What does your anxiety feel like? For me, it's like someone is sitting on my chest. It's so overwhelming that I can hardly breathe and the worst part is that it's all the time. It's the feeling that the worst thing ever is going to happen. Often I feel like no one understands and quite frankly that no one cares. This is how I describe my anxiety. This is how I'd describe what relationships feel like when I'm drowning in my pain.
I think for each person there are different levels of anxiety and what I'd call "symptoms." One thing we must remember is that anxiety is anxiety no matter the severity of it. With that being said I believe there are three truths that are universal to those of us who struggle with anxiety. We must hold faithful to these or we will find ourselves in a downward spiral to depression.
1. It's OK to Feel This Way
Stop listening to those people who tell you that you should try harder, have more faith or just suck it up. This is your reality and it's OK to feel this way. I'm not saying that this is the way life was supposed to be, but I am saying that no one should tell you to stop feeling this way. People don't always understand what you're going through, but don't feel bad for feeling bad. Educate people about anxiety and its effects. Ask for them to stop and listen to what you're feeling. Lots of good can come from this.
2. The Worst Thing Usually Doesn't Happen
If you're like me, when the anxiety monkey is on my back, I play out about one hundred "what if" scenarios in my mind. Say you come into work one day and your boss seems cold with you. What runs through your head? "They're upset with me. I'm in trouble. I'm going to get fired." When in all reality, they may have had a fight with their spouse before they came in to work or they are starting to catch a cold. My point is that you can't let your mind run rampant when you're anxious. Remember that whatever bad thing you think is going to happen, most of the time isn't even remotely close to what actually happens.
Enjoy what you see is good and not what you think is bad.
3. You're Not Alone
This one is as basic as "community." I'm sure you've heard the term "it takes a village." Well this doesn't just apply to raising kids, it should apply to all relationships. There's someone in your life that cares about you enough to stop and listen. Never ever feel like you're alone because you aren't. Even if you need to go talk to someone professionally, you should still be reminded that there are listening ears and compassionate hearts who don't want you to go through this alone. Fight the urge to white knuckle your way through your anxiety and invite others to walk with you through it. Life wasn't meant for us to be alone, so don't choose to isolate yourself in your struggles. Find a church or support group where you can share your heart and find compassion and grace.
If today you feel anxious, then try to apply these truths to your life. If you find yourself anxious a year from now, I pray you remember that it's okay, the worst thing won't happen, and you are not alone.