Change Your Mindset to Change Your Anxiety:
Trusting in God’s Hope and Other Actionable Steps for You or a Loved One
Have you felt completely hopeless in your struggle with anxiety?
Have you wondered when it will end and how you can speed things up to get there?
What do you think would be the best way to change your anxiety?
Trust me, I have been there. One particular time I was facing postpartum depression and anxiety and I remember lying on the floor, talking to my husband and just hanging on. Just hanging on….
That’s how I felt. I was barely there, I wasn’t sure when this period of time in our lives would change; we had a premature infant, had just moved back from Scotland and had to jump through paperwork hoops to become physical therapists with a foreign education, we were living with my in-laws which came with its own set of challenges, I was working 2-10 hour days and pumping milk every 3 hours for this tiny human that I definitely wasn’t sure I was doing a good job caring for.
Difficult circumstances, financial pressure, huge life changes, hormones, etc. all contributed to this intense period.
That was 3 years ago. No, I am not going to tell you it’s been clear skies and easy sailing since then, but that was a low point in my decade+ long struggle with anxiety.
So, if you are in tough circumstances and feel that you can’t deal with one more thing, I understand. I have been there. And I want to tell you that there is hope! I feel your pain in this season and I would love to encourage you in your tough time.
Changing Your Mindset
So, now thinking about your personal struggle with anxiety, or that of someone you know, what can be done? There are some things I would suggest.
For Those of You with Anxiety:
Cannot stress this one enough! As I mentioned in my original anxiety story, journaling and prayer are good coping strategies for me. Regularly spending time with God who is our true hope is the only way to truly experience a heart shift which changes our mindset.
Communication is so key as well. I know that at times I wanted to shut down completely. I wanted to not talk to anyone and at times with depression I didn’t think anyone should have to talk to me. Yes, these are literally the thoughts I would have. I felt like I was being a pain and that nobody should have to deal with me. Now, looking back I know those thoughts are not true. But, there were weeks and months I would have these ‘bad days’ on a regular basis.
Finding an awesome person to support you is important. Knowing that they understand your struggle, as much as they can with their background, is reassuring. I know for me, I would not have been able to do it without my husband. He was a patient sounding board, and genuinely wanted to know what was going on and how I was feeling.
Right now think of one thing that is positive in your life. A recent verse you read that resonated with you. Something that made you smile. A blessing that you can think of no matter how dark the situation.
I know that when I struggle I have to fix my eyes on God and on the positive things He has provided me I am far worse off. Dealing with postpartum issues was rough, but having a healthy baby even though he came 6 weeks early was a huge blessing. I personally know how hard it was to wait and wonder about infertility. So, thinking of how blessed I am to have my little guy, after two miscarriages and some pregnancy troubles, kept me focused.
Focusing on His Word is powerful. I made a verse collage similar to my affirmation freebie (sign up below) and hung it in our room. A positive God-centered visual aid can be powerful. Matthew 6:26 is an excellent reminder of how He cares for us.
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26
Thinking about God’s creations and His care for them puts His care for us into perspective. He provides for the birds and He provides for us. So even in the tough times take a look outside. Think about the trees and how they are made to withstand the seasons and be nourished and continue to grow. Then, think of how precious You are to Him. He wants us to trust Him to provide and for us to continue to grow and not worry. Seek Him first in all things.
For after all these things [food, drink, clothing] the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:32-34
Jesus spoke these words. He tells us that God provides and to keep away from worry.
I know, I know…this is not what you want to even think about. When you are in the midst of a trying time probably the last thing on your mind is exercise. When my son was a newborn he had jaundice, but it was also late November-early December… However, we still managed to bundle him up, expose some face skin to get a little vitamin D (tough in Oregon sometimes…) and leave my in-laws house for a little exercise. Sometimes, just taking a walk and a change of scenery can be a huge relief. It can give some clarity and change of perspective. Whether it is alone or with music, or a time to talk one on one with that close person, it can help.
Here is the physical therapist side of me showing up…. Depending on reference source, it takes as little as 10 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise to produce endorphins (may take longer with lower intensity exercise like walking, but becomes more efficient with regular exercise participation).
Endorphins are the happy juice of the brain. Thinking of your brain like a sink with a faucet, life with depression and chronic pain and other conditions cause a “dry sink”, whereas endorphins from regular exercise turn on the faucet and help your brain regularly produce good chemicals. This helps you function better, decrease pain perception, and improve mood.
Walking is a great place to start. Weight lifting or bodyweight exercises are excellent as well. Stretching, yoga, pilates, barre, etc can help give you a new focus and improve your flexibility, balance, and improve mood. Look at some local resources like a community center, swimming pool, local college, moms groups, etc. to find something you may want to try. Having an accountability buddy and a scheduled exercise session can definitely improve consistency.
Find something you enjoy doing and then keep at it. I never knew that when I bought a groupon for 10 classes at a gym after I had my son that I was walking into a barbell weight lifting class. But, since I attended that first class I have been doing Bodypump and other Les Mills classes as part of my exercise routine (I promise I’m imperfect and skip exercise days too!).
Along with being able to think of positive things and starting some lifestyle changes is acknowledging progress. Giving yourself the freedom to believe that you have made progress. I know that I have been discouraged many times when I feel that I am getting anxious about a similar situation that I may have handled well previously. Remember, to look back, see how you’ve grown and give grace that you are imperfect. As long as you are seeking God first in all that you do, you will grow and change.
I hope that gives some encouragement. I hope that you are seeing light at the end of your tunnel if you are in a tough time right now. Know that God created us, sin affects us, but living our life with His help and guidance changes us.
For Those with a Close Friend or Loved One with Anxiety:
Try to learn a little more about what that person may be going through. The fact that you are reading this shows that you care. Ask that person about their experience. Anxiety and depression causes many symptoms
Active listening without accusing can be helpful if that person is ready to talk about what they are going through. Communicating about what they think may help, or having an open communication about their desire to seek therapy services, or start medication, or start some lifestyle changes can be very positive and a supportive approach.
Offering to help them in ways that you can such as preparing a meal in a busy time for them, or taking care of their kids to provide for some self-care time or a therapy appointment are nice ideas. Being that listening ear and a person that will be there even in the more hopeless times for them.
Prayer for your friend or loved one is an excellent approach. Letting them know that you have them on your mind and are praying for God to help them with their situation and their anxiety experience can be reassuring for that person and keeps God at the center of the struggle. Praying together can be useful and help them feel supported and legitimized in their experience.
- Be there to listen.
- Be the exercise accountability partner if they make that choice.
- Remind them that God is their true hope.
- Help them learn healthy breathing techniques for when anxiety attacks occur (if they experience those symptoms)
- Offer help and support.
- Remaining judgment and accusation free for them.
Above all, we have God as our hope. I grew up as a Christian but anxiety was something I approached without Him for a long time. I struggled, my relationships including my marriage struggled, as a new mom I struggled, as a college student I struggled, as an employee I struggled. Anxiety and depression among other mental health challenges affect all areas of life. So many people in this world live without God’s hope and I truly believe that contributes to these symptoms.
Imagine living without knowing God, thinking this is all there is to life? Or living even knowing about God, as I did, and trying to fight my way out of these feelings and situations without God the Father at my side and without fully engaging the Holy Spirit within me to win this battle, and without confessing my sins that contributed to some of these situations (poor choices, increasing debt, etc).
We need God in these battles against worldly sin. Using the Word of God and continuing to be in conversation with God and people that will turn us to Him are powerful tools in these situations.
Know that there is true hope. This world is in desperate need of a Savior and everyone can have the privilege of a personal relationship with Him. God is in control, we need not worry and we need to anchor ourselves on His hope!
We wait for the Lord; he is our help and shield. For our hearts rejoice in Him because we trust in His holy name. May your faithful love rest on us, Lord, for we put our hope in You. Psalm 33:20-22 CSB
The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love Psalm 147:11 CSB
For I know the plans I have for you-this is the Lord’s declaration-”plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 CSB
Thanks for joining me! I would love to hear more about you and if you need help with anxiety or depression please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to pray for you and be there in your time of need.
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