Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Fight Anxiety: Take Action!

Anxiety can take on many forms.  Right now, I feel like it is manifesting itself physically in my body.  I woke up in the middle of the night with a pounding heart and rapid breathing.  It was like I was under intense stress in my sleep.  But on the surface, I'm keeping calm and taking it a day at a time and just living life... I'm not actively thinking about what is making me anxious... but it is all there, held inside.

Over the past week, not even an hour-long massage and two yoga sessions--with plenty of attention to the back and shoulders--could help me relax.  The left side of my neck was so tight on Saturday night, it was making my jaw hurt (I asked Scott if he thought I was going to die... I think I've been reading too many magazine articles: "It seemed like a normal pain in the neck.  Little did she know...").  Now, I'm sitting here with a heat wrap over my left shoulder.

I sound like I'm complaining (and being a bit of a drama queen), but I promise that I have a point.  My point is: if I can't ignore anxiety, I have to address it. 

These days, I have a long to-do list and many uncertainties, questions and fears.  I'm pressing them down under the surface, trying not to think too hard about them, as if I am mentally paralyzed...  But the mental anxiety is becoming a physical pain.  Keeping it all inside is making my muscles tighten, a physical paralysis.  Even if I push the stress away and act like I can ignore it, it's there in my subconscious.  It's there in my body.

So what do I do?  I face the music... or in this case, I check things off the to-do list, map out next steps, hunt down solutions, get organized, ask for help, pray.  I have to take action in order to feel better.  And that's hard.  I have plenty of excuses: I'm tired; it's cold and gray outside; I don't know where to start; I don't have time during the day; I need some time to relax.  But you know, the mac & cheese and M&Ms don't hold the answers.  The hours of reality TV and facebook won't help.  I have to get off the couch and do something to feel better.  I need to move and search and grow.

One little reflection that helped me this week came from an email my sister A sent to our family a few weeks ago.  She wrote about letting God take "the driver's seat" in life.  I love the idea of "let go and let God" (which is different than "let go and sit around in your sweatpants").  By listening, trusting and allowing God to guide me, allowing Him to be my support, I can do anything...  I can move forward.  I can find peace and happiness.

Here is what A wrote (thanks, sis!):

This is a very stressful time for many of us right now and us being "us", we tend to want to control every little detail, worrying that we aren't going to live up to expectations, aren't going to get everything done, fall short of where we want to be, etc. But those are all earthly things. I've been struggling lately because I really want to help everyone with their problems. I want to have that perfect answer, that perfect solution, that perfect job, that perfect stash of money, that perfect study tactic. But I don't have anything perfect for them. The only perfect answer comes from above and the only time everything will be perfect is when we're with Him. That doesn't really help much now, but it should. I get so caught up in the here and now and what's going to happen tomorrow and cleaning up what happened yesterday that I forget about the bigger picture. I get caught up in the details instead of breathing free knowing God has "engraved me on the palms of His hands" (Is. 49:19a) And He will continue on His way today, tomorrow, and the following day..." (Luke 13:31-25). He will never leave me or you or anyone. He is always there with the perfect answer. It's up to us to listen and ask Him for those answers. We're human, yes, so we will fall short. But knowing there's a God that knows everything should help in the process.

I struggle with the "how." How do I let Him take over the driver's seat? How do I not worry about having time to fit everything in? How do I help my family not get overwhelmed? How??? But I guess I should really be looking at the "why" and "what". Why is God putting me in this situation? Why does He want me to struggle and grow? What can I learn? What is He teaching me? Life is a journey. Getting caught up in the details a lot of times takes all the fun out of it. Many of my favorite times are those impromptu moments of laughter, playing board games with family, breathing in that fresh air, seeing a gorgeous sunset. It's when I'm seeing the important things in life.

I get frustrated with God sometimes wondering why we have to work to make money to support ourselves so we can enjoy those moments. How come we can't all live a life of "important moments" and not have to deal with the hustle and bustle of every day life? How come we have all the details we have to sift through to get to the bigger picture? Maybe it's because without the details, we can't see the bigger picture. Without the struggle, we can't appreciate those important things. It stinks being worried and anxious, but in those times of complete peace, I realize what this life is all about and what I can look forward to for all of eternity when I get to greet God with a big bear hug!

Wasn't really planning on typing that long, but it's just been on my mind and heart for a while. I guess I needed to get it out. :)

On that note, I will close and say that I am praying for each of you. God has a great plan for your lives and in all the struggles I know you will grow. You are all very strong whether you realize it or not. Thank you for being inspirations to me.
Flowers from Scott... happy 18-month anniversary!
(Can't believe it's been a year and a half since our wedding!)


  1. Melissa, you got it right! Dad


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