilities and continue pursuing this writing dream). The biggest complaint people present with is “depression and anxiety” and most of the time in their summary, they describe events that, as a Christian, I see as sin and yet they seem to excuse the action. Everyone wants validation for their choices – even the bad ones that cause the distress. I liked your wording “flashing warning lights” – God gives us our emotions and inhibitions for a reason. At some point we became foolish enough to think the symptoms were the problem instead of seeking a cause for the symptoms. Great Post!

    • lisamurray

      July 6, 2015 at 10:08 AM

      Angela,
      So excited to have a fellow counselor stop by! You have spoken to one of the great frustrations with our profession and it’s never easy “righting” as ship, if you will, yet faithfully and diligently walking with individuals on their journey, speaking the truth in love, and seeing lightbulbs come on and change their lives, is the most exciting and powerful gift to me on my own journey. God does give us our emotions for a reason – let’s use them wisely! Blessings, friend!

  20. Thank you for your honesty with this post. Anxiety in its natural state can be a reminder that we have taken our eyes off the savior. Thank you for reminding me of that. Thanks for linking up with Reflect.

  21. Anxiety is like the enemy’s weapon because it makes us stop from doing what we need to do or discourage us to move forward.

    This is so encouraging. Many people suffer from anxiety without knowing it or what to do with it.

  22. I love the ideas you put forth in this post!!! I really want my readers to know about this too! I want to share this in my weekly series called “Roll Out The Red Carpet Thursday” – I share bloggers’ amazing posts that I’ve found during the week. I hope that’ ok! Have a great night!

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