Dealing with Anxiety

By Heather Widmer LMHC, CAP

Breathe in… Breathe out… Breathe in… Breathe out…

Now, I know you probably just read that and didn’t actually focus on your breath and breathing! Take a moment before continuing reading to take four deep breaths with your eyes closed, concentrating on the pattern, then proceed.

Anxiety has such a way of taking us out of the present moment and making us disconnected with ourselves. Our minds race, thinking of every possible thing we need to get done, everything we could have done, should have done, would have done, you name it! Before you know it we’ve completely lost the present moment and have no idea what happened. All we know is we feel a tightness in our chest, heart racing, nervousness, irritability, discomfort and racing thoughts. If this is you, you’re not alone!

We all could probably quote, or have at least heard at one point what is stated in Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. What an incredible message and reminder that Christ Jesus is with us through our anxiety and fears, yet this does not always provide us peace, depending where we are at in our lives.

We live in a society where everything is go, go, go. There is constant pressure from the world around us to work at a pace that is sometimes hard to keep up with, not to mention, everyone wants to be pleased, having it their way all the time. No wonder we place such pressure on ourselves! I can’t tell you enough how many individuals I speak to, myself included, who put way too much on their plate. It’s almost as if we have this perception that we are all super human, able to accomplish everything perfectly, all the time. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is a very unrealistic thought which can in fact be very damaging to ourselves and our well-being.

Take a moment to think about the “pressure” you receive from the world around you. Where or who is it coming from? What do you genuinely have control or responsibility for? What are you not really responsible for that you’re taking responsibility of and it’s causing you stress?

Being aware of how your thoughts can greatly impact the way you feel and have a direct reflection on your behavior. If you put pressure on yourself to be perfect, that may produce a feeling of stress which may cause you to take on the behavior of procrastination. I encourage you to take a moment to identify these thoughts, the feelings they may produce and possibly the behavior they may prompt you to engage in.

So what next? What do you do once you’ve identified these thoughts, feelings and behaviors? Once you’ve identified your stressors begin incorporating healthy alternatives and behavior!

Here are a few more suggestions to help you:
1. Challenge your stressful thoughts with positive affirmations. Catch yourself every time you find your mind thinking something that causes a lot of pressure for you. Proverbs 12:25 – “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up”.
2. Pray, pray, pray! Psalm 34:4 – “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears”.
3. Focus on your breath or one thing in the present moment to get yourself out of your head.
4. Utilize the time in the car! In the busy society we live in,
people use the excuse of “not having enough time”. Find the moments you do have for yourself, to focus on your breath, listen to enjoyable music, pray etc.
5. Take the first 2-5 minutes in your car before you head into work to get yourself centered.
6. Take DEEP breaths, not shallow ones.
7. Go for a walk.
8. Be in nature.
9. Tune into your senses.

The most important thing to remember:
Number 10. Have compassion for yourself.

There is a reason why you place so much pressure on yourself and it stems from somewhere! Old habits and behavior take a lot longer to work through then people give credit for or allow.

So remember to remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and give yourself a break!