How To Cope When Anxiety Returns
[Guest Post by Laura] – In the initial months after surviving a home invasion, which included rape and kidnapping, I expected anxiety.
I learned to deal with the anxiety, to force myself to do things I didn’t want to do.
At the time going to the shopping mall alone required conquering anxiety. Basically my entire life revolved around pushing through the anxiety and learning to live without fear.
Almost three years later I felt like myself again. Not much anxiety.
I’d been able to conquer several anxiety-inducing life situations–staying alone overnight, living in a foreign country, traveling to new places. Plus, I was headed home to the States for nine months, and while I knew it wouldn’t all be easy, at least it would be familiar.
I honestly believed that the anxiety portion of the healing process was finished.
Completely and utterly wrong.
Funny thing about anxiety, just when I thought I’d overcome it, it decided to become a part of my life again.
Anxiety didn’t care that I was back in a familiar place. It didn’t care that I was meeting new people and answering uncomfortable questions. Anxiety didn’t care that I was trying to be brave with my heart. It didn’t care that I was preparing to publicly share about my darkest moments.
Instead, all of those situations brought my anxiety back full force.
No longer did I feel capable, confident and strong. Suddenly I felt like an emotional, mental and physical disaster.
I couldn’t stop crying.
I couldn’t stop asking “what if?”
I couldn’t ease the tightness in my chest or develop an appetite.
But I could pray and take long walks. I could immerse myself in Scripture and listen to worship music. I could reach out to friends and meet with my counselor. I could cling to God’s promises.
As I battled through the anxiety this past fall, I realized how to cope when anxiety returns.
It was more than just conquering everyday tasks, establishing a routine and knowing my limits like it had been when I initially struggled with it. This time coping involved trusting God with all of the unknowns–people’s questions and responses, as well as my heart.
While on a road trip during this time (I wouldn’t recommend 12+ hours of driving alone over two days while struggling with anxiety, but it’s what I had to do.), God reminded me of Philippians 4:6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)
When I give my anxiety to God, His peace guards, protects my mind.
For me this was a tremendous encouragement. God’s peace will protect my heart and my mind from anxiety. This truth didn’t automatically make my anxiety disappear; however, it did remind me to keep giving the sources of my anxiety to God in prayer. Over and over again.
There are still moments when my chest tightens and the tears fall.
However, this fall I learned that even though coping with anxiety frustrates me, God uses it to draw me closer to Himself, to teach me to rely on Him.
Laura currently lives in California but is in the process of preparing for another international adventure. God has given her a heart for teen and young adult girls, as well as a love for drinking coffee and living overseas, and she loves when all three of these come together. She writes regularly about life, travel and healing on her blog http://continualtransition.wordpress.com.
[Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography, Creative Commons]