Controlling anxiety has been a lifelong goal for me. Millions of people suffer with anxiety, and unfortunately it seems to be a growing ailment. What was once a normal life has become a distant fog. We have been forced to find a place to anchor in a world that is overcome with chaos.
But even before the pandemic, people with anxiety were all around us; and they were mostly silent about their ailment. The condition of anxiety is taxing, constantly deducting from a victim’s energy, sleep, health, productivity, and confidence.
Life doesn’t have to be this way…I have learned that controlling anxiety is possible.
Learning to Control Anxiety
Anxiety is a force that can be controlled, like a runaway wild horse that can be tamed, or a rapid river that can be dammed. We can learn to control anxiety through the power of God’s Spirit, boundaries can be built around anxiety, and it can be harnessed and transformed into productive and purpose-filled energy.
Regrettably, for me, I have not eliminated anxiety, but have learned controlling anxiety leads to a new kind of freedom.
My first anxiety attack hit like a thunderstorm when I was a waiter at a local restaurant, during my junior year of college. The newly built restaurant on New Orleans’ scenic St. Charles Avenue was opening for the first night after a week of training. With my crisply starched shirt and apron, and my silk tie, I approached my first table, pulled out my pen and started to welcome a couple.
As my words of greeting started to come out, I seized up. My language became jumbled. I started sweating profusely. Thoughts raced through my head but they were entirely disordered. I could see that the couple was very uncomfortable as I tried to collect myself to take their drink order and tell them about the specials.
The gentleman said, “You need to relax”. The assistant manager suddenly came to my side, grabbed my elbow, and greeted the guests, smiling, and made conversation with them to rescue me from drowning in my anxiety attack.
Little did I know that this was my first acquaintance with a personal weakness that would accompany me for life and begin a journey of learning to control anxiety.
What Triggers Anxiety?
Ever since I was a small boy, my mother and father always said I was a “worrier”. They still say it. I was the type of child who thought of what could go wrong more than I thought about the exciting things. I was the one whose mind explored far more thoughts and intricacies of circumstances than a typical person.
For example, when I was 11 years old, I was going with my grandmother on my first Amtrak trip to a city a few hundred miles away. The entire night before, I could not sleep for fear of missing the train. What if the train leaves without us? For me, anxiety was fear “on steroids”.
My primary trigger for anxiety was social situations, such as business meetings, speeches, or being with a new group of people. But for other people, what triggers anxiety can be related to many things: work performance, money, personal relationships, being alone, aging and health.
Regardless of what triggers anxiety, the root of anxiety is fear which we can learn to neutralize through God’s power and direction.
What can make anxiety feel heavier is when we see others living an anxiety-free life. My wife, Mary, for example, always seems happy, upbeat and joyful. She has problems and challenges, but she doesn’t really sweat things.
I’ve always had extroverted friends who dominated in areas of life where I struggled, and this resulted in a struggle with comparison and envy. Instead of enjoying the people I loved, relationships became a trigger for anxiety and fear.
It is important to understand what triggers anxiety because those around us are impacted. Anxiety is a state of discomfort that others pick up on, and it can drain their energy, make them anxious too, or drive them away.
The good news is that over the decades, I’ve learned tips for controlling anxiety through living, learning, and fighting. Eventually I learned to overcome anxiety by not letting it control me. Anxiety never goes away, but I can say with confidence that it doesn’t control me and I have learned to stop worrying about the future.
How to Deal with Anxiety:
In my journey of controlling anxiety, here are nine tips that have helped me know how to deal with anxiety. These tips can help us learn how to deal with anxiety at work, how to deal with anxiety naturally and how to stop worrying about the future.
- Forgive yourself for your anxiety: God made you just the way you are! You are “perfectly imperfect”. Anxiety is not a weakness, but it’s simply an imbalanced feeling that is disproportionate to your circumstances. Let yourself be human. Releasing anger with yourself over your condition sets you free to seek a pathway to controlling anxiety.
- Maintain an eternal perspective: When we view life through the lens of eternity, it frees us to realize that everything we are experiencing is temporary. It allows us to simply do our best and let circumstances unfold. Identify as a child of God. We need Him. We thrive with Him, and we are empty without Him. If we draw close to Him, then He will draw close to us and fill us with a peace that only He can give. Anxiety is dispelled by God’s presence and by the confidence that comes from His Spirit living through us.
- Focus on the process: Many of the causes of anxiety are upcoming events or being in situations with uncertain outcomes. A way to manage outcomes is to prepare for and pursue a certain result by immersing ourselves in the process of conquering what is triggering anxiety. This involves time management, rehearsal, study, practice and mentally envisioning the desired outcome. Part of my growth has been embracing, and even enjoying the process. We must acknowledge our anxiety triggers and equip ourselves against those triggers through prayer, holding unhealthy thoughts captive and mentally rehearsing a confident, positive outcome.
- Rest and recover often: Any distance runner who races at maximum speed will fail every time for loss of energy and fatigue. Recognize that life is a continuous cycle of exertion and replenishment. If we do not rest and recover, we can’t regain strength to battle and control anxiety in our life. This includes sleep! When we exchange a good 8 hours of sleep for time on TV or on the phone, we are increasing our odds for anxiety. Sleep is a vital and neglected component of every person’s overall health and well-being. Sleep enables the body and mind to repair and be fit and ready for another day.
- Enmesh yourself in community: We are wired to need people. Having nourishing and mutually loving and giving relationships is like water and sun are to flowers. Get involved in a church, a ministry, a service group, even an exercise group, where the members genuinely care about one another. Value relationships with your family members and enjoy just being together. Living life isolated starves the soul of vital nutrients and the resulting unhealthy condition feeds our anxieties. And be wary of social media which can be fake community. Social media feedback feels good but it doesn’t nourish our deep need for community. Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media intake and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, and even suicidal thoughts. Social media may promote feelings of inadequacy about our life, appearance, socioeconomic status, etc. Social media is controlled by very sophisticated computers that are programmed to “pull levers” in our brain to influence our behavior and form addictions to their platform and indirectly fuel anxiety.
- Exercise and embrace a good diet: Your body was designed to move and to be fed the right things! God made us to be physically active and studies connect exercise to controlling anxiety. The release of stress from exercise resets our state of mind. Find someone to exercise with. Also, if we continue to put unhealthy food into our body it is difficult to expect a healthy state of mind.
- Allow margin for a hobby or interest: Find something outside of the requirements of your weekly regimen that you genuinely enjoy. Make it a priority to find something to do that allows you to forget the cares of life, particularly the things that cause anxiety.
- Forget what others think: So much of anxiety in our “selfie culture” is caused by fears over not being accepted or valued by others. We may think that others don’t like us, or that they don’t value us. The reality is that others are spending too much time thinking about themselves to think about you. Give yourself a break and consider what your Father in heaven thinks of you.
- Meditate on God as your Provider: God is our provider. Our job is not our provider. So much of day-to-day anxiety is caused by fears over money and our financial future. Learning to be thankful to God for what he has provided creates a bond with our heavenly Father. Trust His word that serving others and serving Him will produce the fruits that we need to live for Him.
Bible Verses about Worry and Stress to Help Control Anxiety
Reading Bible verses about worry and stress has been one of the biggest ways to help control anxiety and trust God. Here are four verses that can be an important tool for you to learn how to control your mind from anxiety.
- Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.”
- Colossians 3:1-3 NIV
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
- Isaiah 41:10 NLT
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
- Romans 12:2 NLT
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
A sign that I was controlling anxiety was when I began to enjoy the challenges that once crippled me. God’s Spirit allows us to rest in this tension. When we push ourselves through this tension, we experience real growth. Life may always present circumstances that produce feelings of anxiety, but controlling anxiety instead of letting it control us, is the pathway to victory.
The reality is that you could read these tips on how to deal with anxiety 1,000 times, and peace could still elude you. It’s only through practice and walking it out daily, that we learn how to control anxiety naturally. Gradual changes we make as we learn to control anxiety provide us with small incremental improvements and help us wake up one day, look in the mirror and realize, “I’m changed”…”I’ve grown!”
Disclaimer: This article is not medical, counseling, psychological or psychiatric advice. I am not a professional anxiety expert. The purpose of this article is to provide helpful thoughts from my personal journey to healing from the effects of anxiety. You should consider seeking professional help if you feel that your situation requires it.