Last year I met and connected with the lovely ladies who run Fortify Natural Wellness while I was shopping at Third & Bird Christmas market in Winnipeg. I was drawn in by their big smiles and free granola samples and ended up purchasing one of their Made Strong Sweatshirts. What I didn’t realize at the time was how God was totally setting up a future friendship and partnership.
This week I had the amazing opportunity to share my story of finding freedom from anxiety on their website. Mine is one of five incredible stories they’ve captured for their Made Strong campaign and each one offers so much hope and encouragement. You can check them all out here.
In my video I mentioned some of the way I found freedom from anxiety and I wanted to expand on those a bit more. So here are my 10 Tips for Overcoming Anxiety – Body, Soul and Spirit.
Regular exercise. Working out at the gym 2 or 3 times a week has been such a game-changer for me. The endorphins are like magic! I can go into a workout feeling discouraged or anxious and leave feeling hopeful. This kind of exercise isn’t about weight loss or even building muscle. For me it’s about creating a sustainable lifestyle of wellness. If you’re in Winnipeg and need a great gym, you should come check out Fukumoto Fitness. It’s an incredible community of people, amazing coaches, and some insanely good workouts.
Healthy diet. When I was coming out of my intense 2-3 years of anxiety I started seeing a naturopath and it changed my life. I temporarily cut out grains, dairy, caffeine and sugar and added a bunch of supplements to treat adrenal fatigue caused by the anxiety. After a few months I was able to add most of those things back in, but in moderation (I still mostly stay away from wheat). So much of the health of our body and brain is affected by the health of our gut so these dietary changes greatly reduced the anxiety symptoms I experienced (foggy head, fatigue, heart palpitations, etc.) I also started drinking a LOT more water.
Sleep. It might go without saying for some, but getting eight hours of sleep makes a huge difference for me and sometimes when I feel low-grade anxiety, it’s really just sleep deprivation (hello, moms of young children!) But if it’s possible, getting more sleep can make such a huge difference.
Counselling! Here’s what I want to say about counselling. I’ve been married for 10 years and in that time have regularly seen about 4 different counsellors. Some for relational issues and some for personal ones. When I was in the thick of my anxiety, seeing a counsellor was one of the most helpful things I did. It was a safe place to process the roots of my anxiety and find strategies to deal with my emotions in a more healthy way. I recommend counselling to anyone and everyone – its not just for moments of crisis – it’s a way to pursue emotional health. I call it the Soul Spa and always feel so refreshed (and sometimes a little “sore”) after I leave. If you need a recommendation for a great counsellor, send me an email and I’ll hook you up.
Deep connection. Go to your partner, best friend or close family member and be vulnerable with them on a regular basis about where you’re at. Reach out when you’re feeling anxious or discouraged and ask for help. Connection with others is such a powerful way to fight off anxiety and even though it’s scary, it always helps.
Think different. Check out anything written by Dr. Caroline Leaf on how to create new pathways in your brain and destroy the negative ones. It’s amazing how when we choose to stop thinking a certain way (for me – I used to think “I’m going to get cancer and die”), and replace that thought with a hopeful one (“I have the DNA of heaven”) we can actually change our default way of thinking. Our emotions are rooted in our thoughts so this small change can make all the difference for someone dealing with anxiety.
Quit people pleasing. This kind of goes with the previous point, but a little more specific. The root of anxiety for a lot of people (myself included) is caring way too much about what people think of us. Worrying about this causes us to live in our heads and not be present. This kind of disembodiment is definitely a cause of anxiety in our lives. So letting go of all those swirling thoughts about how we can be liked, or what to do if we’re not, and practicing being present (deep breathing, meditation, etc.) can really shift the tide of the anxiety we’re wading through. One practical way to do this is limit the time you spend on your phone!
Lead w/ your Spirit. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit inside of you. One of those fruits is peace which means that you always have access to peace. It’s not something we are reaching for, outside of ourselves – but rather something we are trying to activate that’s already in us. One way to activate that peace is through our words. For me, when I’m feeling anxious I simply say “Peace, rise up and take the lead. Body and soul, come into alignment with peace.” These phrases help strengthen my Spirit and allow me to lead from peace, instead of anxiety.
Listen. Some call it meditation, I call it listening prayer – and the idea is to take part of your quiet time with God to ask questions and listen for His answers. Not questions like, “why is this happening” but questions like “if I bring you all my stress and worry today, what would you give me in return.” Allow God to use your imagination to speak to you in pictures, words, songs, and stories – nothing is off limits. Test what you hear and see against the truth of God’s word but try to be open to seeing and hearing Him outside of your normal box of Christian disciplines. It’s amazing what He’ll tell us when we take the time to listen.
Worship. In the midst of your fear, worry and anxiety – remind yourself who God is. Put on some of your favourite worship music and start thanking Him for who is. Or take the first song or two to focus on one aspect of His character (for ex. His faithfulness) and thank Him for that part of who He is and what it means to you. Worship is warfare my friend, and anxiety will often run when we lift the name of Jesus.
Which of these 10 things are you already doing? Which one would you like to try that you haven’t already. My prayer for you is that you’d know anxiety is not something you have to live with forever. There is freedom. If He did it for me, then I know He can do it for you too.
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