Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Worry.

Stress and Worry.

Just typing those two words makes me anxious.
It’s as if I’m about to find a few more things to add to my list of things I should be worrying about. So I start to stress because I don’t need more to worry about. My plate is already full.

What a viscous cycle.

And I have a feeling I am not alone in this.

This week’s message at church was “A Strategy for Reducing Stress”.

Yes please. And I would like seconds on that, too.

♥  ♥  ♥

I’m not normally a note taker. Never have been. I’ve always been under the impression that I’m a pretty good listener. And, when given multiple choice, I have pretty good memory recall…which got me through college just fine. Unfortunately, real life is not multiple choice. And sometimes you hear things that you need to remember. For me, this applies to the lessons being taught at church. Perhaps God is trying to get something through to me, and I hear it, but never truly put it to practice. Not because I am purposely being disobedient, but because I forget what I’ve heard when it comes time to make that lesson applicable in daily life.

Church isn’t a tool to entertain or an obligatory time-filler in order to fulfill some sense of duty to God. He wants to speak to you and for you to listen with an receptive heart and to teach you His ways. He wants you to know that there is a better way for your life than what this world has to offer. Realizing this, really realizing this, I’ve decided I’m going to become a note-taker. So I don’t forget. So I can look back on my notes during the week and stew upon what I’ve learned, apply it to daily situations and start using church messages as a tool for spiritual growth. Amen?

Fortunately for me, my church hands out an outline for the message… for you to fill in the major points, highlighting the verses that are being taught. Beyond that, there are margins to write anything else that speaks to you during the message. Needless to say, my outline is full. Had I not written things down, I probably couldn’t recall much more than the topic and a brief synopsis of the overall message. And this message was important for me.

I want to share some of my notes with you because I know this is a topic most women (and men, too!) struggle with. Here is what I’ve gathered from the message (paraphrasing in my own words, not quoting the pastor…so don’t hold him responsible haha) based on my outline of notes:

The main verses we studied were Philippians 4:4-8…which will be broken down line by line.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philipians 4:4)

Sounds easy, right? Not quite. Having an infiltration of any negativity in your mind automatically steers you into the direction of NOT rejoicing. At least for me it does. And that is not to say that nothing bad is going to happen to you or that you are not allowed to feel crabby some days. But it is a true statement that many of us see ourselves enduring life instead of enjoying life. How sad is that?

Step 1: Worry about nothing.

Stop laughing. No rolling of the eyes. It’s true. And yes, it is going to be hard. But here is what God says:

Do not be anxious about anything (Philipians 4:6a)

Note the word anything. Don’t be anxious about anything. Don’t stress about anything. Don’t worry about anything. Worry is “assuming responsibility that God never intended for you to have.”  Isn’t it funny how we worry the most over situations that are completely out of our control? In essence we are trying to control the uncontrollable. It reminds me of Matthew6:27 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Isn’t that the truth. Worrying is pointless; it accomplishes nothing.

And to add a little Psychology/Science to the mix:

A study done by Dr. Walter Calvert, funded by the National Science Foundation, revealed some startling statistics about human beings and worry. Here’s what he found:

  • 30% of our worries are about events in the past
  • 40% of the things we worry about never happen
  • 12% of our worries are unfounded health concerns
  • 10% of our worries are over minor and trivial issues
  • Only 8% of our worries are real, legitimate issues

8%! Seriously now. And that 8 percent of legitimate issues doesn’t indicate that those are even situations that we can control by worrying.

Repeat after me (say it out loud or write it down; this is important and you need to remember it!):

Worry cannot change the past. Worry cannot control the future.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.”

Step 2: Pray About Everything

“…but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philipians 4:6b

Keep in mind that a petition = a specific detailed request.

Sometimes we forget that God created us to have relationship with us. He doesn’t want us to just go through the motions. He wants us to talk (prayer) to Him. He wants us to share every detail of our lives… our emotions, feelings, thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams. Often, we justify that “He is all-knowing, hence, He already knows what I’m feeling, fearing, etc”. Right you are. He does. But He wants us to tell Him any way because in doing so, we are participating in a relationship with Him. He wants us to ask Him for what we need and to depend on Him for it.

Isn’t change one of the biggest culprits of stress and worry? Especially when something has been eliminated from our lives? Our job, our finances, a friendship, our comfort? So often we focus on what has been removed instead of seeing it as an opportunity for God to fill it with something better. When change happens, get excited… God has something in store. Ask for it!

James 4:2 says …“You do not have, because you do not ask God.”

John 16:23-24 says… “At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.”

1 Peter 5:7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

Step 3: Thank God for ALL Things

Having an “attitude of gratitude” is the key.

“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” – Brother David Steindl-Rast (I saw this quote on a facebook friend’s status yesterday and thought it was just perfect timing for me!)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

“Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18

Just stop for a moment and re-read that. How many times do we question ourselves and ask what God’s will really is for us? And then we get our answer: to be grateful. to have gratitude. to give thanks in ALL circumstances. The truth of the matter is, no matter what we are going through, no matter what we are facing… we can still find something to be grateful for. Just knowing there is a God who loves us, that cares for us… that the Creator of the entire universe even thinks about us… should top the list.

A list, you say? On the days were you don’t want to be thankful… you know, the days where nothing seems to be going right, everything is falling a part, you can’t imagine how things could get worse… take a few minutes to sit down and write your list. What can you thank God for, despite the day you are having? The gift of prayer? A roof over your head? Your health? Your family? The fact you have food to eat and clean water to drink? The list will go on and on; we are blessed beyond measure…far more than we deserve. It will change your perspective, your attitude and your outlook.

Which leads to the next step:

Step 4: Think About the Right Things

You are given the freedom to choose the things you think about. Stew on that.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

What you think affects how you feel. How you feel affects what you think about.

What we put in our minds affects our lives, be it positivity or negativity.

“As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” Proverbs 23:7

What do you allow into your mind? Check it against these 7 things:

Is it true? Is it honorable? Is it right? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it admirable? Is it excellent and worthy of praise?

If you answer NO then change the channel in your mind. You have the power to do that.  Turn the worry off. Tune out the stress. There is no question that it will be very difficult at first and every time you think of something else, your mind wanders back. Keep changing the channel. It will get easier over time.

If you apply all of these steps to your daily life…

The Results:

“If you do this you will experience God’s Peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your heart quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Wow. I like God’s alternative to stress: Peace that will transcend all understanding…knowing that God is guarding our hearts and our minds. He is giving us rest by trusting in Jesus.

Your Parting Gift:

I made a card for you! So you don’t forget this important lesson. Save it to your computer. Print it out. Make it a note card size and put it on your dash in the car. Hang it on the refrigerator. Put it on the bathroom mirror. Place a copy in your wallet or purse. Use it as a bookmark. Send it as a postcard. You get the idea. Put it where you will see it all week.

But wait! That’s not all folks! There’s more!

You can print this next one separately or print it on the back of the first card. It’s our memory verses. :)

Jon’s Granny once said, “If you can memorize your TV guide and remember what time all of your favorite shows are on… then you can learn a Bible verse.” Amen, Granny, Amen.

Learn these. They are battle weapons to be recalled and used when stress starts creeping it’s creepy self back into your life. Read them when you first wake up before the day gets crazy. Read them at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Read them before you fall asleep at night. Constantly remind yourself that God wants JOY for your life. Not stress. Not worry. Not anxiety. That is the truth. Don’t you dare let yourself believe otherwise.

Have a joy-filled, stress-free day! :)

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