Fear & Anxiety (Part 3) - Overcoming Anxiety
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of fear that doesn't always have a particular or obvious cause. Whereas fear is usually a result of a known concern or enemy, anxiety is more difficult to get to the bottom of. It can be mild - a general feeling of tension - to serious: a completely debilitative disorder that complicates living a healthy and wholesome life.
Anxiety is also about perceived fears: the 'what ifs'. What if this doesn't work out? What if I can't do this? Why is she taking so long to answer me? Is it because she doesn't like me anymore? All in all, anxiety is worrying about things we can't control.
What Causes Anxiety?
Understanding where a problem comes from is a major step in conquering it. Anxiety is usually a result of:
- Fear or any form of mistreatment in the home as a child (or otherwise).
- Lack of confidence and trust in one's true worth (i.e. low self-esteem).
- Lack of love.
Until these issues and their results are worked through, anxiety will continue to maintain its hold.
What Problems Does Anxiety Cause?
Both fear and anxiety are a poison against joy. Because it's related to a lack of trust of oneself and/or others, it can cause significant problems in relationships, even with those we love. It can also stop people from doing things involved in a normal, healthy life (e.g. spending time with friends, going outside, trying new activities). It can waste today in fear of what tomorrow might bring. Like stress, it can also cause physical health problems. The ongoing tension can create a feeling of perpetual tiredness and irritability.
As the opening verse suggests, anxiety can also lead to depression and an overall sense of hopelessness about life.
What is the Antidote?
'Perfect love casts out fear.' (1 John 4:18)
The above verse as well as the opening verse gives us the first two keys to overcoming the 'poison' of anxiety: a 'good word' and love. Encouragement, certainty of worth, and surrounding ourselves with people who help us be the best we can are all antidotes to overcoming anxiety. It may mean removing ourselves from people who foster anxiety within us. It may mean trying new things despite the fear we feel. It may mean speaking good words about ourselves and our situations - out loud if necessary. We often speak negative things out loud when we're anxious: 'This isn't going to work.' 'I can't do this.' 'I've tried and tried but nothing ever changes.' This reinforces the thoughts we had in the first place, which then makes them grow in our mind until they becomes a part of our identity. Challenging anxiety means challenging the negative images we have of ourselves, and uprooting the 'weeds' we let take hold in our minds.
Like light chases away darkness, so too does kindness and love quell fear. This means we must also be kind and loving towards ourselves. As I explored in an earlier post, many of our fears come down to our self-worth or lack of it, so it is really important that, if we wish to be conquerors of anxiety, we first realise we have what it takes to do it! Everyone has value, and everyone deserves a life free of debilitating fears.