I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, yet I still get anxious! What do I do with this? Well, invite Christ and your faith to be a part of your anxiety relief. Use the gifts Christ has given through His Church to be held by him when you are anxious.
When it comes to anxiety there are many methods that are used to help reduce symptoms and deter an anxiety attack. Some common therapeutic strategies are: cognitive behavior therapy techniques, Linden techniques, distractions and diversions. All of which are tools to change your thoughts and behaviors which affect your feelings. Specifically in the case of anxiety these tools distract you from fearful thoughts. It does not matter if the fear is real or perceived, because the body responds the same. It takes your whole self; mind, body, and soul to truly redirect and pull out of an anxious spiral.
Our body and soul are closely linked. After a while of using the same coping technique or method of distraction we might find that the effectiveness lessens. In addition, we want our coping tools to tend to our body and our soul.
Here are some effective techniques to deal with anxiety that bring in the Catholic faith and may provide new tools for your anti-anxiety tool box:
- Jesus Prayer: Take a deep breath inviting Jesus Christ into your whole body. As you breathe in and hold that breath for a moment imagine Jesus Christ entering every cell of your body. Visualize life-giving oxygen entering each cell of your body with your deep inhale. As you exhale, pray that all that is false leave with your exhale. Breathe in the truth of Jesus Christ and breathe out the lies of your anxiety, the lies of satan.
- Pray the Rosary daily. Hold the Rosary and say the prayers out loud. The physical tangibility of the rosary and the audible voice are grounding. Anxiety is often the result of not being in the present. Regrets of the past and fear of the future begin an anxious spiral. Holding the Rosary and saying the prayers out loud uses your body’s senses to bring you into the present.
- When at Mass place your whole life; body, soul and mind on the altar. You are baptized as a priest, prophet and king. As priest, you make a sacrifice of yourself just as Christ did and the ordained Priest does in the place of Christ. You as a part of the lay priesthood, imagine whatever you are anxious about, visualize your seemingly uncontrollable symptoms being placed on the altar. Your obsessive and intrusive thoughts; put them on the altar too. Pray that God take the ordinary events and circumstances of your life and miraculously transform them into something life-giving.
- Ask God to transform it: As you pray to prepare yourself to receive the Eucharist; pray that God prepare you to receive back what you have placed on the altar after He transforms it into something life-giving. Just as you trust and believe that the bread and wine are turned into the body and blood though they still look the same; trust and believe that God has and continues to transform whatever you placed on the altar into something life-giving.
- Engage your senses: Light a candle. Light some incense. Play the kind of music you hear at Mass. Display religious pictures in your house, so that you are reminded visually about the holiness of your home and life. Use the wisdom of our sacramental faith and engage your senses to bring you to the present and to bring your thoughts to that which is holy.
- Find your “go to” saints. When you are anxious or overwhelmed by obsessive and intrusive thoughts you are encouraged to think of someone whom you trust; who exhibits the qualities you want; who you trust to guide you right. Think about what they would tell you in your anxiousness. Learn about the life of a saint or two who you can admire and trust to guide you toward holiness. Such Saints who would help you return to being calm, peaceful and trusting in God no matter what circumstances you are experiencing. Purchase a saint prayer card or a saint medal with the particular saint you are venerating. Carry these items in your pocket, your purse or around your neck. Keep your saintly prayer reminder as close as an asthmatic would their inhaler.
- Stop the mental battle: Accept that you are anxious and God is in charge, not you. You are anxious and God can handle whatever you are anxious about. Tell your self something like, “Well, considering who I am and what I have been through, it makes sense that I am anxious.” Stop beating yourself up for being anxious. Don’t be anxious about being anxious.
- Short, Sweet and Repetitive: As your easily repeated prayer or helpful phrase to mentally pull yourself away from the anxious thoughts try, “Come Lord Jesus,” “Come Holy Spirit,” “Come Lord Jesus Give us Your Spirit, Renew the face of the Earth,” “Jesus-Mary-Joseph,” and “Jesus, you gave your life for me” “Jesus, I trust in you.”
- Memorize traditional Catholic Prayers. When you memorize something it is on standby and ready to be brought up for use at any moment. If you have traditional prayers memorized you can easily bring them to the forefront in times of anxiousness. Father Robert Barron, in his Catholicism series in the video on Prayer states, “Prayers are a great way to move us into Prayer”. Being able to easily say memorized prayers aloud brings your mind slowly to a state of calm, hope, and the present.
Memorize this list as your 9 gifts from the Holy Spirit in times of anxiousness. You have the power to use your anxiety to help you grow closer to God and stronger in your faith.