Throughout our Soundtracks series, we’ve been focusing on the way we think and discovering how to change our harmful thought patterns. Our thoughts have more power than we realize over our daily lives and can influence our beliefs, which influence our identities and, ultimately, our actions. Anxiety, in particular, can wreak havoc on our lives, especially when we don’t take steps to control it.
Let’s clarify before we go any further: it’s okay to admit that you deal with anxious thoughts. It’s not a sin to feel anxious. Anxiety is a struggle, like any other thought pattern we wrestle with. And as we look at the Bible, we can see that anxiety isn’t a new battle – lots of people in scripture have dealt with worries and anxious thoughts.
Let’s look at what David writes in Psalm 13:
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” (Verse 1-2)
“But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” (Verse 5-6)
In these two selections from Psalm 13, David demonstrates two steps to overcome anxious thoughts: let your feelings out, and make sure the truth stays in.
Let your feelings out
Do you ever feel anxious thoughts pop up out of nowhere? Your initial response may be to push them back down and pretend they never happened. But if we look at David’s account in the first two verses of Psalm 13, he doesn’t do that. He expresses his feelings and even asks God some tough questions.
God designed us to have emotions, and he isn’t intimidated by our questions and doubts. The first step in conquering anxious thoughts is to identify what these thoughts are about. Then, let it all out. Express the feelings that come with these thoughts. When you allow yourself to experience your anxiety, you begin to break its spell by naming it and giving it a voice.
Keep the truth in
When you experience and express the feelings that come with anxiety, you’re taking a significant step toward breaking its influence over you. As you’re letting the negative emotions out, it’s important to fill their place with the goodness of God’s truth. That’s what David does once his feelings settle – he reminds himself to trust in God’s unfailing love and declares that God has been good to him.
What truths from God will you cling to when anxiety begins to bubble to the surface? A great way to allow God’s truth to take root in your heart is to spend time in the Bible. Take a look at this Bible Reading Plan to familiarize yourself with 10 encouragements from scripture, or check out 50 Anxiety Quotes to help you remember what’s true.
A helpful exercise
Sometimes anxious thoughts can take root and thrive when we’re at our busiest. The temptation to ignore harmful thoughts can make them worse over time. The antidote is to take time to focus your attention on how you feel so you can identify your thoughts and get rid of what’s harmful.
Meditation is growing in popularity and is believed to have a positive impact on stress and worry. Meditation often helps people identify and focus on their feelings and restore a sense of calm. Prayer is often a way we practice meditation daily – identifying our concerns, bringing them to God, and inviting him to handle them so we can have peace.
Here’s a meditation exercise you can try to help you process your anxious thoughts with God and overcome them together:
- Focus on quieting your thoughts. Find a comfortable place with as few distractions as possible. You might want to turn on calming music, listen to white noise, or let it be completely silent. Take deep, slow breaths and close your eyes.
- Picture yourself sitting in a room with God. Let your mind wander – what does the room look like? Are you sitting in a chair or on a couch? How does it feel to be with God?
- Imagine God walks over and hands you a box. This box contains all the thoughts that are causing you concern right now. How big is the box? What is it made of?
- When you’re ready, visualize yourself opening the box and taking one thought out. As you turn this thought over in your hands, pray this prayer based onPsalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts.”
- Ask God if this thought you’re holding is true. If it isn’t, imagine walking over to the trash can and throwing it away.
Ultimately, there are no quick fixes for anxious thought patterns. Prayer and meditation can help over time, but you may not notice an immediate change. Have patience and keep doing the important work of changing the way you think!
If your anxiety is more serious, exercises like this might take the edge off, but you may need more help. If you’re having trouble with daily responsibilities, getting enough sleep, or eating the right amount of food, it could be time to consider further treatment like counseling or medication. Contact us for a referral list of counselors, or check out our Mental Health Resources and take your next step toward healing.
Dealing With Anxiety
How to Break the Cycle of Anxiety Under Pressure
Resources to Replace Negative Soundtracks
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