March is a month of madness. Children go mad with exams, dads are on edge chasing financial year-end goals and moms are struggling to maintain their sanity. Anxiety is palpable. While a little bit of anxiety may bring out the best in us if it goes unchecked it becomes destructive.
Doctors call good stress as Eustress. It is just like the tension in the strings of a guitar. Just the right amount of tension in them is necessary for good music. Make them too taunt, they snap. Many students prepare well for their exams with a little bit of anxiety. That’s where the benefits end. Any more anxiety will have adverse impact on their performance in exams.Most times anxiety robs you of peace and productivity. We must not give room to anxiety but practice peace.
In this article, we will look at the damages that anxiety can cause if it is unchecked, and simple but effective ways of replacing it with peace. Other words that are associated with anxiety are tension, stress, worry, fear, edginess, etc. Therefore you will see that these and other words are used in this article interchangeably.
We all experience anxiety –
We experience anxiety when we are uncertain of the outcome that we seek to achieve. You have applied to get a dream job. You are anxious whether you will get it or not. Unable to wait any longer you call them up and ask if you are short-listed. But they tell you that you have to wait a little longer as they received too many applications. Your anxiety level spikes.
As anxiety increases, your body and behaviour are affected adversely. You are preoccupied and worried. You are lost in your thoughts. Your appetite has come down. You try to read but are unable to concentrate. No matter how much you think about it, you will not be able to speed up the process of selection much less make them select you for the job.
You are asked to propose a toast, or a vote of thanks or speak a few words to an audience. You have not done it before. You are anxious. You try to gather your thoughts and write down your speech. Your anxiety levels increase if you are not sure of what to say and how to say it. Most of all, at the back of your mind, you are processing another thought and that is: “What will people say after my speech? Will they appreciate me or will they make fun of me?” You develop knocking knees and your palms are sweating. Your mouth is going dry.All your anxiety is working against you. It never helps you do your job well.
Parents get anxious when their daughters don’t get married. They worry. In their worry they tend to see everything that is happening in their daughter’s life through the lens of marriage. If they are dressed casually, then they will say, “Who will marry you if you are dressed like this?” If they are late in coming from office, they will say, “If you stay out like this you will not get any marriage proposal.” The anxiety of the parents drives a wedge between them and their children. Their daughter too is anxious and she has to hear taunting remarks of the parents. The whole atmosphere is vitiated due to anxiety.
Some young couples grow anxious because they are not able to conceive and bear children. The parents on either side put pressure and make matters worse. Pressure is added to anxiety and this in no way helps them to bear children. In fact, even medically it is established that the women under stress and anxiety cannot conceiving children easily. In these circumstances, the families go to men and women of God and have them pray over them. There is nothing wrong in it. But many of them make wrong prophesies and offer false promises. In their anxiety, they will believe anything and everything. Some of them even lose their faith when the false prophesies and false promises do not come true.As you can see, anxiety and worry reduce your performance, paralyze you into inaction, spoil the emotional atmosphere at home and definitely rob you of your peace.
No matter what your situation of anxiety, the following principles when practised will help you enjoy the peace of God. Getting what we want is not an antidote to anxiety but peace of God is.
Resolving not to worry or be anxious is like trying not to think of a large pink elephant. In doing that you actually end up thinking of a large pink elephant. Instead, if you do not want to think of a large pink elephant, you must choose to think of a tall giraffe or anything else other than a large pink elephant. Likewise, if you don’t want to be anxious, seek peace and pursue it. Try these biblical principles. They work.
Biblical principles to overcome anxiety –
1. Focus on God not on the problem that is making you anxious. Focusing on the problem never gave peace to anyone. Someone said, “Your mind is your prison when you focus on your fear.” God, who has all things in control and who loves you beyond measure, is the only one who can give you peace. Look up at God, look away from the situation and invite His intervention in the situation.
Trust Him to make a difference and give you peace. In Isaiah, it is written, “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed in thee because he trusts in thee (Isaiah 26:3). When adverse circumstances take our gaze away from God, come back to Him. Trusting God is not passive. Trust requires you to take those steps of faith and allowing God to work. As someone said, “You do what is possible with you and God will do what is impossible for you.”
2. Plan your life. The wise man says “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1). What it means is that one must study when it is time to study; sleep when you have to sleep; work when you have to work. Take up a job when you have to and get married when you are of age. When people lose out on such developmental goals they end up with life-long problems.
What it also means is that you must do what you have to do at the time they have to be done. Like taking medical insurance instead of worrying how to pay medical bills when you fall sick. Save money for your contingencies and old age instead of worrying how you will get by.
3. Place your petitions before God with a right attitude. Most people pray for what they are anxious about. However, they do not experience peace because their attitude is wrong. Sometimes when our petitions are delayed, we begin to grumble, whine and complain. This is just not acceptable to our God. Remember those who grumbled actually perished in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:10). In everything, approach God with thankfulness in our heart for all His blessings past and present and stop being obsessed with one thing that you are asking of God.
We should ask with an attitude of humility. Not as a demand. Such humility assumes a tone of “Not my will Lord but yours be done.” Paul writing to Philippians says, “Have no anxiety 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 passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
4. Do more now to achieve the goal you want fulfilled in future. Anxiety is always about the future outcome. Not on the task at hand that has a bearing on the future outcome. Anxiety has a way of deceiving us into thinking that by being anxious we are in some way influencing a positive and early outcome.
Like the parents keep telling all and sundry how much they are worried about their daughter who is not yet married. Instead they could tell friends and relatives who really care and actively look out for proposals. They could visit more marriage bureaus to check for profiles and also leave their daughter’s profile there. When they take these steps there are more ways God can honour their faith that is put to work.
That is why Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34).” “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might, (Eccl. 9:10).
5. Don’t worry about imaginary problems. Imaginary problems may come true but they have not come true, yet. You can worry when they come true. Till that time get busy with something productive. As someone said, “Worry is a down payment on a problem you may never have.” It is futile to worry, think or be anxious about things which may not come true.
The thoughts that feed your anxiety might be: “If I don’t get this job, I am done.” “Nothing worked out so far. This is my last hope.” “If I don’t get it, I am a failure.” None of that is true. You are not done; this job opening is not your last hope and you are definitely not a failure. As long as you are able to apply again, you can have hope and therefore no room for failure.People who are anxious are irritable, edgy and not very pleasant to be with. They spoil the joy of enjoying the moment.
Someone said, “Worrying is like walking around with an (open) umbrella waiting for it to rain.” It is foolish. To be prepared with an umbrella in the event of a rain is wise.