Life is unpredictable. When the twists and turns are mild the unexpected can be pleasant, but sometimes our lives are changed dramatically in ways we couldn’t have imagined. When that happens, just making it through the day becomes a challenge. Anxiety is what we feel when the uncertainty of life becomes overwhelming. Our minds frantically bounce from one thought to the next trying to fix, repair, predict, prepare, relate, or overcome. As our inability to control everything becomes apparent, so does our discomfort. Soon the headaches, backaches, or stomach pains set in. If anxiety has become a common companion this week, here are three practices that may offer some relief:
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It seems impossible to ignore our anxious thoughts for an entire day, but 10 minutes is a reasonable start. When today’s anxious thought comes crashing in on you, decide to set it aside for 10 minutes. How long is this virus going to last? What happens if I’m not able to be at work next month? Those are fair questions, but sometimes we just don’t have the answers. Say to yourself, “I will limit my thoughts to what’s in front of me today for the next 10 minutes”. If after that time, you decide that you are ready to pick the thought back up, you can. If you would like to set it aside for another ten minutes, then that’s your prerogative as well. Sometimes an answer just isn’t available. Remember, it’s not laziness or procrastination to set aside a topic until a time when our brain can think more clearly about it! Once your mind is clear enough to find the first step in the task at hand, you are ready to proceed. One step taken is better than 10 steps obsessed over. Often times the overwhelming size of the forest keeps us from chopping down the first tree.
Give Yourself Permission To Rest
The more exhausted we become the more intense our anxiety becomes. When we are tired, we are unable to think clearly and life feels like nothing more than 1000 issues that we can’t resolve, swirling around in our minds all at once. Battling anxiety requires a great deal of mental energy. So, as hard as it can be, set a time to be in bed and stick to it. Tell yourself (out loud if necessary) that your day is over and that you cannot accomplish anything else until morning. At that point, stop making lists (either on paper or in your head), let go, and go to sleep. This may take some practice and could include a few nights of staring at the ceiling, telling your brain to knock it off! But stay committed to the routine and your body will adjust.
Repeat After Me: “Who I Am Is More Than What I Do…”
It’s incredibly tempting to believe that I am only doing well when I have done everything, and have done it perfectly. But that’s just not the case. Life is hard and we are imperfect. Even at our best, some tasks are impossible. Who you are is more than just a reflection of how well you perform. You can control your effort but not always the outcomes, so show yourself a bit or mercy! Think of all of the imperfect people that you love, odds are, several of them love you back without needing you to be perfect either.
Implementing these three things into your life will reduce your anxiety and give you greater clarity in your thinking. We may not be able to avoid all anxiety in life, but we can keep it from controlling us. And finally, remember the fact that God is in control, means you don’t have to be. May God bless you this week with a peace that is bigger than you could have imagined possible.