The Anxiety App. My constant companion. The source of my ever waning energy.
I’m turning it off. Deleting it. Swiping up.
Over the course of the past week, several things happened that caused me to worry about the future, sleep restlessly at best, allow anxiety to set the tone for my days, and feel the extreme effects of anxiety on my overall health. I have always carried anxiety in my physical body. When I was younger, stomach aches or headaches would show up when I knew things weren’t fair, right, or pleasant for someone around me. It seemed to happen the most when something was actually unfair. A physically challenged classmate being targeted by bullies on our way home from school. An adult educator who didn’t handle power fairly. Anyone who knew me when I was younger would probably be surprised that I struggled. I masked it bravely with smiles and kindness, but there were many times when my mind was racing and wanting to make changes for people and situations surrounding me.
Fast forward to adulthood. Unfortunately, not much seems to have changed. I still seem to allow things around me to affect my overall mental state, energy level, and ability to concentrate. As most of you know, I am a born-again Christian and that can cause quite the conundrum in my mind. I truly do trust God with my life, but I struggle with letting go of the control over things I want to change or “make better” for the people around me whom I love dearly.
Last week, I was talking to my adult daughter and trying to explain to her how I was feeling and it suddenly occurred to me that anxiety had become like an App on an iPhone that is constantly open in the background, running the battery down, and causing me to have less time to spend on the things and people I love. When things are hard at our house in the area of relationships or parenting, the Anxiety App keeps me awake at night, hinders my ability to completely absorb the beauty of my surroundings, and wreaks havoc on my physical state. I frequently end up with headaches, body aches, and stomach aches due to having the Anxiety App running in the background for days at a time.
The Anxiety App is a phrase I have coined to explain how anxiety works in the human mind. I was actually relieved to find a way to clearly explain to my adult daughter how anxiety affects me daily. There have been many times recently when our family has had both joy-filled and stressful occasions occurring simultaneously. Well, the Anxiety App has caused me to allow the stressful occasions to stay up and running in the background of my mind throughout the entire joy-filled occasion. It absolutely sucks the life out of the joyous occasion itself. What a powerful, energy-draining App to have running in my brain!
This season of staying at home and beginning a new journey as a COVID-19 home based instruction teacher and as a new foster parent to one of my students, I have had to find ways to shut down the Anxiety App. I have been intentional about recognizing it, calling it what it is, and turning it off completely. There is no doubt in my mind that Satan would love nothing more than to steal every ounce of joy out of a believer’s mind and heart. He works hard to remind me of stressful people, occasions, events, and memories. I have worked harder than ever to stay emotionally healthy during this new and trying season in my life.
Here are some action items I have implemented to curtail the Anxiety App:
- Pray for God to redirect your thoughts when they are heading in the wrong direction. God wants our thoughts to be pure, kind, and holy so ask Him to help you with this. When my mind starts thinking about things that are out of my control, I remember to reign it in to what I can do to help in a situation and to look at what God wants me to do about it. That looks different for each person. You should never feel guilty if your reaction looks differently than other reactions. Our response to situations around us will be as varied as the way we look and the way we were raised. No one has the same schema going into a situation, therefore, we should not expect the same reaction to that situation. Respect one another’s differences in the way we react.
- Go to bible.com or the YouVersion Bible App and complete one of the thousands of Bible studies that are available online for free!! I have done two different studies called Anxious for Nothing and they were both extremely helpful, encouraging, and informative.
- Call or visit friends and family whom you love. Make sure you stay connected to the people who “fill your cup” with love, support, and encouragement.
- Take time for yourself whenever it is possible. (This is my worst area!) I tend to keep pushing forward until I’m about to drop over from exhaustion. I have been teaching middle school since 1988 and have learned to precariously balance working full-time with raising two loving biological children, one amazing step-daughter, and now an energetic adopted daughter as well. We have spent many a weekend traveling to football games, dance competitions, Color Guard competitions, and other things for our children. Over the past fifteen years, our somewhat hectic life has programmed me to never sit still or take a moment for myself. I am trying my best to remember that I need down time for myself and time with friends to rejuvenate and recharge my batteries so that I am at my best for everyone around me. This is a change I am planning to implement immediately in order to disarm the Anxiety App.
- Try a new hobby you have always wanted to try. Begin learning a new language on DuoLingo. Go to backyardchickens.com and start raising chickens. Paint a room a fresh, new color. Plant a fruit and vegetable garden. I am thrilled to share that The Outdoorsman and I started our very first garden this year and it has been a wonderful source of peace and contentment in our daily life. We are currently picking enormous zucchini, cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, and bell peppers to our heart’s content. (See blog post picture!) It has been a wonderful way to deal with the stress of the COVID-19 lockdown we are all currently experiencing.
- Recognize what your trigger points have become over the past couple of years. Try to communicate these clearly to your family. If the kitchen counter needs to be clear of extraneous debris (hint, hint ;)) then share that with your family so that they can help. If you need for someone to help you with the dishes (should I say hint, hint again or is that too much? ;)) then let your family know that you need help there as well. My family has learned that I absolutely cannot watch the evening news or watch a tv show or movie with a lot of cursing or violence. It honestly upsets me to the core. I have to walk out of the room. They make me anxious and uncomfortable. I internalize everything I see around me so I have to make sure that I am seeing things that are healthy and educational. That is why I post so many beautiful pictures on my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I search for beauty at the end of each day so I can experience peace in my mind and heart.
Little by little, you and I can turn off the Anxiety App. I am taking measures to turn it off every single day. When things around me start to unravel, I immediately sense that the Anxiety App is up and running. I can physically feel it draining the energy and happiness right out of me. The longer the app runs before I address it, the harder and harder it is for me to recharge my battery at the end of the day. If I let the Anxiety App run for several days unheeded, my battery dies and I end up sick or in bed with extreme fatigue or some illness that wipes me out for a day or two. The Outdoorsman knows and recognizes when I am allowing the Anxiety App to take control of my thoughts.
You and I have complete control over this app. It isn’t installed into us from birth. We choose to download it in our desire to control the world around us. When the world seems as out of control as it has in recent months, it is especially hard not to download the Anxiety App. There is some great news I want to share with you. We were never meant to control the world. Only God has the wisdom, power, and knowledge to control all people and all things. We need to step out of the way and let Him do his job. We will notice that the Anxiety App will become obsolete in our daily lives the more and more we hand control over to God.
Turn off the Anxiety App. Delete it. I am putting my finger on it, pressing down, and pressing the “X” right now.