I wrestle with anxiety often. I’m not sure if it’s an Asian thing, but many of my girlfriends also have similar struggles. When I was young, when my mom came home late from work, I would jump to the worst scenario possible and couldn’t shake it off. It’s weird. I remember having a rather carefree childhood. Somewhere along the way, this fearful mindset snuck in.
Anxiety and fear take on lives of their own. When I looked back, the things that I worried about *never* happened. The thoughts from the anxiety and fears themselves were much worse than what actually happened. However, this monster called the “Unknown” often bullies me in my mind, and I’ve been wrestling with it for most of my adult life.
There are many reasons and theories on what makes us anxious. Any past traumatic experiences or a simple transition in life can trigger a sense of anxiety. It’s natural for us to feel stressed when we feel out of control. In my desire to break out of my cycle of fear, I’ve read many books on the topic. I hoped that understanding more about this condition would help. Ironically, more information did not lead to transformation. In this case, the data merely fed into this negative tendency and made matters worse.
Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to spirituality and spiritual practices. I long for a sense of peace in my life, in my heart. I remember hearing about Philippians 4:6-7 in my teens: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” For the first time, I saw an instruction about what to do when I felt stressed. That night, I went home and did exactly what the verse said. And voila! I felt peace replacing my anxiety – just like that. It was amazing. This verse gave me my first experience of peace. Before that point, I had tried countless times to wrestle with my anxious thoughts with logic. However, no amount of logic can overcome the element of the unknown. Where my logic failed, prayer had succeeded. And as I humbly gave my request to God in prayer, my heart was at peace. That was the first time I realized that anxiety was not to be overcome with my rational mind, but with something deeper.
Since then, I’ve learn many ways of how to deal with stress through prayer. However, my struggle with anxiety couldn’t be resolved by prayer alone. In time, stress and worry often came back with a vengeance. The root of my anxiety goes much deeper and is much more complex than I realized.
In the last few years, I’ve been learning to live in a state of peace rather than anxiety. Now, I feel that I’ve finally crossed a threshold where living in anxiety is no longer my normal state of being. When stress or fear swell up inside me, I no longer welcomed it as an old friend. This didn’t happen overnight, and I’m still prone to worry when life throws me a curve ball or two. But now, I’m better at processing through my inner struggles and I know how to stay in that place of peace. This didn’t happen because I worked harder or was more spiritual than others. Rather, I think it’s because I was more desperate. I was sick and tired of living in a cycle of fear and stress. I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own. I was ready to change.
There were so many lessons I’ve learned along the way that culminated into where I’m at today. I’ve written a few articles here about some practical ways like journal-writing and crafted prayer that deals with our stress triggers. There were also deeper issues like my view about myself and my view about God that I had to re-examine. Moving forward in 2018, I plan to share more about my journey in dealing with anxiety. As I think through my own process of change, I hope it will also be encouraging and helpful for others on a similar journey.