Navigating Anxiety

A Time to Worry

Most of us have heard the famous verses of Ecclesiastes 3. There’s even an old popular song about it! If you need a refreshing, here it is:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

Do you see our world in these verses?

In 2007, the New York Times did an article about how many advertisements we receive in a given day, with some estimates being as high as 5,000 ads! The purpose of an ad is to tell us that we are not good enough until we have said product. So, up to 5,000 times per day, we are told we are not good enough!! Talk about anxiety producing! Then we can turn on the TV, the computer, we even receive news alerts on our phones that remind us of constant death, violence, and mayhem! Naturally, fear increases. We walk around shocked and disillusioned at our ability to be barbaric, because deep down we know, that there is very little that separates us from whoever was mentioned in the news story. It affects some of us so deeply, that our brains resort to the primal fight or flight response and we begin developing a plan for if something like that happens to us or someone we love.

Notice that the verses above from Ecclesiastes do not once say “a time to worry.” In the Bible, the words “do not be afraid” are written 365 times. Not to mention other phrases, like “do not be anxious” (Matthew 6:25, Philippians 4:6). Opposing evidence we find around us may be significant, but I believe our good Father is trying to tell us something. He has promised not to leave us or forsake us (Joshua 1:9), even until the very end (Matthew 28:20). He has not promised that life will be without pain, but he HAS promised that he will be with us through thick and thin and he will provide all that we need to endure all that life throws at us. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Everything.

A verse that I have discovered and returned to multiple times over the last year is Genesis 3:11. It’s a precious moment after Eve and Adam have chosen to listen and obey the serpent, thus disobeying God. God gently meets them in the garden, and like a good parent, helps them to confess their mistake. Then, in Genesis 3:11, “He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’" That phrase, “Who told you…” is so powerful! God helps them identify the source of their troubles!

So. Who told you that it is time to worry?

Are you feeling anxious about current events? Or maybe you are facing difficult times in your personal life. First, identify the source of anxiety. Then ask- with so many promises from God, what do I need to do to quiet opposing messages? Here are some possibilities to help you start thinking in that direction:

  • Cast your anxieties on Him. In 1 Peter 5:7, it is suggested to “[cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Physically make a list of all of the things that are worrying you. Pray about each one and then either 1) destroy the list as an act of trust that God will handle all of your problems and they are no longer yours, or 2) find scripture about each item that brings you comfort that God will handle each one. Making a list and seeing all of your concerns at one time can be overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to break up the process if you begin to feel overwhelmed and repeat the process later.
  • Turn off the TV. Maybe, in an act of faith, you need to skip the nightly news and instead spend time thanking God for all he has given or done in your life. Maybe you need to turn off phone alerts for a time while you realign your focus onto God’s promises. You might even fast from media for a time.
  • Make time to meditate. Read your scriptures daily and pray throughout your day to focus your mind on what matters. Matthew 6, is a good place to start reading when struggling with anxiety.
  • Rejoice daily. Intentionally identify those things that bring you joy daily. Maybe start a journal where you can list them and spend time thanking God.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” (Isaiah 40:1) and “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16), because you are “free indeed” (John 8:36).


If you are experiencing panic attacks, please contact a therapist or doctor immediately.

If you have felt anxious regularly for 2 weeks or more, please contact a counselor.

Navigating the Holidays

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Does this statement breathe irony? Sarcasm? Many people face the holiday season with anxiety, depression, and even dread. We see families gather on TV that are joyful, kind, loving people. Even in situations where a show does not start with loving relationships, somehow (in about an hour), the “magic” of the season heals all wounds and lets bygones be bygones. All of the characters agree that love for each other supersedes any prior misconduct. Maybe you have even heard these stories in real life. Perhaps, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” evokes disappointment in, once again, dashed hopes. How do you navigate the strong negative emotions produced by the holidays?

Examine Your Expectations.

People probably haven’t changed. While there are “lightning bolt” experiences where great change happens instantly an “aha” moment, it is somewhat infrequent. Genuine change is usually a gradual process that takes time. Even following an “aha” moment, true change takes time to implement. The people you saw at last year’s gathering, while they have {hopefully} grown and matured over the year, are still the same people with the same personalities.

Broken relationships are not magically healed. If your mom and great aunt Edna have not been able to enjoy each other’s company for ten years, they most likely will not do so this year. If you have a family member who rarely shows respect to you, be aware that they probably will not show respect to you this year. While you can work to forgive them throughout the year, do not expect that they have worked to learn to show respect or desire forgiveness from you. It is wise to discuss with a counselor what healthy boundaries should be implemented in this situation.

This is not a time to address the issue. Perhaps you need to have a relationship conversation with a person who has hurt you. While this might be your chance to finally see them face-to-face, I would encourage you to wait until you can have a conversation privately outside of the holiday gathering. It would relieve you from added pressure at the gathering and would help the purpose for your plan by preventing the possibility of others getting involved divisively rather than a relationship healing conversation.

Have a Navigation Strategy

I encourage my clients to have three coping strategies of varying intensities at the ready when they walk into a high pressure situation. For example for a holiday gathering:

Mild irritation- change the subject of conversation, move to talk to someone else, play with a pet, get up to refill a drink

Moderate irritation- take a time out: step outside for some fresh air and practice deep breathing, go for a walk, find a quiet room for a few minutes, privately call a supportive friend

Intense irritation- kindly say farewell and leave the event, possibly have a backup plan in place in case this happens. This may be the time to go visit a supportive friend to help you process if they are available, or just give them a call. If a supportive friend isn’t available, do something calming or enjoyable: deep breathing exercises, meditation, listening to music, playing a game, reading a favorite book, or watching a favorite show. Be sure to process thoroughly with a friend or counselor when one is available.

*Keep in mind that you do not have to wait until you are emotionally exploding or imploding to implement your navigation strategy. Begin immediately the moment you begin to feel your emotions rising.

Here are some tips for enjoying the holiday season outside of family gatherings:

Forego stressful activities. If a crowded mall makes you cringe, shop online this year. If untangling a strand of Christmas lights is something you dread, hang a wreath and call it a day. You define your celebration. If it’s not something that encourages your heart to celebrate, change your traditions to things that do fill you with joy.

Keep a Blessings journal. Simply keep your eyes open for one blessing in your life every day, thank God, and jot it down. Even if it is as small as hitting a green light in traffic, or your favorite meal for lunch, this slight change in focus can lift your spirit as it opens your eyes to God’s graces in your life.

Find a place to serve. Whether it’s serving the homeless at a soup kitchen or donating a toy to orphans, serving the less fortunate has great potential to lift your spirits. There are a multitude of opportunities to serve around the city during the Christmas season. Ask your church leaders where they will be serving, or if they know of opportunities around your area. Find one that fits your personality and talents that you will enjoy.

While you may not feel that this is the most wonderful time of the year, you can still enjoy your holidays with the right expectations and strategy. Perhaps it is time to evaluate your yearly routine and make the changes that matter. You might be the next person singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

If you find yourself feeling stuck or unable to process the difficulties that the season brings, please don’t hesitate to see a counselor to help you through this time of life.