Three Methods that Helped Me Conquer Anxiety

Door to freedom from anxiety

I became aware of my anxiety, ironically, when suddenly I had less to fear.  I found myself a single mother of four wonderful daughters and free of a narcissistic and cruel ex-husband.  I was so used to feeling numb that when I began to reconnect with my emotions, all the fear I lived with for years came to the surface. My approach to life, similar to my father’s, is to get a few books on a topic and begin to educate myself, but somehow specific methods for curing anxiety proved elusive.

The one thing that kept popping up in my research is that the brain is plastic, and we have a lot of power in how our brains change.

That is to say if I wanted to build neural pathways that took me away from the visceral reaction to fear, I was going to have to gather my materials and begin reconstruction myself. 

I cannot promise that these methods will work for you.  But I will say that they worked for me, and they continue to work for me, though I need them less and less.

I began with taking the time to figure out the source of my anxiety.  For me, I believe the anxiety stemmed from an insecure attachment to my parents early on.  This was not through a lack of love, but a result of difficulties including poor health that they suffered while I was young. The addition of an abusive flowerstwelve year marriage and a helping of PTSD rounded out a mind, heart, and body that were more used to being afraid than any other emotion.  So my task was simple but seemingly impossible.  I had to teach myself to feel loved and to feel safe.  This took me about three years of consistent practice, but I am so grateful that I put in the time to rewire my thinking.

Method 1:

I needed to learn how to feel loved, so I went to the purest source of that love.  For a year I concentrated only on the love of Papa God.  I kept verses in my pockets regarding His love.  If I started to feel alone or anxious, I would stop what I was doing and focus on either a Bible verse or on imagining physical sun in meadowcontact with Jesus.  Our subconscious is a funny thing.  It believes what we tell it.  So I held onto Jesus’ hand until I felt the anxiety subside.  I hugged Him tight when I needed to.  I imagined Him telling me how much He loves me. I concentrated my heart and my mind on accepting and experiencing His love for me.  This was not easy and at first seemed like a hopeless task.  But I wanted to be free very badly.  After a year of doing this daily, the hole in my chest had filled in with a much greater sense of peace and acceptance.

In doing this, I found I had resistance to being loved.  I wasn’t sure what it felt like to be loved uncritically. I had to experiment with where in my body I felt God’s love.  At first, His love only seemed to be in my mind.

But as I learned to relax my heart in His presence, I began to learn to receive more deeply than I had ever before. 

New bridges from triggering event to Jesus’ arms formed in my mind.

Method 2:

88

I fear some might think this method is superstitious.  You see, I have a secret code number with God.  Every time I see two or more eights in a row, God is reminding me that He loves me.  The number, 88, has no magic power.  It is not an omen or a lucky charm.  Simply, when I see that number, I reflect on God’s love.  When I started doing this, I knew I was creating a neural pathway for remembering God’s love.  But what I did not expect was how many places the number 88 resides.  License plates, phone numbers, address, receipt amounts; they all added up to this reminder.  For the first year, I could not believe how many iterations of that number exist.

Now some might say that God is not contacting me through this number.  Possibly when I need this number, when I need the reminder of God’s love, I subconsciously look for the number 88.  My answer to this is so what?

Whatever reminds you to reflect on God’s love choose those.

If daisies do it, then look for daisies.  All I know is that my mind makes an association with that number that immediately relaxes my body and keeps me focused on the love of God.  What’s not to love about that?

Method 3:

I changed my awareness of my surroundings and focused my mind on feeling safe.  Anxiety is a habit of being.  I literally had no memory of what safe felt like.  I would look around me, at home, in my office, or somewhere pretty outside, hug myself and tell myself that I’m ok.  I’m safe at this moment.

The benefit to learning how to feel safe is that you begin to have more discernment about when you are not safe. 

Learning to tell the difference between safe and unsafe situations is life and death.

Sometimes we get mixed up.  My first marriage gave me a false sense of safe.  I so internalized my fears in order to cope, that I lived in a very unsafe situation for me and my children.  But once out, my ideas of safety needed to be rewired.  Now I understand that security is never perfect and that danger can come at any moment.  But I don’t live in what might happen.  I live in the present where my second and wonderful husband is gently snoring on the couch, my five cats are in my office with me, and I am safe.

I write this in hopes that each of you who struggle with anxiety will pick up these raw materials and maybe a few of your own.  I hope that you will begin new construction on your mental highways.  If you want the mind of Christ, you must pursue it.  And just like any new building project, it will look rough at first.  But in time, you will begin to notice that peace that passes understanding.  After all, you are each individually known and loved by a God who created you with love, power, and a sound mind.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

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17 Replies to “Three Methods that Helped Me Conquer Anxiety”

  1. I find that praying helps me so much to calm down and to stay calm!

  2. I am SO GLAD that you shared this very personal journey. I know it will help others. It is beautiful to look back on….. as you are. I am grateful your 2nd husband is good to you.
    http://grandmamarymartha.blogspot.com

  3. Thanks for sharing! I relate to much of what you said. Have you read Dr. Caroline Leif’s “Switch on Your Brain?” She talks about the neuroplacticity and how to renew our minds with God’s word.

    I write about trauma (because of my own) and childhood trauma ( because of my child) at Loving the Wounded Child

  4. Reading the psalms and singing worship songs is what helps me settle down

  5. These are such great methods. I have someone close to me that struggles with anxiety. I will be sharing this post!

  6. I love this! So good. Have you heard of Dr Caroline Leaf? She talks a lot about neural pathways too and I know it’s helped many people.

  7. I like that you said “But I will say that they worked for me, and they continue to work for me, though I need them less and less.” Because in my own journey, I’ve realized that the longer that I depend upon the Lord the less I suffer from anxiety attacks.

  8. thecaffeinatedelephantkv says: Reply

    I am so glad you are finding some peace with the Lord! It is crazy how those habits drive us to fear and away from God!

  9. Kristi Woods says: Reply

    Beautiful. Saw you on By His Grace Bloggers and heard a visit here calling. Love how you’re focusing on Papa God. After all, our Daddy is the one who created us and understands how to help us wade through current waters, regardless of fear or anxiety. #goJesus

  10. I also found you on By His a Grace bloggers and love your #1 point. Go to the source of pure love. I too struggle to keep His love in mind, as my identity, love the idea of carrying scriptures in your pocket! Thanks for your authentic sharing.

  11. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

    This was so great Alice! Beautiful! Unfortunately, life often hands us trials and abuse and things like anxiety are going to happen. I love all of your ideas! I especially love your “God number!” How perfect! I’m totally going to do this. I already know what things I’m going to choose. His tender care is astounding isn’t it? His attention to details. I just can’t wrap my brain around it, but I’m so thankful!

  12. I love this! I struggle with anxiety, myself, and I definitely appreciate what you shared here.

  13. Method 3 is the most powerful for me. When I stop and remind myself I am safe and God is with me, it helps my anxiety subside. Thank you for sharing with me.

  14. When I experienced anxiety for the first time a few months ago, I wrote out all the verses on peace and it helped me so much! so much! <3

  15. What a powerful article. Thanks for sharing your method. It’s simple, yet practical and I can see that it works!

  16. jesusglitter says: Reply

    I love this because it is raw, authentic and relate-able. It is funny how you mention rewiring the brain, my husband had a complication with a recent surgery and in order for him to move his foot he has to spend 3-5 minutes 3 times a day telling his foot to move so that it doesn’t rewire itself to never move. After suffering through my own abuse I had to rewire myself, but God’s love and graciousness carved out a new path in my soul and I know He is doing the same for you. Writing is very cathartic for me. How about for you? You are brave my friend! Blessings to you!

    1. Writing is pretty cathartic. It is also very much an act of faith, telling my story. Sometimes I have to have a good cry before I have the guts to publish something…

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