“I Have Anxious Thoughts! How Do I Overcome Them?”

Ria Corda

October 09, 2020

Disclaimer: The word “anxiety” in this article does not refer to the psychiatric disorder, but to our bodies’ response to stress.

What is anxiety? Anxiety is our bodies’ natural response to stress. It’s actually helpful when we are faced with real danger in order for us to pay attention to and to alert or prepare our bodies to fight or to avoid the danger. The difference between anxiety and fear is that anxiety refers to anticipating a “probable” threat, while fear is a reaction to a clear and present danger. Anxiety and fear are a crucial part of our survival instinct. But when they are chronically present, it can affect our daily function and our personal relationships.

I used to live in a bubble, thinking I wasn’t really an anxious person because I wouldn’t dwell on negative thoughts or emotions. I didn’t like the feeling of being weighed down by anything, until I realized that avoiding negativity to not feel stressed does not make the anxiety go away. In fact, toxic positivity was a sign of anxiety, and it did not help me handle the stress better. It was simply a coping mechanism that did not deal with the real issue at hand.

So how do we truly overcome anxious thoughts that affect our holistic health? Before we go to the practical steps, let’s look at some ways we can recognize anxiety in our lives.     

Anxiety looks different for each person.

Just because someone is cheerful and energetic does not mean they don’t have anxious thoughts.

Just because someone seems to be highly productive and busy does not mean they’re not stressed.

Just because someone acts chill and shows a poker face doesn’t mean they’re not battling with worry.

Anxiety looks different for everyone. Each person may have a different view of what a safe and secure life looks like. Each one may have a different stressor. And each one may have a different response to those stressors.

The following truths will help us recognize if we are battling with anxious thoughts and will allow us to understand our differences in managing stress. We hope that this knowledge will help us know our patterns in dealing with anxiety.

1. Our motivations vary.

– We all have various motivations, and these motivations are usually influenced by a traumatic experience as a child.

– Some of us want a life where we are sure we are loved, accepted, or significant.

– Some want to be sure they are in a safe environment or to have full knowledge of things.

– Some people desire harmonious relationships with others.

– Some desire to live a life where no one controls them, where they don’t miss out on anything, or where they are able to do things perfectly.

However, things happen outside of our control that may threaten our ideals. These threats trigger our stress and anxiety.

2. Our triggers are unique.

Knowing our motivations help us identify what triggers our anxiety. Our triggers are also known as stressors.

– We can have “internal triggers” such as feeling unloved or overlooked, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or having to deal with unrealistic expectations.

– We can encounter “external stressors” such as conflicts in relationships, loss, sudden or major life changes, meeting new people, or overwhelming demands.

These stressors trigger a response from us. Whether the threat is real or perceived, our bodies prepare for survival. These are called our coping mechanisms.

3. Our coping mechanisms may look different.

Because we have different motivations and ideals, we are likely to cope with stress differently as well.

– If you are someone who wants to do things perfectly, you may react to negative emotions by forcefully acting in the opposite manner. For instance, if you feel angry, you may put on an appearance of calm or niceness.

– If you are someone who wants to be loved, you may react to rejection or disapproval by denying your own needs and helping others in need.

– If you are someone who wants to be recognized, you may react to failure or shortcomings by being hyper-productive and adjusting to the expectations of others.

– If you are someone who wants to be accepted, you may react to conflict and abandonment by rejecting yourself as “not being enough.”

– If you are someone who wants to fully know and understand, you may react to confusion or emptiness by withdrawing from others.

– If you are someone who wants to avoid pain, you may react to loss and suffering by denying the pain and finding reasons to think that everything is ok.

– If you are someone who doesn’t want to be controlled, you may react to vulnerability and betrayal by wanting to appear strong.

– If you are someone who doesn’t like conflict, you may react to tensions by feeling numb.

So what is wrong with our coping mechanisms? Coping mechanisms may seem to help us “survive” the moment, but it does not deal with the reason behind our anxiety. We then find ourselves going through the same patterns that keep messing with our mental and emotional health and eventually take a toll in our physical and relational health. 

The reason coping mechanisms can be so harmful in the long run is that they don’t help us deal with the root of our issues; and hinder us from the peace, joy, and security that we truly need and can only find by being reconciled with God and abiding in Him daily. For as long as we don’t detach from these self-centered survival patterns and attach our survival to God, we will find it impossible to live a less anxious life.

What can help us overcome anxiety?

Did you know that the Bible commands us not to be anxious or not to worry about anything, but it doesn’t say we can’t have anxieties

Merriam-Webster defines being anxious or worried as “allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.” Instead of fixing our eyes or dwelling on present troubles, here’s what the apostle Peter says,Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:7,‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Based on this verse, dealing with anxiety is a part of life, but how are we supposed to deal with them? 

1. Acknowledge the anxiety. 

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

We need to experience the full weight of our anxiety. It may be scary and uncomfortable, but unless we stop denying what we truly think or feel, we will not be able to overcome it. This is where we need trusted people who can confront us and walk with us through our anxious patterns and unhealthy coping mechanisms. We need to keep a listening ear and an open heart to them. The truth may be hard to hear, but it is necessary for our growth.   

In reality, facing the fact that everything may not be okay or that you are not as good or as accomplished as you portray can be very difficult. Because who would love or admire us then? How can we feel good about ourselves? How can we live with the pain and the turmoil all around us? This leads me to the next point. 

2. Trust that God is on your side.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

We need the assurance that someone is gonna stick with us despite our brokenness and our lack. We need to feel safe in the midst of any circumstance. 

That was God’s promise that He fulfilled through Jesus Christ. He is in your corner, no matter what. He fully knows your brokenness and yet He fully loves you. He fully knows your painful and degenerate past, yet He irrevocably calls you to a redemptive future.

Are you convinced that God cares for you not for your merit, but by His grace alone?

3. Cast your cares on God.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

Can you trust that because God cares for you, He also cares for what you care about? Do you believe He is powerful and loving enough to provide your concerns?

Do you want to live a life where you are loved, accepted, and recognized? That life is found in receiving His love, acceptance, and recognition of you. You are unconditionally loved and accepted in Him. You are significant to Him, even when you haven’t accomplished anything yet.

Do you want to be sure that you are protected, that your relationships can be reconciled, or it’s ok to not know everything? That certainty can be found in being reminded that He is in control, that He is a good Father who provides, and that He has unlimited power and resources

Do you want to live a life free from the fear of betrayal, the fear of missing out, and the fear of failure? That freedom is found in trusting His loving leadership, in knowing He has a specific purpose for everything, even for pain and suffering, and in receiving His righteousness in exchange for our sin.

There are no shortcuts to overcoming anxious thoughts. We can only do so by acknowledging them and yet not dwelling on them. Instead, we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ and the truth found in God’s word, as often as we have those anxious thoughts.

We can’t judge anyone’s inner life based on their outward behavior, which is why we journey together and we stay close to one another regardless of what each other’s social media portrays. 

When we know each other well in the church community and we have a group of people we are accountable to, we will be able to recognize anxious patterns and help each other overcome. 

Our problems are real. Anxiety is real. But we don’t have to face them alone. Let us help each other and lead one another to God, the source of true peace and comfort. 

If you want to be connected to a church community, feel free to message Every Nation Campus.

 

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The Author

Ria Corda

Ria is a campus missionary at Every Nation Campus Fort Bonifacio. When she got the call for full time ministry in 2002, she said she would never disciple kids or high school students. Two years later, she joined Kids Ministry, and has been discipling preteens and teenagers ever since. She spends a lot of time marveling at the irony of it all, and being thankful for the times when God called us to do what we didn’t initially want to do.

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