One of the most common questions I received on my social media is how to overcome anxiety or how to handle negative thoughts.
First, let’s talk about what anxiety is and some misconceptions about it.
Anxiety is a state of being constantly in need to do something. This state makes you restless and always tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally, even when you’re not doing something tiring at all. This commonly happens when you’re experiencing problems like uncertainties, unexpected situations, and disappointments.
Anxiety is manifested by your negative thought process according to what the body experiences in those trials. In return, your negative thoughts decide for the body to always perform, always getting busy with some things that might not even help improve the situation.
You panic. You feel the need to act on something even when things are out of control.
Anxiousness is not a sin.
Anxiety is not only horrible to experience but it also makes us shy away from expressing and confessing it. It’s probably because we put some negative connotations with it, like, having anxiety is a reflection of the weakening of our faith.
Somehow, we’ve treated the presence of anxiety as lack or defect of faith. And confessing of having it seems like we’re confessing a shameful sin, and we’re so much guilty.
However, as true as experiencing anxiety is horrible, is as false as having it is a sin. Having anxiety doesn’t mean lack of faith. Having anxiety doesn’t mean you’re under sin, or you’re doing the act of sinning.
It’s an affliction, as C.S. Lewis would put it.
Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ”C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
The danger is when we let that anxiety steal our trust in the Lord. The enemy loves it when we’re under this kind of affliction because when it sees that our mind is messy and vulnerable, it does its best to tweak it and make us so weak and defenseless so that we will accept its invitation to sin in exchange for short term happiness or a teaspoon of pleasure.
It can be a tool, just like our feelings, emotions, or circumstances, bad or good, the enemy could use to swerve our direction away from God and lead us to sin.
To counter that, we can use that state to know God more and glorify Him. As Lewis said, we can use anxiety to take part in the passion of Christ, the passion in which the Father is pleased.
Anxiety is not merely a feeling.
We must remember that anxiety is not merely a feeling but psychological (which is just as important as our physical as it is a part of our holistic being). And when it’s as persistent and irrational as it can get, it can develop into a mental disorder. It might even make one be so helpless and unable to function. If that occurs, please consult a professional. Your life is so so much valuable, so please seek help.
While other people say that it’s a sin, others would say that it’s just all in your head, like it’s some kind of imagination.
When people say “It’s just in your mind,” they give off the impression that it’s just a small thing. But truly it isn’t. What’s in the mind is always a big deal. It includes changes in how the physical body works through the performance of your nervous system (you can look up flight or fight response). It also influences your spiritual walk and how you deal with your situation in relation to what God is trying to tell you amidst your trials.
Whatever’s on the mind will always have an effect to your physical and spiritual being. That’s why, when you say “It’s in the mind,” it’s actually something very serious because you cannot kill an idea.
More often than not, we let our bodies dictate to our minds the decisions and actions we make. One evidence of this is a woman’s experience with PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome). During this period are changes in the hormonal system and thus affecting the body’s usual performance. This affects the brain chemicals as well, which in turn, dictates to our thoughts that we should feel anxious, moody, or crave more food. It tells the body how to respond.
Another example is when we’re very tired. Our thought process in this state stops us to be conscious of anything else but rest. It stops trying to be kind and caring for people around us. That’s why we get cranky and easily angry when people annoy us because we just want to rest.
However, even though how our body’s changes affect the way our mind works, we have the power to control how our mind will process right at that moment and to let ourselves respond to the controlled thoughts instead of the changes in the body.
Here’s we can exercise one kind of self-control—to intentionally change our thought process to use our situation to get closer to God and magnify Him.
To be able to glorify Him in this affliction, we are in need of self-control.
Self-control, as the gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), is somehow underrated and isn’t talked much about. But we should realize that it’s as equally important as the others in the package. It’s one of the core foundations of how our decisions and actions are made.
Self-control is not only when we need to flee from sin and obey the Lord. It’s significantly important so that we can take advantage of the negative situations to experience more of God. In our weakness, He is our strength (2 Corinthians 12:10).
It’s about taking control of our minds first and bring it to God before the enemy takes hold of all of our thoughts.
If the enemy can control our minds, then how much can we? It’s ours after all. And we’re God’s after all.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
And it’s not by our own strength that we can build that control. It’s only by the Lord’s grace that we can have complete control over our thoughts.
That’s why the Lord continually reminds us that He is always with us no matter what we go through. He is always ready to give us whatever we need to combat anxiety—to provide us, when we ask, the self-control that we need to overpower the enemy.
And in that, we can see what the Lord is doing and we can worship Him because He is always good despite the situations we go through. Because even in our afflictions, anxiety for one, God can be glorified.
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on Anxiety. The other parts are linked below.
Part 2 discusses how applying self-control by knowing what to fill our minds with. To “crowd out” anxiety by intentionally filling our minds with excellent and worthy of praise things to get to grow in our spiritual aspect. Read post here.
Part 3 talks about how rejoicing in the Lord is healing or an antidote to anxiety, and how do we find that joy in Him. Read post here.
To reference, I recently attended a Mind Control online class. Some of the ideas I shared here are taken from that class under Professor Steve Joordens.