Categories
anxiety

how thoughts affect our health

There it was, right on cue. Pains ran through my stomach, instantly nauseating me. Isn’t it suspicious that they always come when I’m about to walk into work? Sometimes I get them a little earlier, like when I get into the car or when I first wake up. But what are the chances that I have a stomachache every morning when I know I have to work in the near future?

On more occasions than I’d like to admit, I have fallen victim to psychosomatic symptoms, health challenges that stem from suppressed emotions. In this case, I experience stomachaches before work because I struggle with work anxiety. Now that I know this, I know how to stop it.

While some of us may be more driven by our feelings than by our thoughts, our feelings do not determine our reality. Our feelings may feel so real, but they are not true. Especially if our feelings are related to fear and shame.

Fear and anxiety may cause you to develop other symptoms. You may have headaches before you’re about to confront a co-worker about an issue. You may have chest pain before you go to your family member’s house. You may have acid reflux before you are about to take a long trip. 

Of course, you could just be sick. We get stomach viruses and sinus infections every once in a while. But pay attention to when you develop those symptoms. Why did your stomach start gurgling at that moment? Is there a connection between your symptoms and your circumstances?

If you struggle with psychosomatic symptoms due to suppressed emotions, there is only one solution: deal with the feelings. I personally like to journal, but you could also process out loud alone or with a friend. Be intentional about identifying what you are feeling, and why you could be feeling that way. Why are you scared? Why are you angry? You may even be joyful, but you’re not allowed to show it because of those around you. Don’t be surprised if you start to develop psychosomatic symptoms while you’re dealing with your feelings.

I’m so thankful that God knows my heart. I can come to Him at any time of the day and share my feelings with Him, knowing that He will never leave me or forsake me. He created my emotions as signals to how I’m reacting to my circumstances. God is not freaked out or intimidated when I discover fear, shame, or anger in my heart. Even better than that, He can replace those “ugly” emotions with His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The truth of God’s Word tells me that I am a child of God. I am fully loved by God. His grace covers every sin I’ve ever committed. He gives me good, not harm, all the days of my life. In light of these truths (and countless others found in Scripture), how could I be afraid? Of course, the feelings will continue to come, but we have to fight them with God’s Truth. Don’t let your feelings control your truth; use the truth to control your feelings.


Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash

Categories
Marriage

This will RUIN your wedding…if you let it

So much planning, so many details, all go into that one special day. The first day of the rest of your life. Oh, so much can go wrong. But will you let it?

The truth is, anything can ruin your wedding. We live in a fallen world, and we interact with imperfect people. Think about all the people in your family (and in your future spouse’s family). Do you really think that, just for one day, they could be perfect? From experience, let me tell you: the answer is no. They are all still the same people, just wearing fancy clothes and welled up with emotion. So, there’s even more margin for error than usual, because everyone’s emotions are up in the air.

The key is not to let anything ruin your special day.

So, the photographer shows up late, the decorative flowers show up as the bride is walking in, Uncle So-and-So had too much to drink and is now making a fool of himself, and somebody will say something that will make you wonder why you married into this family. Or why you were born into it. Or why you hang out with the people you do.

My husband and I…well, we got married relatively quickly, so we didn’t really have expectations. Until other people did and we realized our expectations were not their expectations. Then chaos ensued. But instead of focusing on what went wrong, we focused on the beautiful day that God gave us.

First and foremost, Lenny and I were dedicating our marriage to God. The church ceremony was beautiful, and (from what I could see) there wasn’t a dry eye in the room as emotion welled up throughout the sanctuary. I was marrying the man of my dreams. My husband was marrying the woman better than his dreams (his words, not mine!). It was an abnormally warm day, at sixty-five degrees in the beginning of November. Our venue was right on the water, so the pictures were beautiful and our guests enjoyed walking around outside. The food was delicious (whatever I was able to eat in my dress!), and I was able to see friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years. And, of course, I felt incredibly beautiful in my dress, and everyone who met me on the receiving line was quick to remind me of how beautiful I looked.

When I focused on what went right instead of what went wrong, whatever petty drama happened in the background stayed there. In the background.

I don’t tell you this to rain on your parade. I tell you this to prepare yourself for what is to come. If you’re imagining a day where nothing goes wrong, you’re imagining a day that doesn’t exist on this side of Heaven. There is a perfect wedding coming, but it won’t be in this lifetime, and it will be between the perfect Bridegroom (Jesus Christ), and His sanctified Bride (the Church). Until then, embrace the day that God has given you and enjoy it. All of your planning was not in vain. Now that it’s all done, take this one day to rest, breathe, and celebrate your union with the man (or woman) of your dreams!


Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

Choose Your Battles

Since I’ve had to go through some tough love recently, I have some tough love for you, friend:

If you can’t control your anxiety, your anxiety will control you.

In 2014, a dear friend of mine prayed for me and encouraged me with this word: You’re stronger than you think. I have never forgotten that, because it was something I didn’t believe. I think that I’m weak because I have anxiety. But that’s a lie. Anxiety does not have power over me. I am stronger than my fear by the grace of God.

When facing my fears, I choose my battles. There are some fights I’m not willing to engage in, where I let anxiety be my excuse, but there are some fights where I take out my biggest weapon and attack it head-on.

One of those fears is being on stage, being the center of attention. My best friend just got married this weekend. I was so incredibly happy for her, and I was blessed to be one of her bridesmaids. However, I couldn’t shake the fear of standing on the steps at the front of the church, where anyone could be looking at me. Leading up to the wedding, I realized that this fear was totally selfish. This was my friend’s day, not mine. Not a single eye was looking at me during the ceremony, and that’s the way it should be. Instead of letting the fear stop me from enjoying the ceremony, I filled my mind with the reminder that I was doing this for her, and for her and her husband’s commitment to God. By standing up there, I wasn’t just facing my fear; I was displaying to her and to everyone else that I supported her union to her husband and that I believed that God is at the center of their marriage. That is something worth fighting for.

Another one of those fears is flying. My fear if flying is debilitating. Most people get scared going through security, but I’m scared once the cabin door is shut and we have no way out until we land on the other side (even just writing that made it difficult to breathe!). On the flight, I shake uncontrollably, my muscles tense up, and I usually end up crying. Like, ugly crying. However, I love to travel. I want to see the world with my husband and my family. My husband’s family also lives in another state, and we have to fly to see them. When my grandfather was alive, he made a vow that he would never fly because it scared him too much. I cannot and will not do that. So I do whatever it takes to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare myself for the flight. I remind myself that whatever is waiting on the other side of the plane is worth the panic attacks.

Some anxiety is not worth fighting. I don’t go on roller coasters because the five seconds of thrill I’d feel conquering my fear is not worth day-long stress I would feel leading up to the experience. I don’t go on high ropes courses or go bungee jumping or sky diving because I’m afraid of heights; I have given up on the desire to add those things to my bucket list.

When you’re panicking, ask yourself: If I fight my fear, will it be worth it? My criterion for choosing my battle is: Will conquering my fear help me and my loved ones? Choosing to fight against my fear of being on stage helped me to celebrate with my friend and to show my support for her. Choosing to fight against my fear of flying helps me to enjoy God’s creation and to spend time with my loved ones. Although it may take time to fully overcome my fear, chopping away at the wall of fear a little bit at a time will eventually make the wall crumble.

You are indeed stronger than you think. God has great plans for you, and He will give you strength to fight each battle that comes your way. Today, try to conquer fear a little bit at a time. If you need help, reach out to a friend. I’m always here if you need prayer or encouragement!

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:3-5


Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

Categories
anxiety

Dealing with Your Feelings

Since anxiety is a feeling, I don’t like dealing with the negative emotions that surface in my heart. While God has given me the ability to feel anger, sadness, and fear, I don’t like to admit when I have those feelings. Little do I realize on a daily basis that my anxiety stems from the bottling up of my emotions, until that uncontrolled energy explodes out from within me in the form of a panic attack, an angered outrage, or isolation.

From childhood until the present day, I’ve enjoyed writing in my journal. It has always been a way for me to process my emotions without being judged, criticized, or punished. I would write about everything, from my daily activities to the things that made me angry, sad, afraid, happy, surprised, or excited. I looked forward, I dreamed, I looked back, and I remembered. If you want to really know me, better than I know myself sometimes, read my journals.

I didn’t realize how important it was for me to journal until I wasn’t able to do so a few years ago. When life gets busy, all of your priorities and hobbies get pushed to the side. I replaced the outpouring of my heart with the hardening of it as I would fight work anxiety, do my homework, or walk from class to class. If journaling wasn’t required for a few of my classes, I would have never journaled until I would graduate college. Then, what would it take for another obligation to fill that empty space again?

You see, when I got to college, I realized that my emotions were scary. I held on to a lot of bitterness and hurt from my childhood. I didn’t realize that my life wasn’t normal until I went off to college and met “normal” people, people from homes that were peaceful and encouraging. I didn’t want to talk about my feelings to anyone for fear of judgment. I couldn’t talk to my friends, because they couldn’t possibly understand. I couldn’t talk to my family, because I didn’t want to bring up old memories between us. I feared tension, I feared conflict, and so I did whatever it took to avoid the feelings of anger, sadness, and fear in my heart.

I would run from my emotions like I was an Olympic athlete competing in the 800m. Instead of facing my anger, I would fill my day with busy activities. Instead of dealing with my sadness, I would work out. Instead of dealing with my fear, I would isolate myself. As long as I kept the smile on my face, no one had to know the pain that I carried inside of me.

Jesus says in Matthew 15 that it is not what goes into you that is unclean (meaning food), but what comes out of you (meaning bitterness, hatred, and hypocrisy). Modern day psychologists have described humans as a filled cup. If the cup is filled with anger, that’s what is going to come out if it’s tipped. If the cup is filled with love and compassion, that’s what’s going to come out. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I couldn’t hide from these feelings, even if I tried. Eventually, trials would come, and my raw emotion would be exposed.

My raw emotion did come out, through panic attacks. I wasn’t able to control myself around anyone. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and exposed when I knew I couldn’t hide anymore.

Eventually, I asked to see a counselor, and I reached out to some of my friends for support. Slowly, I learned how to journal again, and I learned how to ask for help from a healthy community. I still have feelings of anger, sadness, and fear, but I’ve learned to control them by remembering that they are indications and not dictations about my life.

Emotions may seem scary, but they don’t have to be. If you don’t learn how to control your emotions, your emotions will control you. Make time to rest and process how you are feeling these days. If you have been feeling extra anxious lately, take some time to journal and figure out why. When you read through the pages of your journal, after you’ve calmed down, you can have better insight into your emotions. You can also call up a friend or family member and ask if you can vent (ask first, though!). Making a daily habit out of journaling or talking to a trusted friend can help you better control your emotions, and take action when you need to make reconciliation with someone.


Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash