Worry and Fear

anxietyDear Christian Counselor,

How do you stop worrying and fear?

Jitterbug


Dear Jitterbug,

If I had the answer to that one, I’d be a rich, rich woman! People have published whole books on the topic, and we recommend a few of them in our Resources section, along with several useful, free handouts, but I think there are four classic answers that can help:

1) Tell yourself the truth. Some people experience extreme symptoms of panic as if there was a tiger in the room. But in reality, there probably is no tiger. Tell yourself the truth about the things you fear, and tell yourself the truth about God’s loving care for you even in trouble and danger. I have a friend who clenches her right fist whenever she feels anxious to remind herself of this: Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand (Ps. 73:23).

2) Live in the present. Worry and fear concern the past (“If only”) and the future (“what if”). Teach yourself to live in the now (Matt. 6:34). Breathe deeply and concentrate on some part of your body that isn’t caught up in the anxiety – like your elbow or your kneecap. Look out the window and catalog what you see there. Pop a mint into your mouth and spend 5 minutes experiencing it. These kinds of exercises break the cycle of worry for a few minutes – which is a good thing for your heart, your spirit and your body.

3) Take a pill. I’ll bet you didn’t expect that, but anxiety is a physical as well as a mental problem. Medication should be used as a tool to help you face and conquer fears which might get the better of you without it. God has given mankind the wisdom to develop healing remedies, and, taken correctly, they can help you live a full and useful life for the Lord. Some people find they can stop their medication after a time, but others need it always. There is no shame in that (1 Tim. 5:23).

4) You don’t stop fear. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). If Jesus couldn’t live without experiencing anxiety, then neither can you. The suggestions above may help you minimize it, but everyone experiences some fear. You may not be able to stop the worry entirely, but you can stop worrying about the worry. Accept your anxious tendencies rather than shaming yourself or panicking about them. Tell yourself, “I’m just going to be anxious for a while, and that’s OK. I’ll be a faithful anxious person right now.” That honors God. That’s worship.

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