choosing to control our thoughts instead of them controlling us
Yesterday I was feeling overwhelmed. Which led to feeling anxious. Which led to feeling completely unmotivated.
Everything seemed big and too much to accomplish with my racing thoughts and cluttered mind. So, instead of doing anything, I really just wanted to do nothing. I was frozen and unmotivated.
But I knew I couldn’t stay there (and didn’t want to!) so I knew I needed to tackle it head on. I could either choose to follow my feelings of overwhelm, procrastination, and fear that were telling me that I couldn’t handle the day, that I wasn’t up to the task, and I was a failure.
Or, I could dip into my toolbox for anxious days, remind myself that my feelings may be real, but they may not always be true, and take some practical steps to address my anxiety.
1. I sent a message to a trusted friend. You need someone in your corner – even just one person – who will listen, not berate or shame, and will encourage you in the midst of your struggle. We cannot do it alone. The enemy wants us to believe that we are alone and isolated – the dark is where he works best. If we can bring our struggle into the light, it can disarm his hold on us. So, I texted my friend, “Hey, feeling really anxious this morning. I know there is a lot that I need to do but I really just want to lay down on the couch and cry.” Her response, “You’ve got this! Write down the things that you feel are necessary to get done today. And then set a timer for 8 minutes and give yourself permission to cry.“
2. So, I let myself cry for a few minutes. Researchers have established that crying releases oxytocin and endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain. Crying doesn’t fix a problem, but it can actually help the pathways in our brain function more clearer with the help of happy hormones. God built our bodies to work better after a good cry, so let’s use the gift He’s given us!
3. Then I focused on my breathing and took a few minutes in quiet prayer. When we are anxious we tend to breathe shallow breaths. When we shallow-breathe we take in less oxygen, which can signal to the brain that we are in distress. That, in turn, can make us more anxious. It’s a vicious cycle that we can stop when we slow down and focus on deep breathing. Set a timer for 5 minutes and focus on breathing deep. Your belly should move out on the inhale and push in on the exhale. While breathing, talk with God or listen quietly to the sounds around you. Play a psalm from a read aloud Bible app to focus your mind on.
4. Finally, I picked one thing on my list and just went for it. At this point, you may not feel extremely motivated, but, you should have a calmer spirit and mind to tackle what is in front of you. Pick one thing and go for it. Acknowledge that it isn’t going to be perfect, but giving your best is the most you can ask of yourself.
So often we allow our feelings to dictate our actions. If we let our life just be governed by feelings, we’ll end up with a life driven by self-centeredness and impulsivity.
Those things happen, but they can’t be our go-to method of life. We often have to parent ourselves. Give ourselves a few short doable tasks and go for it, despite how unmotivated we feel.
I love the reminder from Paul in his letter to the Corinthians:
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
We have access to divine power to destroy the stongholds and lies that the enemy is trying to hold us under. Jesus combatted Satan in the wilderness with scripture – we need to have God’s word ready in our minds to fight off the lies that Satan is trying to hold over us.
Scripture, support of trusted friends, and allowing our bodies time to slow down and re-calibrate are all intentional, practical tools we can use to help us when those overwhelming, unmotivated, anxious days present themselves.