My heart is breaking for others today. All around me there are so many who are suffering with anxiety, from low level moments to full out panic attacks. And I understand it because this is an area where I have struggled to overcome for many years.
Through all of the study I have done on this subject, I have learned some very interesting things – first, that there is a definitive difference between anxiety and worry. It is said that those who worry know the object of their fear or what they are worrying about, such as a job interview, a mortgage payment, or a troubled child. Anxiety, however, is an emotion you experience because of a perceived threat, imminent event or uncertain outcome; it is restless energy. You feel overwhelmed, out of control, fearful, and experience unusually high tension and uneasiness without understanding why you feel that way. People may ask you what is bothering you and you respond with “I don’t know” in complete honesty.
I have also come to understand that anxiety can affect how we feel and behave, and can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life. General anxiety is characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations without being able to control or identify the fear. Phobias are a fear response identified with a specific cause, rational or irrational. Panic attacks are abrupt, spontaneous and intense, generally leading the person who experiences them even becoming anxious about recurrence of the attacks. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a potentially disabling condition that can persist throughout a person’s life. The individual who suffers from OCD becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are senseless and distressing, but extremely difficult to overcome. They usually know that their compulsions are unreasonable or irrational, but they serve to alleviate their anxiety. Social anxiety is characterized by a fear of being negatively judged by others, and while once only affected a small number of individuals, is on the increase due to the rise of social media. It can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that normal life is rendered impossible.
The latter of these listed here is the subject I would like to address further. Because of the influx of social media into our society, and also through the work of many faith communities, people today are being pushed to “be more, do more, have more” to such a degree that I believe it is suffocating their ability to find and know peace or rest. People are not just attempting to “keep up with the Joneses” as one generation put it, but now everything has to be perfect. We post in our news feed about our perfect fitness workouts, perfect homes, perfect families, perfect activities and perfect meal plans. If we are not perfect, the fear of being negatively judged looms overhead like a black cloud. Our culture has become performance-based and anxiety driven.
From Philippians 4:6-7
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
My husband and I recently had a conversation with someone where he asked that individual, “When is the last time you felt at peace?” The gentleman’s response was, “I don’t know that I really even know what that is.” To me, this is tragedy. Peace is freedom from disturbance; it is quiet tranquility, calm, restfulness and stillness. Our performance-based lives have taken calm and tranquility and cast them out the window while we were speeding down the freeway.
How do we re-discover peace? First, take the advice of the scripture referenced above. Then add the following, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) In other words, stop being driven by the demands and expectations of mankind and keep your thoughts focused on the beautiful and good in life. Stop trying to be everybody’s everything and JUST BE YOU.
For all of you who are suffering, I pray that you find peace.