Though I’ve dealt with anxiety most of my life, I didn’t identify it as such until about 10 years ago. In fact, when I mentioned to my husband that I thought I have anxiety, he nearly laughed. He didn’t know I wasn’t aware, because it was obvious to him.
The struggle with having anxiety for most of your life is you don’t realize you’re different. I thought everyone thought the way I did. I was pretty sure ruminating on topics was common. And didn’t every child worry they’d get in a car accident with their family and be the only survivor?
It turns out, that’s not the case. In my journey with anxiety, I’ve learned more about how what I thought was normal (or was just a quirk of mine) is actually anxiety. I have also learned how anxiety and faith can co-exist. And I’ve figured out ways to shift my thoughts and attitude from anxiety and worry more fully onto God.
When it started
I was raised in the church and asked Jesus to live in my heart at age 10. I’m thankful and blessed to say I can’t remember a time when God wasn’t part of my life. He and I have always gotten along well.
However, I still have struggled with anxiety. While I have some ideas about why I have anxiety, including a genetic predisposition, those don’t matter as much as living and dealing with it.
I’ve had times in my life when my anxiety wasn’t as strong as others. One of the most difficult times I had was back in 2007 when my husband lost his job. He was our main income, and I wasn’t able to work full-time due to health issues. It took a year for him to find another job.
Though I could see God working throughout the entire situation and my husband ended up in a much better job, I still had intense anxiety and depression.
Just as that started to subside, we decided to start our family and move to another city. We sold our house twice while I was pregnant, and the buyers backed out both times. All of that together led to a perfect anxiety storm by the time our daughter was born in 2009. Eventually, my anxiety returned to “normal” levels. But my struggles weren’t over.
The struggle continued
By 2014, we had added a second child to our family and decided to build a new house nearby. Everything should have been good, but it wasn’t. Again, our house didn’t sell. Other life stressors piled on, and I did my best to just get through it all.
In the end, it took nine years to sell our home – talk about a season of waiting! When we finally sold the house and were moving forward on building our dream home, I knew I should be excited.
Instead, however, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. I trusted God would be with us throughout the process because I saw how He had been through every trial and hardship. I struggled, though, to see His goodness and blessings. I wasn’t sure He’d give us good things. My anxiety continued at full force.
My husband was a bit flummoxed about my feelings. Everything was finally falling into place. Why wasn’t I happy? So, we talked about it and figured out that what I needed most was to see God’s goodness. I needed to see what to be thankful for in my life.
From Negative to Positive
Basically, I needed to shift my attitude from the negative to the positive. Life is always going to have negative things, but I didn’t have to focus on them. Somehow that had become my habit and was only increasing my anxiety levels.
In an effort to change to see the positive things, I started doing two things:
- praying to see God’s goodness in my life and
- keeping a gratitude journal. (Purchase Stacey’s journal at the bottom of this post.)
Then, I overlapped the two.
Throughout my time dealing with anxiety, I realized I hadn’t actually asked God for help with it. I’d prayed for many things, but that wasn’t one of them. I’m not sure why. While we were dealing with selling our house, I struggled with feeling negative about our house and the whole process. Then every time I had a negative thought and started feeling down, I’d pray,
“Thank you God for keeping us where we need to be.”
I didn’t understand His plan, but I knew he had one. Eventually, that prayer turned into something I truly believed. I trusted Him to be with us along the way. But, that was the closest I had come to pray about my anxiety.
So, I started praying about it. Instead of just asking Him for help with my anxiety, I prayed specifically that He would help me see His goodness and presence in my life. I knew that’s what I needed most.
While I am in a much better place with my anxiety right now, I still keep this prayer on my prayer list and pray it regularly.
God helped me to see His goodness and presence. He helped me to start focusing on more than on the challenges of life. And praying this way helped me to start noticing things more. I was more aware of and on the lookout for Him just like I needed to be.
A Gratitude Journal
At the same time, I also started keeping a gratitude journal. I challenged myself to write down at least three different things daily I was thankful for that day. I did my best to focus on smaller things for which I was grateful. For example, I didn’t allow myself to list my husband and children each day.
Being intentional about looking for and finding good in each day helped me start to see the good things that were happening. I thanked God for those things after I wrote them down.
Slowly, over a month or two, my focus started shifting to the positive things and my anxiety started improving as a result. Keeping a gratitude journal played a big part.
Stacey’s Gratitude Journal is on Sale at Amazon.com
Stacey created a guided journal and it has just recently been released for purchase!
Eventually, I stopped praying daily to see God’s goodness and didn’t maintain a daily gratitude journal. But, they are still tools I use to help manage my anxiety on a regular basis.
I do continue to periodically ask God to help me see His goodness and more of Him in my life. I wanted to make sure I’m paying attention to Him, even when life gets busy. It’s easy to get distracted in the midst of everything!
And when I feel my anxiety levels rising, I stop to think about or write down the things for which I’m grateful. I thank God for them. It helps me shift my focus on Him, which helps my anxiety.
My anxiety journey continues, and I’d wager it will continue for the rest of my life. Along the way, God is blessing me to learn and find the tools I need to manage it. I’m thankful for that!
-Stacey A. Shannon, M.A.
Written Creations, LLC
Families With Grace
Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger. You can find her at https://FamiliesWithGrace.com where she writes about faith and family to encourage parents to create homes filled with grace,
Thank you Stacey for your open and honest story. We all need to know that we aren’t in this by ourselves. I can get to your thinking that everyone felt this way. This was me concerning pain. Pain has been part of me all my life and I always thought everyone felt this pain and fatigue. Mandy’s Journey with Chronic Pain
Stacey and Mandy have swapped blogs this week. Go to Stacey’s website to see Mandy’s interview about parenting.
More on Anxiety
More on Prayer
Healthy Spiritual Habits: Prayer
More on Gratitude
Stacey Shannon has two degrees in journalism and started her own freelance writing company in 2002. She has had nearly 1,000 articles in various publications. While she continues to work as a freelance journalist, copywriter and editor, she also is passionate about blogging. Her blog, Families with Grace, includes practical and spiritual tips for families to create homes filled with grace, love and faith.