Do you get anxious? Yeah, me too. That’s why I developed this five-step process to manage anxiety, so I can pray and talk myself down in a powerful and effective way. Click below to get access to printable anxiety-buster prompts, so you access this strategy at any time. It’s just one of many resources available in my resource collection for Christian moms.
This past weekend my brain was in a fog. Our family has had a very busy few weeks with guests visiting from out of town, day trips and starting school. Not to mention I was feeling a lot of work pressure and so was my husband.
I hadn’t had much time to rest and so my stress level was…kinda high. To top it all off, it’s felt like our finances have gotten out of control. We have a vacation coming up soon that we’re pretty locked into, but to make a long story short, the unexpected has happened. Repeatedly. The numbers aren’t looking good.
For someone who really prides herself on being “in control,” these conditions are a foolproof recipe for high anxiety. Not to mention guilt and fear and shame and a host of other related emotions.
Anxiety looks a little different for everyone. Your heart can start racing at the speed of your thoughts; your breath gets shallow; you can’t sleep; you’re panicky and scared. Maybe you drift into a full-blown panic attack where your whole world is spinning; or if you’re like me, the anxiety hums in the background while your life hurtles along at breakneck speed.
(By the way, panic attacks are a sign you need to seek professional help. There’s no shame in that.)
Since I’ve become a stress management coach, I’ve fortunately picked up some tools to manage anxiety as well. (Surprise! Stress and anxiety are related!) When I get worked up, this process helps me calm down quickly and effectively.
Related Post: Stress Management: 5 Surprising Truths for the Busy Mama
5 Steps To Manage Anxiety
1. Deep Breathing
It almost seems too simple. But when we’re anxious, we forget how to breathe. Instead of inhaling deeply with the diaphragm, our breaths are shallow and our pulse races; we don’t get enough oxygen, which stresses our bodies out even more. You can see how this might quickly spiral out of control.
Breathing deeply slows down the heart rate and the release of stress hormones. It will instantly make you feel better in the height of an anxious moment.
So here’s how to be better at breathing:
- Practice it when you’re calm. Like, daily. I’ve made it a part of my morning ritual to take several deep breaths when I start to pray. From time to time I also do deep breathing with my kids before they go to bed (because they need practice too!).
- Check if you even know how to breathe properly. Lie flat on your back and place your hands over your belly. Breathe from the diaphragm, which is the muscle beneath your lungs. Your belly should rise significantly. Shallow breathing, on the other hand, comes from the top of your chest and is not nearly as effective making your calm.
- When you’re in the height of anxiety, stop. Think of breathing and nothing but breathing for a few minutes. Count how many seconds you inhale and exhale; focus on your diaphragm; listen to your body. Observe as it naturally becomes more relaxed.
2. Ask: What Are You Afraid Of?
I ask myself this question to manage anxiety because anxiety is rooted in fear. I believe God created us with the capability to be anxious because it can protect us from danger, which is sometimes appropriate (sociopaths have like zero anxiety). But anxiety gets out of control because sometimes our fears aren’t rational.
I get out a pen and paper and just start writing and praying through my fears. Usually there’s more than one; they’re often connected. The more specific I can be, the better.
With the aforementioned financial situation, some of my fears include:
- I have failed in financial management.
- We are failing in our marriage because we can’t manage our money well.
- We might have to go into debt.
- We might never get out of that debt.
- God is punishing me.
- My family will suffer.
- People will judge me.
I’ll admit, it’s not easy, especially when you see how ridiculous some of your fears look on paper. But it creates a new perspective.
3. Ask: Are Those Fears Valid?
Look at your fears (or mine, if you need inspiration). Hopefully it’s obvious that some of them are more valid than others.
Whenever I do this exercise to manage anxiety, it makes me aware of a much bigger story. Namely, that I have an enemy whose mission is to feed my lies and turn me away from God (See Genesis 3:1, 1 Peter 5:8 and John 8:44, for starters). But it’s my choice whether I want to believe those lies or not.
This part is tricky because a lot of lies are half-truths (Satan’s a pro at those). That’s why it’s so important to get as specific as possible about your fears and break them down. For example: perhaps I have failed in financial management. But is that even an accurate way to describe the situation? By assessing the validity of my fears, I’m forced to get even more specific. I made a mistake about one or two decisions. But that doesn’t make me a failure overall. And that doesn’t mean we’ll suffer or that people will judge me.
I highly recommend using scripture against some of your fears to clarify what is true and what is false. One of my regular go-tos is 1 Corinthains 12:9.
I also find that making a mind map or flow chart can be very effective in this stage of managing anxiety. Instead of writing on lines, make bubbles and lines and get messy on your blank sheet of paper. Go nuts. It helps.
4. Surrender What You Can’t Control
Once you’ve hashed out your fears and determined what is valid, then you have to figure out what to do with that information. My fear is that we’ll go into debt because of some car repairs. That’s a valid fear. What’s outside of my control?
Well, I know that my past decisions are outside of my current control. I also know that many future circumstances are outside of my control.
I’ve got to let those things go. In prayer, I give them over to God.
1 Peter 5:6–7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Perhaps you know the second part, but it comes after the first. We must humble ourselves to let go of those things we so tightly grasp.
5. Act On What You Can Control
This might be my favorite step because I am a woman who looooves control. But I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to save this step for last. Otherwise you risk wasting your time and energy on the things you really have no power over.
Once you’ve thoroughly examined your fears and you’ve surrendered them to God (which you might have to do repeatedly, by the way), it should be fairly evident what you can do next. In my case, my husband and I need to simply go over our financial goals and our budget again so that we can be better prepared for the future.
But even then we’re not going to be in control of the unexpected. All we really have control over is the way we prepare for the unknown, and the way we respond.
If you found these tips helpful, you might enjoy printable the printable worksheet I created that will guide you through the process to manage anxiety, which you can find in my free resource collection for moms. You might also enjoy my 5-day email course, StressLESS. Sign up below for access to BOTH!