I do want to talk about anxiety. At Fresh Hope this week we took a few minutes to list all of the things that make us feel anxious:
Health, Children, World and Local News, Finances, Driving, Work, Deadlines, Meeting new people, Public speaking, Time management, Dating, Bills, Decisions, the Future, New situations, the Past...
The list could go on and on. Each person's list would look different. We read an article together that showed how people with anxiety show fundamental differences in perception. The brains of people who suffer from anxiety actually look different from a "healthy" person's brain during an MRI. Research shows that certain situations can affect the brain in such a way that a person can overgeneralize and feel anxious in similar situations, even if they know that there is very little to feel anxious about. They can't help it.
That's a very short explanation of a complex topic. You can read the entire article here if you want to know more.
The article didn't go into how this research might help those suffering from severe anxiety, but I think our group did make some progress as we talked. Just being aware that we tend to perceive things differently can help us to stop and look at things a bit more objectively. We can remember a similar experience and recognize that strong emotions accompanied a certain event, but hopefully we can realize that it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative experience in the present.
If you deal with someone who experiences lots of anxiety, please don't just quote this verse to them:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
This verse can make an anxious person feel so guilty. I know the verse is true. Worrying can do nothing for us, so it is useless, but an anxious person sometimes cannot choose to just "stop" being anxious*. Often they need the help of medication or a counselor so that they can see things differently and train their brains to react in a different way.
Maybe a better verse to share would be 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV):
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
Do you often feel anxious? How can focusing on God help you to retrain your brain to handle anxious situations more objectively?
*That idea of just "stop" it reminds me of a hilarious Bob Newhart skit that I watch every once in a while. It really is good advice!