If you’re struggling with anxiety, do this first.
Anxiety can feel like falling into a deep pit. It’s scary and unfamiliar, you don’t know which way is up and you don’t know how long it will be before you are rescued.
You don’t know whether to sit and wait or claw yourself out. You wonder…is it chemical or emotional? Has it always been there and never manifested or is it related to a new condition? Is it treatable? How long will it last?
When I was in the throes of anxiety, I just did what it took to get through the day. I tried a lot of techniques over the years with varying degrees of success but it’s only now in looking back that I can tell you what I needed to do first.
As a part of this series about my struggle with anxiety (the first one was called What people struggling with anxiety want you to know), I’ll talk about some of the remedies and coping skills I acquired along the way but I would be remiss if I didn’t start here.
Before you can overcome anxiety, you have to know who you are.
When it came to the emotional root of my anxieties, my identity was at its core.
When you don’t know who you are, you…
- let people define you
- resort to people pleasing and defining yourself by your “doing”
- allow criticism to cut you to the core
- over-analyze in an effort to control
- allow people to manipulate you
- buy into beliefs about being unworthy
- feel the need to defend yourself and your actions
- shy away from close relationships
- struggle with measuring up (because there is no yard stick!)
Go back and read that list. Do any of those resonate with you?
I can relate to all of them.
The worst one for me was this: you think God is displeased with you.
All of that exacerbates anxiety.
During my journey, I eventually cut back on busyness, learned to face some fears, stopped worrying so much and gave up on most of my people-pleasing ways but by far, the work that had the greatest impact had to do with rediscovering my identity.
Women have a lot of identities today! We’re wives, mothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, volunteers, public servants, entrepreneurs, homemakers, crafters, leaders, authors…the list is long.
We all have a unique personality style, special gifts, quirks, and passions. We can spend a lifetime learning and embracing these things.
And if we’re not careful, we can allow any of the above to define us.
So. Who are you? How do you define yourself?
Are you loved and accepted? Are you worthy? Are you enough?
Whatever your beliefs and values, “who am I?” is the most important question you can ask yourself.
When anxiety strikes and you start spinning, being confident in your identity is what will ground you.
As for me, I am first and foremost a child of God, created in God’s own image, placed on this planet to be loved by God and to love others. Anything outside of that is just frosting.
I don’t have to earn God’s love or work for His favor. No matter what I do, He can’t love me more…or less. God is for me, with me and calls me His friend. I am adopted, redeemed and bought with a price. He desires my worship more than my works. He doesn’t want me to be religious, He just wants my undivided attention.
There was a time when anxiety felt like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wondered what calamity would next befall me. I slowly realized that God has targeted me–for good.
Knowing that changes the way I carry myself. It slows my heart rate, calms my mind and stops the spinning.
Reveling in God’s love is even better than a cup of tea under a warm blanket on a stormy day. It is my lifeline.
If you struggle with anxiety, you have to know who you are.
My hope for you is that you will know, embrace and celebrate your identity.
For now, I can tell you that you are loved, accepted and enough.