If you struggle with anxiety, these scenarios may sound familiar:
- You avoid situations that make you feel restless, fearful, or worried.
- Your ability to be present while you are in a social setting swings widely based on how worried you are, who is there, and your level of restlessness.
- You have spent too much time dwelling on what might happen or what could happen in a specific scenario — whether it relates to you, your loved ones, your finances, or your friendships.
- Your heart begins to beat rapidly when you start to consider something that makes you nervous or fearful, such as travel, a work- or school-related presentation, or a new friendship.
- Going in public places has become problematic due to panic attacks or social anxiety.
These are just a few examples of what anxiety can look like in everyday life. How to cope with anxiety is different for everyone, but there are specific ways to rely on your faith as a Christian and therapeutic practices for help.
Some think that Scripture and counseling are mutually exclusive, but they can be combined to have a powerful impact on anyone suffering from anxious or worried thought patterns.
Types of anxiety.
While there are many types of anxiety, here are just a few. Agoraphobia is when a person feels trapped in a situation as if there is no escape. Sometimes those who fear not being able to escape especially struggle with going out in public or attempting activities where there may not be a way out. Examples include a fear of traveling, a fear of crowds, a fear of shopping, or a fear of driving.
Another type is generalized anxiety disorder. This usually involves excessive worry or anxiety related to specific activities or events. A child, for instance, may fear going to school or sitting in a classroom. Adults may be afraid that a war will break out or that someone will break into their homes. One trigger for these anxious thoughts may be listening to the news, talking about current events with others, and social situations that cause discomfort.
Panic disorder is when a person experiences multiple panic attacks without warning that are intense or persistent. Some of the physical symptoms of a panic attack include a rapid heartbeat, increasingly fast breathing, and a deep-seated terror that something bad will happen.
Once you have been diagnosed or if you suspect there may be an issue, here is how to cope with anxiety.
How to cope with anxiety: seeing a counselor.
Seeing a counselor can be a tremendous help. If he or she is a Christian, your faith can be integrated into the practices that the counselor helps you learn.
One such practice is cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of talk therapy is where a counselor helps you learn skills to manage anxiety-producing situations with a change in your thought and behavior patterns.
For example, incorporating Scripture into spiraling negative thought patterns can be transformative. A counselor may help you recognize a negative thought, first, and then he or she may help you find a specific verse that brings comfort and truth. The Bible has multiple passages that can help a person talk through the possible outcome of their fear and its unlikeliness to happen or the Lord’s presence in the middle of it.
A trained Christian counselor can help you to discern between the origins of your negative thought patterns. Some of those may have begun with childhood experiences from which you haven’t experienced healing. Other origins may be a failed relationship as an adult, a sudden traumatic experience, or a life change that was difficult to accept.
There are multiple ways to address specific anxiety struggles. A counselor who understands and specializes in anxiety will be able to walk you through various options until you find one that works well for you. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, another treatment possibility is exposure therapy.
After working with your therapist and incorporating Scripture into your coping mechanism, it may be time to try small doses of facing your anxiety triggers. This will look different for different people.
In general, however, it involves taking gradual steps toward the situation that triggers your anxiety so that you can begin to recognize and replace negative thought patterns with healthy ones. Over time, you are able to build confidence that you can manage anxiety symptoms even when faced with anxiety triggers.
How to cope with anxiety: using Scripture.
To build on the idea of using Scripture to address areas of anxiety, you can use the concordance of your Bible to find mentions of the Greek and Hebrew words for anxiety.
In Greek, anísychos translates to worried, restless, anxious, concerned, and uneasy. Because Greek is the language used in the New Testament, many of these references come directly from Christ Himself.
His words can be a balm to you when you’re facing a troubling situation. His reassurances include verses such as Philippians 4:6-7 and Matthew 6:25-34. When read in context, these passages help believers to understand what it looks like to take fear or worry and lay it at the feet of a gentle but all-powerful God who is sovereign.
Another example is Ephesians 6:10-18, which encourages the Christian to place himself in the armor of God. Verse 10 reminds the believer that the Lord is strong and powerful. The next verse says, therefore, to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV)
Just before the specific pieces of armor are introduced, we read in Ephesians 6:12 ESV that our true struggle is not “…against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
This verse can be a helpful reminder that your anxiety is a battle Christ thought was worth fighting in the heavenly realms, so much so that He died and rose again to reveal His great love, compassion, and power in the midst of what feels like a very intense battle of anxiety.
Be encouraged: Your struggle with anxiety is not a sin or a mark against your character. It is something Jesus cares deeply about and wants to help you cope with.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for anxiety is deagah. ”Anxious” in Hebrew is da’ag. Looking through the oldest manuscripts of the Bible, we see that anxiety was a struggle for many.
Jeremiah 38:19-20 reveals that King Zedekiah told Jeremiah that he was anxious about what would happen to him in the hands of the Jewish Chaldeans. Also in Proverbs 12:25, we know that God recognizes how difficult it is to deal with anxiety.
The writer of the proverb wrote, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” (Proverbs 12:25 ESV)
The Lord understands anxiety will weigh a person down, and His antidote is simple but effective — “a good word.”
How to cope with anxiety using Scripture and meditation.
If a good word makes a heart glad, how do you access that good word when you need it most?
That’s where the combination of Scripture and meditation can be especially powerful.
To meditate is to chew on something over and over in our minds. This means that we think about the same thing again and again until it consumes us and transforms us.
It’s how the “blessed” man in Psalm 1 is described.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:1-2, ESV
The word “meditates” here means to think deeply and ponder. To combine meditation and thinking deeply about God’s character is to recognize who He is.
You might choose a Scripture verse that doesn’t mention anxiety at all. Maybe it’s a verse that reminds you of God’s kindness, power, or forgiveness.
Pondering its meaning over and over will be a meditative practice that requires repetition, consistency, and possibly even breathing exercises. Intentional, conscious choices to slowly breathe in and breathe out are not required, but they can certainly calm you while you consider who God is and what He is capable of doing in light of your anxiety.
If you would like to learn how to cope with anxiety alongside a trusted counselor, our offices are waiting for your call or your email. We have helped many people just like you who needed someone to stick with them on the journey toward healing and triumph over anxiety.
“Prayer”, Courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Misty Forest”, Courtesy of Clement M., Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forest”, Courtesy of Johannes Plenio, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forest Road”, Courtesy of Elke Karin Lugert, Unsplash.com, CC0 License