May 15, 2022
By Beverly Ward
From Science: Like most all things, anxiety exists on a continuum, at one end is low-level, helpful anxiety and at the other end is debilitating anxiety. In this article we are discussing problematic anxiety, which is an epidemic in the United States. We are the most anxious country in the world and currently the most anxious we have been in the history of our country. Studies show that when people move to the U.S. from other countries their anxiety spikes, it is as if it is contagious. It is reported that the average child in the U.S. today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient of the 1950s. College freshmen report all times lows in overall mental health and all time highs in anxiety. All of the studies I mentioned above are pre-COVID; post-COVID data indicates that the number of people seeking mental healthcare has increased tenfold and anxiety is the number one reason. Today, if you are not experiencing anxiety, you may be the odd man out. I'm not sure what is going on in our culture, but I am sure that we have excellent tools to deal with anxiety.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we conceptualize anxiety through the risk/resource model. This model tells us that we become anxious when we overestimate risk and underestimate our resources to cope with the risk. We can manage the acute symptoms of anxiety with calming techniques, but we can change our anxiety when we change our unhelpful thought habits. Treatment for axiety includes both learning methods to calm acute symptoms and the deeper work of changing the way we think. Therapeutic tools for anxiety are highly effective and we generally see great success. Don't hesitate to seek help if you are one of the millions of people with problematic anxiety.
From Scripture: Do you struggle with Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."? If you do, you are not alone, not by a long shot. Many faithful Christians suffer from anxiety and then worry that they are failing God, or that He is mad at them because of it. Here’s the scoop: This scripture is meant to encourage us, not to condemn anyone. How do I know? Well, because that is what it says, only there is a bit of difficulty seeing it because of verb tenses. The original manuscripts of the bible were written mostly in Hebrew, with some Greek in the New Testament and a bit of Aramaic in the Old Testament. This verse in Philippians came to Paul from the Holy Spirit and Paul originally wrote it in Koine Greek, because this was the language of his audience. Translating it into English, we encounter a problem of nuance and verb tense such that the full meaning is abbreviated a bit in the translation. In its full meaning this verse is saying: 'don't live in a perpetual state of anxiety, don't let you life be saturated in it'. The remainder of the verse is translated with full effect and I think it is saying, when you are battling anxiety, turn to God with gratitude and ask for His help.
Jesus himself, in his humanity, experienced anxiety, He faced fears. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked God, if it was possible, to take His cup of suffering. He prayed with such emotion that streams of blood flowed down his face. What He felt was intense and human. In our humanity, we too sometimes feel intense fear, anxiety, fret, and worry. God knows this and offers us His love and the power of His Words in which to take shelter. I believe he also offers us tools from behavioral science to help us clear our minds to be better able to rest in him.
(If you are one of the many who fret over what technology is doing to our world, know that this blog was greatly enhanced by using the internet to do a language study. Like many things, technology can be either a curse or a blessing, it is all in what we do with it.)
Action Plan: Don’t meditate on the mess, what we focus on gets bigger. Gratitude drives out anxiety, shift your focus to your blessings by regularly keeping a gratitude journal, and steeping your mind in the promises of God's Word. Try listening to praise and worship music, play it in the car or in the background as you go about your day. Add diaphragmatic breathing to your coping skills tool box, in the Lagniappe section there is an excellent video to teach and explain diaphragmatic breathing.
Max Lucado wrote an excellent book and bible study on anxiety: Anxious for Nothing. Below is a talk he gives sharing some information from his book. It is full of excellent and very helpful information and well worth the investment of time in watching it.