I stood on the verge of a mental collapse, holding a bed comforter set in one hand and my phone to my ear with the other. I felt the hot tears streaming down my face mingled with the humiliation of crying over something so ridiculous as this. Why couldn’t I just make up my mind for crying out loud?? It’s just a stupid comforter that no one will see but me and my husband.
But I couldn’t make up my mind. I had already traipsed around 4 different stores trying to find the perfect comforter for my bed in my new house. I called my husband and cried on the phone with him explaining that I just couldn’t make up my mind and he calmly told me he would help me figure it out when he got back in town.
How could something so miniscule send me over the edge of a mental breakdown cliff? Ugh I needed to pull myself together but how??? Hormone injections? A huge tall skinny cinnamon dolce latte with whipped cream on top? Or maybe a B12 shot would help? NO- I needed a HUGE gourmet cupcake with buttercream frosting and sprinkles. No,no…… all of those are too superficial. This clearly carried the spiritual stamp and I knew I needed to address my anxiety spiritually.
You see, my husband and I had just walked through one of the most difficult seasons of our life. We sold our business, uprooted from our home of 10 years and moved, closed our church, shut down my music ministry and started working full time in the years leading up the this moment. We lived in apartments and duplexes for a few years while we waited on our house to sell. All of that transition left my nerves raw and overworked.
So as I stood there attempting to pick out a new comforter set for my bedroom in the house that we finally closed on after waiting 4 years, I realized the toll of those last few years on my body. I felt completely incapable of making a decision in that moment. I honestly just wanted to curl up in a ball and melt into the floor.
Have you ever endured so much stress that you felt like you couldn’t even make a simple decision?? That’s what stress does to us. Prolonged periods of stress make us feel paralyzed, hopeless and afraid. And really that’s all anxiety is- unresolved stress festering into a huge blister that MUST be dealt with or we risk infection. Apparently I do not deal with stress as evidenced by the fact that I require massage therapy almost every week or my muscles lock down. But still, even with the massages, the stress remains.
If you are reading this, you are probably a lot like me: a type A personality. You work really hard; you get things done no matter the toll it might take on you. You are goal driven, probably a perfectionist and independent. That all sounds so good on a resume but it can destroy a person when those characteristics are not bridled by the Holy Spirit. The propensity to meet a goal can drain us and send us to an early grave.
How do we deal with our stress so it doesn’t become an anxiety trap for us? The answer to this question is an on-going pursuit for me because I don’t like who I become when I’m stressed and anxious. I think we need to practice PAUSING. Yes, I said PAUSE. Ugh I hate pausing when I’m in the middle of a project or idea; it feels excruciating to me to stop and breathe when I’m in the throes of what seems like the greatest idea I’ve ever had in my ENTIRE life!!! But as I think it through, I feel my neck ache, my head throb and I fumble through my purse for my Ibuprofen, I realize I need a break before I snap my neck in half. It’s ok….the project will be there when we get back. We just need a few moments of respite and then we can jump back in.
What do we do when we pause anyway?? Read a book, go see a movie with a friend, go for a walk or drive, jump on a trampoline, roller skate, play with your kids or grandkids or puppy…….it doesn’t matter as long as YOU like it and it’s fun! Wait, fun…what is that? That’s like speaking a foreign language to a type A kind of girl. But the truth is we are feeling overwhelmed by life and we need a release to get rid of that pressure. Our minds and bodies need a reset so engaging in a few fun things does that for us. It helps us de-clutter.
Once we get the “fun” aspect dealt with, we can turn to the spiritual side of pausing. You already know this- pray, worship, meditate on God, fellowship with other believers, bible study, etc. Sometimes many of us bypass the fun aspect and go straight to the spiritual side of things. And sometimes that works just fine….but other times we need to deal with our physical bodies first. That’s actually scriptural. When Jesus ministered to the masses, he often times FED them physical food first. Then he dealt with the spiritual.
Sometimes our anxiety is a restlessness stemming from something our physical body actually needs and once we meet that need we can move on to the deeper issues. Just try this the next time you get stressed- or better yet do it on a regular basis- and see if you seem better equipped to deal with life and avoid the anxiety trap.
I’ll leave you with this reminder from Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.