Anxiety can be a heavy subject. But somehow, GIFs make everything feel a little more light. So here’s a serious article about anxiety and some tips on how to manage it, with a lot of GIFs to make it a little happier.
The phrase ‘Too Blessed to Be Stressed” honestly makes me want to punch something, but instead, I settle for a dramatic eye roll. Like, um, NO. Can we just pick that phrase apart for a second? In other words, what it’s saying is “If you’re stressed, you’re not blessed,” and well, I’m pretty sure that our God would never tell us that. Why? Because stress is a very normal human emotion. I’m sure Jesus experienced it. And I KNOW Mary experienced it (from what I hear losing your child for 5 minutes, let alone a couple of days, is very anxiety-inducing) and she’s the most blessed woman out there (an angel literally says to her ‘blessed are you among women’). Not to mention, if you have anxiety, stress is a very real part of your day-to-day life. So the whole other layer to this is if you have anxiety, you’re not blessed. And I’m just here, as someone who’s been diagnosed with anxiety, to let you know that’s inherently false. I have anxiety, I experience stress more frequently than most people I know, and YET, I see the many incredible ways God blesses me in my day-to-day life.
The reality is, we all get stressed, we all experience moments of anxiety. I think we need to be mindful of talking about these things. Saying “oh my gosh I’m so depressed,” when you find out the grocery store is out of your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, undermines your friend’s experience of diagnosed anxiety. Similarly, self-diagnosing yourself with anxiety, or having a moment that’s anxiety-inducing (3 tests in one day? Just crashed mom and dad’s car? Lost your wallet? Yeah, you’re going to feel anxious) is not the same thing as having a diagnosable anxiety disorder. With that said, I think it’s healthy, if you’re someone who has been diagnosed with anxiety, to be able to say ‘this is something normal to be anxious about’ (reread that last list) vs. this is an irrational/unhealthy level of stress.
And to all the wonderful people who are reading this article, but do not have anxiety and are trying to better understand a friend or a family member’s experience, bless your heart. Let me quickly fill you in on what we’re talking about: an excessive and irrational amount of anxiety/worry, that occurs on most days, for at least six months, and impacts one’s ability to function normally (work, school, sports, etc.). People with this find it very difficult to control their anxious thoughts (aka: telling someone “well don’t think like that” isn’t going to help), often they become very tired and/or experience physical symptoms (dizziness, nausea, rapid heart rate, irritability, restlessness, poor attention span, difficulty sleeping). So it’s kinda a big deal and we should take their suffering seriously, even when we don’t relate to it or understand it.
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:26-27, 34).
I LOVE this. Jesus isn’t naive. He acknowledges that today has troubles, and tomorrow will bring its own problems. He gets it. Life can be hard. But He also tells us not to worry because it won’t accomplish anything. He edifies our dignity – we’re worth more than birds! And if God cares enough to feed these little birds, how much more does He care about us and our needs? Now, with that said, if Jesus gave this little speech to me during a moment of full-fledged anxiety and panic, I think I would be a little annoyed, and I don’t think it would help me to not worry. But I choose to reflect on these words often. So that in the middle of a moment of anxiety, the rational part of my brain can say “take a deep breath, worrying won’t accomplish anything, God’s going to see you through this too.”
Speaking of the birds in the sky, have you taken the time to notice them? Have you taken time to look up from your phone? To go take a walk in the woods? Many studies have been done that show how spending time in nature impacts the brain. And do you know what they found? For some reason, though their not quite sure why, the brain responds differently and stress is lowered; not only that but the effects of anxiety and depression begin to be reduced (this is the point where I could send you to a bunch of medical articles, but I’m gonna ask that you just take my word on this). Here’s the other thing – nature, creation, is a gift from our Creator. God has gifted us with this world, and His creation is meant to lift our hearts back to Him. So while you’re walking in the woods, and getting those endorphins going, take a second to say hi to God, let Him know what’s going on in your life, and thank Him for the beauty of the earth even if you’re not having the most beautiful day.
Failure is ok, good even. I think we’ve become a society that fears failure. And I think that fear contributes to the rising levels of anxiety. Some of the most successful people in our society have failed, including Beyonce, Albert Einstein, JK Rowling to name a few (check out this article to read up on them). Failure builds grit. It reshapes the narrative that success means perfection. So pick yourself up, and try again. You’re not destined for failure, you’re destined for greatness.
Journaling is a great way to put emotions down on paper and make sense of them. But don’t just make it any journal, make it a prayer journal. Write down your prayer requests, the little ways you see God. When you’re doubting God’s presence in your life, particularly during a time of heightened anxiety, go back through your journal. You’ll be surprised about all the little ways God has been faithful to you, the prayers you’ve forgotten you prayed that He’s answered.
I am an avid lover of coffee. But sadly, anxiety and caffeine aren’t the best of friends. I try to only have caffeine three times a week, and if my anxiety is particularly bad, I do my best to cut it out altogether. Caffeine is a stimulant, which is why people love it and depend on it to jumpstart their morning. But if you’re someone with anxiety, and are prone to a racing heart, restlessness, sleeplessness, etc. you don’t want to add fuel to the fire. Your brain might have a hard time differentiating between the symptoms of caffeine and anxiety and rather than jumpstart your morning, you might be jumpstarting your anxiety.
It’s tempting to think the world would be full of darkness and chaos without coffee, but in actuality, darkness and chaos ensue without God. Anxiety can often feel like a dark heavy cloud of fog. Trying to navigate it without God is unimaginable to me. Hope calls us to believe in God’s promises, to not despair, to yearn for eternal life in heaven. Suffering is temporary and we can make sense of it by uniting our suffering to the cross. We are an “Easter people and hallelujah is our song” (St. John Paul II). So on your darkest days, remember that there’s the hope of a resurrection, tomorrow is a new day, and God’s mercies are new every morning. PS – Studies have shown that people who practice a religion and profess a belief in God have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Find someone who will support you, who will listen to you, who will just be there for you knowing they can’t fix it all. Sometimes just talking through it is enough to calm down. God speaks to us through people.
And make sure one of those people is a Tigger. You know, the person who helps you see the bigger picture, who is optimistic, who helps you retrain the voice in your head that says the world is ending, and instead becomes a voice that says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, let’s cross that bridge when we get to it, it’s just one bad day, it’s not a bad life.” For me, that person is my mom. And I love her for it because she pulls me out of my Eyeore-ish moods. But I’ve also learned to tell my ‘Tigger,’ “I know all that, but right now, I just need you to be here and allow me to feel this emotion,” and that’s when my mom scoops me up and gives me a big hug. You’re not meant to walk this journey alone. And it’s ok to sometimes feel all the feelings.
While it’s so important to turn to your friends and family, it’s also important to recognize that they’re not meant to be your counselor. So go get help! Really! You’re not crazy if you need a therapist. I think the world would be a MUCH better place if we were all in therapy. Because guess what, everyone has issues. Just make sure the therapist is a good person, who will not mislead you in your faith. Reach out to Catholic Charities, Catholic Therapists, or talk to someone you trust for a good recommendation. (If your therapist isn’t Catholic, be sure to mention your faith backgrounder in your first session. It provides an important context.)
This blog originally appeared on LifeTeen.com, visit their site for more awesome blog content!