The Anxiety Assessment
Anxiety. Just the word breathes the feeling. After the last year of unknowns, we are all much more familiar with our own level of anxiety. Culturally, the daily level of anxiety has risen and for some, there wasn’t much room for the feeling to grow.
If your daily level already ran high, then right now you’ve been completely pushed outside your ability to tolerate the emotion. Anxiety has a purpose in life, though. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” and whether you realize it or not, so is emotion, even anxiety. But anxiety’s purpose is NOT to push us to perfection, to lead us to consider every possible outcome and prepare for them ALL, nor to tell us how unfit we are to parent, lead, pray, belong, teach, etc. (You fill in the blank.) Anxiety’s purpose is to warn us of danger.
Anxiety’s purpose is to warn us of danger.
The bigger problem is our minds don’t differentiate between physical and emotional danger; to the brain it is one and the same. Then to add in this “dark world” or the “spiritual forces of evil”, it is easy to understand why so many faith-filled believers, struggle with anxiety.
While “our struggle is not against flesh and blood…”, anxiety ambushes in a much different method. Anxiety is a physical, emotional and spiritual attack, all in one. Our nervous system responds to the environment around us. That good friend you’ve got that often thinks of the worst-case scenario, raises your anxiety. That old memory, that seems to replay at the most inconvenient times, raises your anxiety. The spiritual discipline you struggle to master, to include “be anxious about nothing” raises your anxiety. Our approach to anxiety must go much deeper than memorizing scripture and chiding ourselves with that verse each time we find our thoughts spiraling. Anxiety requires a whole person approach.
Some would say, “I don’t have anxiety, I just worry a little.” Maybe, but here are a few ways to know if you are grappling with anxiety or if you’ve picked up a bad thinking habit. Start your assessment by asking yourself the following questions.
Do you examine every option in a situation to a negative conclusion?
Do you often have difficulty concentrating, over-focus on one thing or feel “blank”?
Are you indecisive, especially because you might make the wrong decision?
Do you always move or do something because you don’t know how to relax?
Do you replace one worry for another?
Do you worry about small things in big ways? In other words, is your worry out of proportion to the problem?
Do you worry about the worry?
Are you exhausted? Not like “I need a good nap tired.” But more, tired in your bones.
Do you have headaches, muscle aches, stomach cramps, unexplained nausea or diarrhea?
Do you have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep?
Do you feel like God’s promises are always for someone else?
Do you try to handle the issue before you find it acceptable to pray about it?
While you know that “it is by grace you have been saved…”, do you feel you need to validate your place in His kingdom with works?
Anxiety is a real experience within the body; it has more than a mental and emotional presence. When learning to manage and overcome anxiety, we must take a whole person approach: mind, body and spirit.
Here are some steps to begin…
Offering acceptance and understanding isn’t equal to agreement. I’m not agreeing I want to be anxious if I acknowledge I am anxious. If you’re struggling with anxiety it’s probably not something you're choosing, but more the manifestation of an expectation or previous experience you aren’t quite sure how to process. Suspend the personal judgment and engage in some self-exploration. When you know yourself, it’s difficult to believe the lies. A great way to do this is to use a workbook, such as The Mindful Self- Compassion Workbook. It will ask you questions and have you thinking about your reasoning and the result of your thinking from a point of view we rarely take, a compassionate one.
We tend to lump every emotion into “anxiety.” However, when we make space in our life for emotion, our anxiety levels frequently abate naturally. Craig Groeschel of Life church has a wonderful series called Emotions. What a great place to start!
Especially in ministry, we find ourselves agreeing to things that are GOOD, but not always Godly. Sometimes, things are Godly, but not always our path. Learn how to say 'no' gracefully and without guilt, as well as why you say 'yes'. The book Boundaries (Cloud/Townsend) is filled with Biblical foundations for when and how to say 'no' in our lives.
Include your body.
Breathing is not an eastern idea, it is a God idea. Learning a breathing technique does not diminish your belief system. It is with our breath that we tell our body what we fear is not happening right now. The Abide App does a superb job of using Scripture to teach breathing and meditation. Oh, and it helps you sleep too!
We were created to connect. It is not Biblical or realistic, regardless of what your profession or calling is, to believe that anyone can LIVE outside of connection. Start by reaching out to other women at Sanctuary, find a counselor, reconnect with an old college friend, but get connected. God is not asking you to run your race alone. I know you don’t have time; I know you’ve been hurt; I know people have taken advantage of your vulnerability; I know you are scared but healing always leads to deeper relationship. Connection is an active part of the healing journey.
Not the prayer of a beggar asking for crumbs at His table, but of a daughter petitioning her Father for peace. Dwell in the shelter of the Most High to rest in His shadow. Get quiet before the Lord. All too often we take to Him our solutions and besiege Him to agree with His action when He wants to reward our presence with His peace. He loves you. He sees you. He enjoys you.
Finally, anxiety does not have an on/off switch. You will not wake up one day anxiety-free, but more it’s a level that slowly lowers with daily intervention.
Racheal Elrod-Edwards was born and raised in Oklahoma. She's a "wife of 25 years, a mom of three zany teens, a therapist and a fellow trauma survivor". Racheal graduated with a Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy from Southern Nazarene University.
Now in private practice, Racheal works with teens and adults, helping to lower anxiety, and increase personal power to help overcome negative experiences by releasing charged emotional material. She is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) trained (soon to be certified), with a focus on early trauma experiences. She's also trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Chronic Pain Management.