2. Deal with stress and anxiety by stopping self-medicating.
Many who struggle with stress and anxiety develop their own way of coping along the way. Some of those ways of coping are helpful, but many of them are not. Some respond to stress by eating things they shouldn’t be or by snacking constantly on junk food. Some drink to take the edge off. Others camp out in front of the television for hours on end playing video games or binge-watching entire seasons of New Girl. None of these are healthy ways of dealing with stress and anxiety. I think most of us intrinsically know this. What we don’t often realize, however, is that responding to stress in these ways can actually work against our body’s ability to fight back and get healthy, not to mention what it can do to our soul. In other words, unhealthy coping mechanisms often make it worse, creating an endless cycle of stress and self-medication.
3. Take care of yourself physically.
In his letter to the Corinthians when Elijah is so overwhelmed by his circumstances that he wants to end his life. In that moment God didn’t give him a pep talk or shame him for his lack of faith. Instead, he gave him a meal and let him go to sleep. Twice. Learning to rest is an important part of taking care of the body God has entrusted us with. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap.
4.Deal with stress and anxiety by being intentional with what you are filling your mind with.
Philippians 4:8 says this: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Here Paul is pointing to the fact that what we fill our minds with has a profound affect on us. We see this truth at work whenever the scriptures speak of meditation. I think when many of us think about meditation we think of Eastern meditation, which focuses primarily on the emptying of one’s mind. Hebrew meditation, however, is different. Hebrew meditation isn’t just about emptying one’s mind of wrong things, it’s about filling one’s mind with the right things. For me, this meant changing the kind of music I was listening to, the kinds of books I was reading, the kinds of shows I was watching, even the kinds of people I was spending time with. A year later I am much more able to take in a variety of each, but in that season I had to be diligent about filling my mind with the right kinds of things.
5. Deal with stress and anxiety by not neglecting the spiritual.
You and I are spiritual beings, which means there is always more going on than meets the eye. So if we address the physical but ignore the spiritual, we will inevitably miss a big part of what is really going on. We must never forget that we live in a world at war. There is a battle raging all around us at all times. And while God desires for us to flourish, there is another that would love for nothing else than to see to see us suffer. He is given a number of different names in the Bible. One of those names is “the father of lies.” Lying is what he does best. And he is well aware that his words are most likely to get through when you are most vulnerable. When you are overwhelmed with grief and anxiety, he will whisper in your ear lies about your identity, your self-worth, your status before God, your past, your future, your hope. It is important that you recognize these for what they are. You must make a habit of utilizing the power of prayer, the gift of the scriptures and the support of Christian community who can help you discern the lies you are tempted to believe and who will remind you of who you truly are in Christ.
6. Deal with stress and anxiety by seeing a doctor.
Some Christians can be weird about medication when it comes to treating things like anxiety and other forms of mental illness. I find this rather funny considering we rarely treat other parts of our body the same way. The same people who argue against taking medication for anxiety are generally pretty big fans of novocain when they are the ones in the dentist’s chair. Why the double standard? The most likely answer is they simply don’t understand. It is my personal conviction that medicine is not a rejection of God’s power, but rather a provision of his grace. Sometimes it’s exactly what we need. That said, you need to know medicine is not the cure-all when it comes to treating anxiety (or any mental health struggle for that matter). It can include side effects and it often takes multiple tries to find the right one. But it can help tremendously. Medicine helped me get over the hump and back to a place of normalcy. I am not taking any meds currently, but if things got bad again, I wouldn’t hesitate to consider getting back on them. I know a good number of faithful Christians, pastors and leaders who take meds on a regular basis. If you try all of the things mentioned here and still find yourself struggling, it may be time to talk to your doctor.