What is Anxiety?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 40 million adults (age 18 and over) are affected by some type of anxiety disorder each year – that’s approximately 18% of the U.S. population.

Anxiety (or excessive worry) is increasingly replacing depression as the most common mental concern in western culture.  It is often accompanied by restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and disturbed sleep (specifically, having difficulty getting to sleep).  In extreme cases, anxiety in adults can lead to panic attacks, obsessive behaviors, and withdraw from one’s social circle (including church).

Children and adolescents who experience anxiety often do so over concern about the quality of their performance in school, artistic expression, or sporting events.  Children and teens may be overly conforming, perfectionistic, have a low self-concept and may redo tasks because of excessive dissatisfaction with less-than-perfect performance.

The Bible has a few things to say about worry and anxiety.  In fact, someone has claimed that the most often repeated phrase in scripture is, “don’t be afraid.”

Jesus said, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” – Matt. 6:27

St. Paul wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, . . .” – Philippians 4:6

The Disciples heard Jesus say, “Do not let your heart be troubled.” – John 14:1

These scriptures make dealing with anxiety sound so easy.  Many who have difficulty controlling their anxiety feel a sense of shame thinking they are weak in faith.  Faith is a major component in managing anxiety, but that faith must find its expression in both mind and heart.

Anxiety is often the result of a thought process that’s gone array.  Anxious individuals find themselves thinking “what if . . . . ?” usually dwelling on negative or catastrophic outcomes.  Those who suffer from anxiety are consistently thinking about what might go wrong, or how they might not measure up.  So one must follow Paul’s admonition to the Philippians when he said, “Whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; if there be any virtue or praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

Proverbs 23:7 tells us “As one thinks in his heart, so is he.”  This is where the “heart” comes in, but this often creates a quandary.  We don’t usually believe that we “think” with our “heart.”  We would say we “think” with our “minds. But the Bible uses the “heart” to describe where we feel the intensity of our emotions – both positive and negative.  Anxiety is also the result of our unwillingness to let go of those negative things in our heart.

Tips for managing anxiety:

  • Relaxation and deep breathing – breathing is an exercise in letting go. Anxiety is complicated by one’s tendency to hold on to things.
  • Prayer and meditation – prayer is spiritual breathing. It is a way to get out of ourselves and connect with God. Meditation is a way in which we can get God’s word into our minds, hence replacing the anxious thoughts with good thoughts.
  • Visualization – imagine your worries being placed on the altar fire as they did in the Old Testament. Imagine further, the smoke from that fire wafting up to the heavens as an offering before God.  This is another exercise in letting go.
  • Seek help with a qualified professional counselor –  Click on the link below to request an appointment with a qualified clinicians at Daniels and Associates, LLC.  Or call for a free 10 minute consultation. We can help you with other specific tools for overcoming anxiety.

© 2019 by Roger Daniels

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