Written by Day Marshall, LMHC (Senior Clinician)
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons people enter a therapeutic setting. The symptoms of anxiety can be as varied as the individuals it affects, but generally, it shows up as jumbled, racing thoughts of worry and negativity about self or others, resulting in an impaired ability to focus, process options, problem solve, or make decisions. Anxiety often manifests physically as sweaty palms, increased heart rate, lightheadedness, and either lack of purposeful motion or excessive activity.
At times, Christians who come to counseling with a hope to resolve anxiety can express a sense of failure or disappointment in their walk with God. There is a belief that their anxious thoughts and feelings are somehow related to a lack of faith or ability to rest in God’s goodness. And though resting in God plays a part in the management of anxiety, it is often relieving for clients to recognize that anxiety is very often closely related to values, beliefs and coping strategies established in early childhood, usually long before a comprehensive understanding of God is formed. This means that learning how to apply faith and God’s truths to anxiety responses can take some coaching and skills building: learning proper application of God’s healing balm, if you will.
Since many neurological pathways are solidly established for anxious responses early in life, it is helpful to have the capacity to apply critical thinking and reason to practical skills building in order to carve new pathways for responding to stressors. Faith and God’s truth can be powerful components in establishing these new responses. For example, applying Scripture and God’s promises during grounding and self-soothing techniques can often be very effective at mitigating the impacts of anxiety. One possible application of this is the practice of breathing in deeply while thinking, “He is my refuge” or “Rest for the weary”, and then visualizing breathing out worry and fear.
Rather than experiencing guilt or a sense of failure, those with anxiety can be encouraged that peace and rest for the anxious mind is closely related to learning how to apply the healing balm of God to those affected areas.