You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has never experienced anxiety in their lives. Anxiety is such a pervasive part of our culture, yet battling anxiety is something that’s still hard to talk about. The problem is that anxiety looks different on everyone. Some people have panic attacks and struggle to breathe. Some people can’t even get out of bed.
For me, anxiety looks like unshakable thought loops that take over the entirety of my focus. One wrong turn in a conversation and I might be left thinking for hours about an awkward word I chose or a feeling I picked up on from another person, whether real or imagined. I’ll obsess over the situation, replaying it ad nauseam, all while basking in self-loathing. It’s unhealthy, and it’s something I’ve had to work against my entire life.
Through my relationship with God, therapy, support from my husband, conversations with trusted friends, prayer, and sheer experience, I’ve learned plenty of the dos and don’ts.
Here are my top ten dos and don’ts of battling anxiety:
1. Don’t: Insulate yourself. Tell no one about your struggles.
? When people ask, lie. Say that you’re okay when you’re not.
Do: Invite people in and talk honestly about your experiences.
✅ As much as we’d like to think we can handle everything on our own, that’s not how God created us to live. We need other people to help us fight anxiety.
2. Don’t: Dwell on all the areas where you’re not enough.
? Toss them around in your head. Compare yourself to others and spend great lengths of time wishing you were different. In fact, give yourself anxiety about the fact that you have anxiety.
Do: Realize that you are loved by our good God just the way you are.
✅ Remember that you were created in God’s perfect image.
3. Don’t: Stop taking care of yourself.
? Don’t shower or put on makeup if you don’t feel like it. Definitely don’t do your dishes. A dirty house always helps the situation.
Do: Try to put in the extra effort to take care of yourself each day.
✅ Carry on your daily routines as much as possible. Dress up in the morning, and as much as possible, resist the urge to get into bed as soon as you get home. Go for a walk outside or read a book if you have the energy. If you need to, make small adjustments that will help you keep up with your responsibilities. For example, if it feels like too much to wash the dishes, buy paper plates for the time being. A consistent routine and taking care of yourself will help you feel better, I promise.
4. Don’t: Spend less time with friends. Skip going to LifeGroup.
? Say no to social plans and stay home instead. You’re too tired anyway, right?
Do: Surround yourself with people who love you.
✅ Attend a LifeGroup. Join one if you aren’t already in one. Share, share, share what you’re going through with other believers.
5. Don’t: Refuse to accept help.
? When your spouse asks, when your coworkers ask, don’t accept it, no matter what. When people show concern, shut them down.
Do: Let others serve you. They wouldn’t offer if they weren’t being genuine.
✅ If someone asks to take you out to coffee, go. If someone calls you to check in, answer your phone. Encourage yourself to be open because it will help in the long run.
6. Don’t: Hold back the tears and resist the urge to cry.
? Sharing your emotions would just burden other people, right? Better to keep them hidden from everyone.
Do: Let it out and embrace what you’re feeling.
✅ Cry if you need to. Let the tears serve as a detox.
7. Don’t: Skip your daily prayer time.
? Leave God out of your life and turn away from His ability to heal.
Do: Pursue God even harder.
✅ Spend more time praying than you usually would! Anxiety is a sign that it’s time to pray.
8. Don’t: Forget about exercising.
? Don’t work out if it seems hard. Put pajamas on immediately when you get home. Watch TV and shut your mind completely off.
Do: Get moving.
✅ Get outside. Ride your bike. Go on a walk or a run. If that sounds like too much, try yoga or meditation. Just stay active if you can! Energy begets energy.
9. Don’t: Miss going to church.
? Justify it saying you’re too tired, and you’ll catch next week.
Do: See #7. Go to church and prioritize your relationship with God.
✅ Challenges in life, anxiety included, are opportunities for you to pursue your relationship with God.
10. Don’t: Ignore the idea that you should see a counselor.
? You can handle it yourself.
Do: Seek therapy if you need to.
✅ Let go of the idea that counseling is for people with more extreme issues. Every single person could benefit from talking to a therapist at one point or another. It’s incredibly helpful in processing past hurt as well as being able to truly forgive and move forward.
If you’re in the middle of a season of anxiousness, there are so many ways to find help. Talk to people you trust. Seek therapy, seek community, share with your spouse … fight against holding it inside and trying to manage it alone. Cry, but then get dressed up and try to stick to your normal routine as closely as possible.
And above all, don’t try to fix it without God. Instead of turning away, turn toward Him.
Anxiety is a serious condition and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it doesn’t have to rule you. The same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead is within you and you’re an overcomer. Never forget it!