I like lists that dole out instructions like a recipe that I can follow. I am often clicking on, “10 ways to decorate your house on a budget” or “5 delicious dinners with four ingredients or fewer.” It’s exciting to know that I can accomplish something if I follow the list. However, as much as I wish it were, this is not a representative of real life.
Real life takes so much more energy, so much more depth of being, so many more emotions than a simple list can provide. A list-life would be easier, but it would be a robot life; manufactured and stale.
Living soulfully requires our constant attention. Our moments are so fragile that we feel the desperate need to fill them wisely. I am so hard on myself because I am trying to squeeze meaning out of every single second. It can be exhausting. But as I have been thinking about my struggle with anxiety, there is a list of coping tools that come to mind.
First, I have to mention that Brené Brown is a top researcher and author regarding vulnerability and shame. I just finished her book Rising Strong that came out in 2015, and it blew me away. Every chapter I read felt like an awakening to how God made us: emotional, spiritual and physical beings.
She crafted her years of emotionally challenging research and experiences into a gorgeous tapestry that whispered so much truth to me. This book resonated at this exact point in my life, and I needed it so desperately. Her words have encouraged me to write this post.
Anxiety has graciously deserted me for several days or even weeks only to come back randomly and knock me flat off my feet. After a recent episode, it took me over a week to get back to feeling comfortable in my skin again. My anxiety is directly related to fear, and as I get to know my own personal struggle (because every person struggles differently), I have uncovered a few ways to help me combat it in a healthy way.
1. Brené Brown: Rumbling with shame and owning it instead of ignoring it. The shame of struggling with anxiety. The shame of worrying about money too much. The shame of feeling “less than.” Whenever I am more honest with why I am feeling a certain way, it helps me to process the deeper source of my pain rather than a surface issue that may have just shown up that day.
2. 4x4 breathing: I read about this and chose to start doing it instead of just taking deep breaths to calm down.
*Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds.*
This exercise made me slightly panicky at first, but the more I did it, I felt more focused on the moment. When I am holding my breath, I can hear my strong heartbeat slow down with each cycle. It also helps cope with fear because even though you feel like you can’t breathe, you are only four seconds away from releasing that air. (Simple, I know. But it helps me).
Sometimes the heart palpitations or the heavy weight on my chest can feel overwhelming. If I focus on the negative, I can spin out of control. So I try to breathe to clear my head, knowing that panicking isn’t going to get me anywhere.
3. Listening to the truth: Ellie Holcomb’s music is filled with scripture. Listening to her honest yet deeply spiritual songs has given me so much hope on difficult days. I love her song, “He Will” and I sing it loud like a chant. I believe God. I trust God. I know He loves me. He can’t love me more or less. These are the truths to which I must cling. Ellie Holcomb speaks the truth for me when my throat constricts with emotion, and I can’t physically sing the words.
4. Laughing: To liven up my dinner prep, I try to listen to a fun podcast (Relevant, That Sounds Fun, For the Love), or turn on my Youtube channel for actual dancing music. Yes, dancing. I need more dancing as it always leads to more laughing.
Spending time with kids and our youth group helps me SO much. The kids get me moving; running and playing. Having fun with the teens is such a welcome distraction.
5. Sowing seeds: If I sow seeds of rest, the chances are I won’t feel overwhelmed the next day. My physical signs of anxiety don’t typically show immediately. So the more I choose to rest, to read, go for a walk, etc., the less likely I am to having a freakout moment. This has to be so intentional on my part because like a lot of people, we tend to GO GO GO. This has been the biggest revelation in learning how to take care of myself. If I just take the time to relax, my body thanks me later.
6. Reading: Forcing myself to slow down has been really tough because in the downtime I don’t feel productive. But with my 2018 reading goal, I can be competitive with myself and try to cover multiple genres even at one time. Reading helps me to sit and focus on a story and the rhythm of the book, whether non-fiction or fiction. I get to dive into someone else’s journey for a bit instead of over-evaluating mine. Learning boosts my confidence because I know that I am not wasting time.
7. Patience: This is not a practical tip. In fact, I barely have this. Kevin has been graciously patient with me through my ups and downs, and he is teaching me to be patient. Just because a door hasn’t opened yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean the answer is “never”. If it’s not happening, it’s not meant to happen right now. God will take care of me and lead me in the way that I need to go. My job is to be at peace with the now.
I don’t want to live in fear.
I don’t want my emotions to control me.
I trust God to use my weaknesses for His glory.
Ephesians 3-20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Referenced in this post:
Rising Strong book by Brene Brown
Relevant Magazine Podcast
That Sounds Fun podcast with Annie F Downs
For the Love podcast with Jen Hatmaker
Ellie Holcomb YouTube channel