Anxiety and the Christian Woman – Tips for Reducing Stress and Coping More Effectively

Anxiety and the Christian Woman – Tips for Reducing Stress and Coping More Effectively  As Christians, we’re instructed in the Bible to not worry.  In 1 Peter 5:7, the Bible says to “give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”  Philippians 4:6-7 states, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Such simple words…yet not always so simple to practice – especially if you’re a Christian woman who’s prone to anxiety.

You worry about everything: how your child will adjust to a new school; where you’ll find a better paying job in the current economy; or whether your sister will survive her recently-diagnosed breast cancer.  Worrying is nothing new for women, but when it interferes with your life or your peace of mind, it’s time to do something about it.

Your first instinct may be to berate yourself for not having more faith.  You’ve been told to “let go and let God” since Sunday school as a child.  Rather than chastise yourself, there are many proactive steps you can take to manage your anxiety and cope more effectively.  Here are some practical tips:

Reconnect with your faith. Anxiety often pulls us away from our spiritual core. If you haven’t been part of a church community for a while, consider going back to a former one, or exploring a few new churches until you find a good fit.   If you already attend church regularly, consider re-energizing your faith with a women’s retreat or an upbeat revival service.  If you’re not a fan of formal church services, find a good devotional or Christian book and read it for a few minutes a day.  You’ll find that strengthening your spirit will go a long way toward healing an anxious mind.

Get your body moving. If you want to reduce those anxious feelings, exercise should be a non-negotiable part of your schedule. How does exercise relieve anxiety? It releases endorphins – your body’s natural mood-boosting chemicals. Regular exercise also offers a temporary distraction from your worries as your focus on your body.  Find a workout partner or choose an exercise you really enjoy, so you’ll be more likely to stick with it.  You’ll soon find that exercise becomes a “me time” habit you’re not willing to give up easily.  A note of caution: always check with your doctor before you start any exercise program.

Give yourself permission to say “no.” If you’re like most women, you tend to sacrifice your own well-being in the service of others.  Unfortunately, that ends up backfiring, leaving you burned out, exhausted, and resentful – and with little left to give anyone.  Learn to set limits on the demands others make on you; by doing so you’ll feel less stressed and have more to give when it really counts.  God didn’t make you superhuman, so He doesn’t expect you to act like you are.

Break big tasks into small ones. We all need to handle big projects at times, from organizing a move to managing a fundraiser. One of the best tips for relieving anxiety is to break the bigger tasks into smaller ones. If the to-do list reads “line up all the volunteers today for the fundraiser,” change it to “call five potential volunteers each day this week.” Do-able steps are less daunting and easier to accomplish, which means you’ll see measurable progress toward achieving that end goal. Use this technique to handle anything from preparing for the garage sale to organizing a presentation at work.

Put worries into words with a journal. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, fears, and prayers is a surprisingly effective way to reduce anxiety. In fact, one recent study of students preparing for a test found that students were able to raise test scores by writing about their test-related fears. So whether you have the jitters about a specific event or are anxious about a relationship, expressive writing is a great way to calm your nerves so you can be ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

Practice prayerful meditation. Meditation is a timeless way to still your mind, feel more grounded, and relieve tension. In meditation, the goal is to control breathing while focusing on something specific. Some people like to simply concentrate on each breath, while others prefer to focus by repeating a word or phrase. You might whisper “peace,” recite a short prayer, or focus on feeling the presence of God.

Practice yoga.  The ancient practice of yoga is an excellent way to combine four known anxiety reducers: movement, gentle stretching, controlled breathing and meditation. Yoga slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, and decreases levels of stress hormones. In one study, women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed” participated in yoga classes for three months. At the conclusion of the trial, the women’s anxiety scores improved by 30% and overall well-being scores increased by 65%.

Put priorities into place. Whether you’re a mom, a working woman, or both, it can be hard to see the big picture. After all, kids need to take class snacks to school, elderly parents need to be driven to doctor’s appointments, and that nagging work project needs to be done. While you can’t set aside everything on your to-do list, you can make it easier to deal with those things by prioritizing. Take a few minutes each evening to prioritize your tasks for the next day.  Deciding what’s not as important will go a long way toward making life less stressful and much more enjoyable.

Know when it’s time to get professional help. When anxiety persists and continues to interfere with your life despite all your efforts to manage it, it’s time to seek professional help.  Warning signs to watch for include:

  • Having full-blown panic attacks
  • Excessive worry or fear that disrupts your work (or school) performance, your social interactions, or your family life
  • Avoiding normal situations or activities because they cause intense anxiety
  • Feeling as though you are constantly “on edge”
  • Living with a constant sense of impending doom

Anxiety disorders can strike anyone – even the most spiritual Christian woman.  They can be managed and even overcome in many cases, but you may need the help of a qualified mental health professional, such as a psychologist or other therapist. These professionals have the resources to guide you to a less anxious state of mind—the kind that lets you live the life you deserve. They use a range of treatment options, from cognitive behavioral therapy to medication, to help you get your anxiety under control and your life back on track.

Whether you choose to use self-help remedies to manage your anxiety or seek guidance from a mental health professional, one thing is clear: lowering anxiety levels will make life more fulfilling and positively impact your health and well-being.