Over the years I’ve struggled with anxiety. At its worst, it’s paralysing, leaving me unable to think or move or breathe. Simple tasks feel fraught with danger and overwhelming significance. Little tasks, like chores feel overwhelming.
Ask me what’s wrong and I can’t explain. There’s a list of trivialities, but nothing to explain the sense that everything is breaking. So how can I help myself? And how can I (and others like me), be helped?
- Take me seriously: but not my fears. Anxiety is like a whirlpool that sucks others in. You’re there to help give perspective and to remind me that this whirlpool is not all there is.
- Don’t tell me to pull myself together or that I’m being silly. I know my fears are out of control and if I could just get it together, I would. Instead, help me to cope.
- It’s hard being around someone who is really stressed and the temptation is to either run away or shut them down. Instead, be aware of what their fears are arousing in you and don’t take it out on them. It’s okay to find this difficult, but pray or talk through your response with a wise Christian.
- Empathise – even though my worries are completely overblown, they FEEL real; and it helps to know you see my distress, (but aren’t afraid of it). Are there times in your life where you have felt overwhelmed? Are there other areas of life where you feel out of your depth? How can you get in touch with those feelings?
- Don’t keep bringing up my anxiety; it makes me anxious (!) and reinforces my belief that it’s who I am.
- Christ is bigger than any fear and He calls us to bring them to Him. Help me do this by praying with and for me. Remind me of how the Psalmists cry out their tears and their terror – and how God answers. God’s word helps put fears into perspective so that we can see them as they really are. Like origami – we fold them under Scripture until a pattern emerges; a shape that we can put into our pocket.
- Remind me that at times, everyone feels anxious – I am not weird or ungodly or beyond help.
- God can use my anxiety for good. The bible shows me this – and it helps to hear it from you too. Tell me your fear stories and how God was faithful. Show me how He can use even our fears to bring us closer to Him; to teach us more about our dependence and His strength; to trust in His promises, not our feelings.
- Teach me to challenge my fears. This is more than just coming to you for help, (though that may be a part). It’s about teaching me to ask questions of my worries; and to argue with them, by using the promises of God.
- Gently encourage me to face them. Avoidance makes them worse and shrinks life until nothing is safe. Help me break big fears into smaller, manageable goals. For example, if I’m scared of large groups, start by helping me meet one or two new people. Celebrate these victories – and help me see how God is giving me strength.
- Give me time and don’t take it personally. I’m not cancelling because I dislike you or don’t want to come. Sometimes I just need space to recharge and rest.
- Know that I love Jesus and I know He’s got me in the mess. And please know that I so appreciate your love and prayers and support and I thank Him for our friendship.