“Thinking Our Way Out?”

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.                                                                                                                                      Matthew 6:33-34

I had occasion recently to talk with a client who had a traumatic event in her family which triggered an anxiety reaction in her. In speaking with her about developing her “anxiety tool kit”,  I explained that making a list of behaviors she could employ in times of anxiety was the way to deal with her anxiety. I told her that she would not be able to “think her way out” of anxiety. This struck her, because she was used to having a “wrestling match” in her head when anxiety struck. When I challenged her idea of thinking her way out of a thinking problem, she paused and said, “I never though of that- that makes sense!”

We typically do the same things over and over in order to deal with our problems. Novel approaches are seen as risky, often times. The truth is, anxiety is a travelling partner -an unwanted one to be sure- and we need to accept the fact that anxiety will rise up at various times. The approach we need to take is that, when anxiety strikes (not if, but when), we have the tools to deal with it. We can pause, pray, then employ our behavioral strategies which can break the hold of anxious thoughts.

 We can take control of the situation by preparing behavioral responses to it. Our “anxiety tool kit” includes those activities, such as controlled breathing to start the list, which we can actively employ to deal with the irrational thoughts we call anxiety.   

We can remind ourselves that avoidance of anxiety is not the key, but rather when anxiety rises up, we can employ effective tools to deal with it. We can exercise control over anxiety as long as we don’t start to assess self-blame which just compounds the problem.

The list of small practical behaviors we can employ when feeling stressed or anxious allows us to take an active, controlled behavioral approach to dealing with anxiety.

We are not going to “think our way out of anxiety”. However, we can be effective in dealing with anxious thoughts by using good, practical behaviors which give us control of a situation which feels out of control.

Prayer: Lord, give us the pause to be able to reach out to you when we are anxious, and to see that you have made provision for us, Amen

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