A Letter to my Anxious Self

Our eleven part series of Pastoral Helps continues! We hope you are finding the talks and devotionals helpful. If you’ve just dropped in, you can sign up for the free Navigating Worry course here.

In this eighth post, we have found a helpful tool that helps some people struggling with anxiety, is to write a short letter to read during troubled times and difficult seasons…I hope this post helps ♡

Friend

I know you are in the middle of one of those times when the familiar is out of reach and peace is silent, I know you are scared. 

So first off, well done for even picking up this letter. You will come through this. I don’t know how long it will take, because, as ever, anxiety doesn’t respect your time, appointments, or social occasions, sleep, holidays… the list goes on. 

But let’s remember a few things! 

You are strong, courageous, and creative. 

You are loved by many, and you are beautiful kind. 

You have so much to look forward to, this time you’re in will not become who you are. 

Please, be kind to yourself by taking one step to wellness. 

Knowing you, it’d be good to acknowledge the source of your anxiety. Remember, anxiety is normal and ok and even embrace it and accept the thoughts – just don’t believe them. 

You are not going insane, you might be afraid, but you’re not losing it. 

I know your room feels safer than anywhere else, but try and engage with life and don’t isolate yourself today. 

Remember when you’re well, you always say that the moment you reached out to someone, that It changed everything? 

Remember the emoji symbol you use with your friend to let her know you’re struggling. Maybe now’s the time to send it…? 

Just a few more tips to remember that have worked for you in the past! 

Get into nature, eat healthy, whole food, drink water. Cut down on caffeine and dare I say it, alcohol – your body needs to reduce the toxins – plus you need a good night’s sleep. 

Stop googling symptoms and illnesses – you don’t have time to worry about things you don’t have. 

Remember the times that you have come through – there is light, and there is a future for you. You are stronger than your anxiety, which means you have the strength to cope with your anxiety.  

From, Your thoughtful self

Scott 

Simply knowing that I’m prone to anxiety helps me when I start to feel anxious. I used to think that I couldn’t possibly struggle with depression or anxiety because I have the Holy Spirit, but yet I would obsess about my regrets and get extremely nervous in social situations which led me to believe that my insecurities must be true and that I’m actually not acceptable to other people. Then, when a series of life events made my anxiety severe (still not knowing it was anxiety) I started to experience all kinds of physical symptoms and pains which made me all the more anxious, increasing the physical symptoms to the point where I literally couldn’t sleep or function, and I had to seek help. Some of those mild physical symptoms still come up when I start to feel anxious, but knowing that I’m feeling light-headed because of anxiety and not because of a heart condition allows me to breathe, change my thoughts, and let it pass. When I was paranoid about every twinge in my body, my counselor instructed me to ignore them for 10 minutes before I investigate the pain. I almost never thought about that twinge ever again. I had to learn that just because I thought something, it didn’t make it true. This involves turning to God for what is true because even if I do experience a twinge that turns out to be a disease, He promises peace.

Meditate and Memorise: 

‘So let us acknowledge him! Let us seek to acknowledge the LORD! He will come to our rescue as certainly as the appearance of the dawn, as certainly as the winter rain comes, as certainly as the spring rain that waters the land.’ Hosea 6:3

Listen: Steadfast, Joshua Leventhal. 

The Lord surrounds his People

‘Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.’ This verse stood out to me from the fourth session of Phil’s anxiety talks on the Fill In, was verse one of Psalm 125. Link to the course here.

The Psalm desclares, ‘those who trust in the Lord are as unshakeable, as immovable as mighty Mount Zion! Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord’s wrap-around presence surrounds his people, protecting them now and forever.’ 

Psalm 125 is part of the collection of Psalms known as ‘a song of ascents.’ Songs sung by pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem during festival times. Imagine yourself as the pilgrim heading up to Jerusalem, Mount Zion ahead, the place where the temple stands. Your mind wanders to the many victories that have taken place there. Mount Zion, while the centre, it wasn’t the highest. I love this, that as the pilgrim saw the immovable, solid Zion, he also saw the surrounding mountains as God’s presence – His wrap-around presence. 

Imagine our world of thoughts as a weather system surrounding Mount Zion, dark clouds, swirling, foreboding, storming – your anxious thoughts and struggles written in the dark. 

Back to this verse, you are like the mountain. You are not the weather. Be still, and take your place on Mount Zion and see beyond the storm to the higher mountains surrounding you. You can be secure in your soul with this promise.   

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8 

There’s a great story in the bible about the prophet Elisha who woke one morning and found that the enemy surrounded the city. Elisha told the servant, ‘don’t be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  I’m sure the servant was a little confused at Elisha’s counting. The whole army versus two does not equal victory. 

THEN. 

“Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17) The all-around in this verse is the same meaning as surrounds in Psalm 125:2. And in Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)

I love the practice of Lectio Divina, or Holy Reading – feasting on the word. 

Let’s feast on this verse in Psalm 125 word today,  

‘Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.’

  • Read the verse out loud, listen to the verse, hear God is speaking to you. 
  • Pick a word or phrase from the verse that stands out to you and meditate on it. For me, it was trust (again…) 
  • Pray about what you’ve just read, ‘why am I focusing on trust Lord, what do you want to show me?’ In my current world, where clouds threaten to shift the weather pattern away from the promise of peace. His word asks me to trust him. He has me surrounded. 
  • Ask the Lord how He wants you to respond to this verse, how will I change, how will the word transform me? How will I live differently? 

From this final response, it is useful to respond with a written prayer or write out some steps to transformation. Or, simply rest, sit still and repeat the word or phrase, for example, ‘’you surround me, Lord,’ 

Love, Michelle 

Scott 

It seems to me that prayer and scripture are essential for keeping your mind on truth, and I would frequently cry out in prayer and turn to the bible for answers in my darkest moments. But if I’m honest, it wasn’t easy. I was so sick with anxiety that opening my bible felt somewhat like walking into a hospital. I knew that I needed to be there and that there was healing to be found, but it was almost easier not to touch the wounds. My anxiety would increase just because I was addressing my anxiety. And prayer, well God definitely didn’t answer my prayers in the timing I asked Him to. I think the best thing that I did regarding prayer was to ask others to be in prayer for me. Now that my anxiety is more under control, it is my goal to be in daily devotions and to keep giving everything over to God through prayer. It’s better for my life, and it’s better for my mind.

Tamara 

Scripture tells us we can have God’s peace guard our hearts and minds. I’ve dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember, so this idea of peace always seemed elusive to me.

I would read Scriptures like Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you,” and I would get frustrated that I didn’t have this perfect peace.

It was when I realized that those wasn’t a passive thing, but something I had to choose, that I started to understand how to have peace guard my mind instead of anxiety. It’s about choosing to trust and keep our minds on God. In 1 Peter 5:7, we’re told to “Cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for [us].” That says we have to do something.

When anxiety comes, I have to choose to give it to God, and then I need to declare my trust in Him. I declare the truth of what scripture says about God and who He says I am. Often I do this out loud, so I can hear it.

To do this in the moment when anxiety comes, I have to be daily in scripture, filling my mind with the truth. That is when I’m able to declare it when anxiety comes.

From a practical perspective, I’ve actually created a list in my phone of Scripture I can read when anxiety comes. It helps me to more quickly turn my mind back to God.

Mediate and Memorise

‘When I said, ‘My foot is slipping, your love, O LORD, supported me. When my anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.’ Psalm 94:18-19

Listen: House on a Hill, Amanda Cook 

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened…


‘I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.’ Mark Twain

Session three on our Navigating Worry online course, explores hypothetical worry, i.e., worrying about future events, imagined scenarios that cannot be solved or action taken and the likelihood that the script will never take place. 

I’ve been thinking about the thoughts we often have when everything is going well. Have you ever had that? Work is good, the family is #blessed. Brene Brown describes at that point that joy itself can become foreboding. ‘That impending feeling that it’s going to be taken away and that in moments of joyfulness, we try to beat vulnerability to the punch. It can often happen when you have experienced disappointment. The habit of waiting for the next bad thing, or, on the other hand, I speak to some who feel so blessed, and things are going so well, their mind hovers around ‘things are so good something will go wrong soon enough.’

Brene shares a poignant story in her book, Daring Greatly, about a man she interviewed who admitted to her that he never allowed himself to be too joyful about anything in life. An elderly man who lived a life ready to be disappointed. He made an effort to never get too excited or too joyful so that he would be prepared if things didn’t work out and pleasantly surprised if things did.

Then one tragic day, he lost his wife of 40 years to a car accident. ‘The second I realized that she was gone, the first thing I thought was ‘I should have leaned harder into those moments of joy. Because [foreboding joy] did not protect me from what I feel right now.’

Proverbs 15:15 in the Amplified Bible says this, ‘all the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances].’

What is a foreboding? The dictionary definition describes, ‘a feeling that evil is impending or that something bad is going to happen.’

Worry can feel omnipresent, constant, an irritation, a dripping tap of what if’s and dread – of waiting… a familiar subtle presence hovering over and gnawing at your everyday existence, Song of Solomon 2:15, ‘catch the little foxes that are ruining your vineyard.’ Catch them. To do so, we must first recognize them and name them.

The verse goes on to say, ‘he who has a glad hard has a continual feast (regardless of circumstances) Scripture is full of promises such as this, or Psalm 27:13, where David writes, ‘what would have become of me had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!’

You know by now that I’ve known and still know the reality of struggle and darkness in my family, and I know this is often not a quick fix. But I do know the freedom of God’s promises.

Let us recognize the source of forebodings and not let them overpower us. 

Yes – there are often many reasons for our soul be too downcast – let us learn to live with a glad heart, allowing our soul to prosper, taking thoughts captive – continually feasting. If the ‘forebodings’ are something you experience,  ask someone to pray with you, to speak life over you and remind yourself of God’s word for your life. 

Have you been able to recognize the forebodings that gnaw at you, the little foxes destroying? Do you need to be reminded of God’s promise again today?

Let us know if you’re finding these teaching sessions and devotionals helpful! 

Love, Michelle 

Today, we begin our ‘real-life story’ section, where, after each devotional, you will find a story from someone I know who has experienced worry/anxiety/stress and what they have done/are doing to find their way through. 

Rose

Anxiety often comes in the form of an attack. A mental one, sometimes a physical one, and I feel it is certainly always a spiritual one. For me it can range from charging my phone constantly, so I have enough battery to call someone in an ‘inevitable’ and irrational emergency, or being too afraid to leave the house/go to new places in case something bad happens, to a throat closing, heart-pounding panic attack while in the car – all of which can make day-to-day living difficult. So to me, anxiety is very much a feeling of impending doom. It’s the enemy finding a way in and spreading like a slow-acting poison, consuming you with worry and dread, which is why it’s so important to find your antidote. Because of this, for me, prayer is the number one remedy as oftentimes living with anxiety can make you feel isolated and weakened to a point where you don’t feel able to talk to anyone about it – sometimes your only option is to call out to God and give it to Him when you can no longer deal with the all too familiar weight of these worries. It can also be so easy to let yourself become buried in your mind, letting fear dictate you and making you forget to live, so what is helpful to me in these moments is having people around me that I trust who push me out of my comfort zone – not too far, but far enough so that I don’t let the stress of these feelings win. What further helps me when I feel anxiety building is trying to reassure myself that I’m safe, telling myself that these overwhelming emotions are probably temporary, that the rustling I heard outside at night isn’t sinister but an animal or something of nature, that statistically, what are the chances of something bad happening to me out of everyone else in the world? I will also tend to put on a familiar nostalgic movie or tv show that I know brings me comfort. Hopefully, with such coping mechanisms and with time the voice of anxiety may become quieter, and though the fear may never fully leave, you can move forward with the knowledge that you have the strength, courage, hope, and faith that things will get easier and that with God you are never alone.

Meditate and Memorise

‘You cannot lose your standing with God. You are an adopted son or daughter of the King’ Galatians 4:5–6

Listen: Still.