My heart thudded against my chest. My breaths were fast and shallow. I felt like I was gasping for air.
I would hold myself, I would try to self-soothe.
I cried a lot. I felt constantly alone.
I dreaded going to bed because I would lie there, gripped by the fear, feeling my life force was draining out of me.
I barely ate anything because my appetite was so low and I hadn’t felt hungry in months.
I went on a lot of runs because my body felt like it needed to run away, run away from everything.
I had anxiety.
A countless number of people suffer from anxiety. I would include a statistic, but I feel that it’s underreported. Even though you may feel like you’re alone when you feel this way, you are not.
Anxiety feels inevitable, like there is nothing we can do to stop it. Even though we may feel like there’s no way out when anxiety comes, there are three things we can do in the moment when we are anxious.
Give it up
Maybe you don’t feel comfortable talking to God about what you struggle with, maybe you think coming to God will make it worse, like it means there’s something wrong with you.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “The Bible says ‘do not fear’ 365 times, one for each day, so we should never be afraid?” Even though it’s an interesting fact, I never found any comfort in the phrase. Just telling ourselves not to fear doesn’t feel like it’ll work.
But God knows we have fears. 1 Peter 5:7 says to “Cast your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.” (NIV) The Bible says not to fear, because we can give this fear to God. We’re not meant to go it alone and solve our own problems, we’re meant to give them up to God.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV) We don’t need to be weighed down by the troubles of the world, we’re meant to come to Jesus to find rest and purpose. Again, we find that we don’t need to fear.
Phillipians 4:6-7 urges us to pray. “Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray, and give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood.” (NIRV) When this verse says “tell God about everything,” it’s true. We can tell God about everything. Even if your anxiety about your science test seems ridiculous, it is still important because He cares about what you care about.
The point is that God knows us (Psalm 139) and He cares for us (Psalm 23). The reason the Bible tells us not to fear those 365 times is because we don’t need to. We can give it up. We give up our fear to God.
So how does this work? I recommend starting with prayer. The prayers don’t need to be fancy, it’s like a conversation. Sometimes I say, “God, I’m feeling anxious. I’m not sure why I’m feeling this way, I think it’s because of (fill in the blank). I know I don’t need to be afraid, so please help me find peace. In Jesus’ Name I pray, amen.”
Talk to people
If you’re like me, talking to people might be the last thing you want to do when you’re anxious, but hear me out. You don’t necessarily need to tell them how you’re feeling unless you’re comfortable with them, it can be just about anything.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 illustrates the gift of companionship:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them back up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?”
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” (NIV)
People can help us, we’re not meant to live life alone. Find a friend, or classmate, anyone you feel close to and talk to them. If you feel brave, you can admit that you feel anxious. Or you can just have conversations about simple things like weekend plans.
Talking to others can help you take your focus off yourself. Proverbs 12:25 says “Anxiety weighs down the heart but a kind word cheers it up.” (NIV)
You are not the only person who struggles with anxiety. Maybe there’s someone you know who needs encouragement and you can be the one to give them that. Anxiety causes us to hyper fixate on ourselves. We’re nervous about our future. We’re nervous about our test. Most of the time when I feel anxious, it usually boils down to this one thought: What’s going to happen to me?
To put it bluntly, self absorption is never a good thing. It’s not healthy for you or your relationships with others.
Make sure you’re with people who make you feel loved and accepted. Think about the people who care about you like your parents and friends. Find someone you love and talk to them.
One at a time
Anxiety makes it feel like everything is happening at once and you can’t stop it. When I felt like I couldn’t breathe I remembered to take in each breath one at a time. When I was supposed to eat but didn’t want to I forced myself to take one bite at a time. When I had a test at school I was really stressed about, I reminded myself to get through my other classes first. One class at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time. That’s how I got through.
You’re not alone in this, so don’t make yourself alone. Breathe. Talk to someone. And give up your anxiety to God.