I’ll admit it – it can be annoying to watch a movie with me. As soon as the movie begins, I try to figure out who the bad guy is or what the twist will be. If I do say so myself, I happen to get it right a lot of the time. It isn’t the most awful habit to have, but keep reading to see how it began to affect my everyday life.
Before I was really living out my faith, I was a carefree, happy-go-lucky kind of girl. That changed shortly after I made it known that I was following Christ. The prayer requests started to pour in. It seemed that everyone had someone or some situation that needed my prayers.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually love to spend time praying for people and I’m happy to serve in this needed ministry as a prayer warrior for my friends and family. It just wasn’t a good combination – all the bad news coming in, hearing talks about Christians being called to suffer, and my habit of guessing the end of movies. I knew that I would be called to suffering because all Christians suffer, but I didn’t know what form my suffering would take. In a state of fear, I tried to figure it out. My life became the movie and I was constantly trying to guess the ending.
I would be asked to pray for a child with cancer and would suddenly start wondering if my child (who merely had a common cold) had cancer. I would hear of the family whose house burned down and check the batteries in all my fire alarms. Twice. Every night. A friend told me a story of a small child who choked to death on a grape and grapes were banned from our house.
Every time I would get a headache, I thought for sure I had a tumor. When my husband was a few minutes late, I knew he must have died in a car crash. The list of things I imagined could go wrong was endless. It sounds silly now, but in the midst of it, the fear was paralyzing. Anxiety and worrying consumed my days. The devil was stealing my peace and my joy.
The Lord knew we would suffer from this type of anxiety. Don’t we hear the priest say at every Mass, “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ”? He provides us with the graces and strength necessary to overcome our fears.
We must decide to be a people who wait in joyful hope, rather than dwelling in fear and anxiety. We can only do this by placing our trust in God’s perfect plan for our lives. I still have many days when the fear creeps its way back into my mind. I know that it is not the Holy Spirit bringing those negative thoughts and worries into my life. Because of that, I have come up with a battle plan. Below you will find the things I find most helpful in maintaining joy and peace. I would love for you to share your strategies in the comments!
10 Things You Can Do Instead of Worrying
1. Memorize Scripture
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). When my thoughts overwhelm me, I need to replace my thoughts with God’s word. It helps to have a few verses that you know by memory to repeat in your mind (and sometimes out loud!). If you don’t have any memorized, carry around a Bible or look up verses on your phone. A few of my go-to verses: Psalm 46:10, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 56:3, 2 Timothy 1:7, John 14:27
2. Sing a Song
“He who sings prays twice” (St. Augustine). I recently read a study that showed children’s pain levels went down when they listened to music. Music has a very powerful healing quality. It can lift us up and remind us of God’s promises. Classical music or chant can also have a calming effect on the soul. I listed my current five favorite songs for when I’m feeling anxious at the bottom of this post.
3. Phone a friend
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future” (Proverbs 19:20). One of the biggest mistakes that I made in the past was not letting anyone know how I was feeling. I thought I had to deal with it all on my own. Once I opened up and shared, my friends prayed for me. Friends and family are given to us as a gift. Many times they can see things in our lives that we cannot. Find a friend who can pray with you when you are faced with fear and anxiety. Choose someone who will speak truth into your heart.
4. Pray a powerful prayer
Say a rosary (Do you know the 15 promises to those who pray the rosary?). Say The Jesus Prayer or other short prayers (invocations) to bring peace quickly. If you can’t think of anything else, the Sign of the Cross is a short but mighty form of prayer. Novenas are another powerful way to pray. (Here’s a Novena to St. Dymphna (patron of anxiety) from praymorenovenas.com).
5. Put on some jewelry or invest in home decor
This one might appear to be a bit superficial, but it is very helpful to me. In times of worry, I cling to the miraculous medal that I wear around my neck. It is a tangible reminder of God’s presence around me. It brings me comfort and security (remember your security blanket as a child? Very similar effect!). Recently, I discovered My Saint My Hero, bracelets and I love mine. A glance at my wrist reminds me to surrender and trust in God. A crucifix or religious art in the home can also be visual reminders to “be still and know” that He is God.
6. Read the lives of the saints
At certain moments in their lives they also felt weak, afraid or anxious, yet with the help of God they were able to overcome their fears. God will give you that same help if you open yourself to His grace. Saint Dymphna, Saint Padre Pio and Blessed Margaret of Castello are wonderful stories to begin reading.
7. Get Active
Take a walk or go for a run while contemplating the beauty of God’s creation. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or local hospital.
8. Trust is a must
You must practice putting your trust in God, rather than your own efforts. It is difficult to do this. One way to cultivate trust for the future is to look back at the past. Think about all the ways God has provided for you throughout your life. Be thankful for these times. Journaling or keeping a list of all the ways in which God has blessed you can be useful to look back on in times of difficulty. If you can’t think of any instances in your own life, turn to scripture and the lives of the Saints to remember that God never fails.
9. Embrace the Sacraments
The graces that come from going to Confession and receiving the Eucharist strengthen us to face the daily battles of this life. Spending time in Adoration with Jesus will bring the peace that is often so difficult to find.
10. Stop being selfish
One of the most difficult aspects of my healing process continues to be the realization that much of my fear comes from my own selfishness. Most of what I am afraid of involves losing the people I love or the things in my life that make it comfortable. I’m self-centered and I want things my way. When anything disrupts that, I get upset. I am coming to a point where I can say “not my will, but Your will be done,” trusting that God knows what is best for me.
Note: Many people suffer from severe anxiety that requires professional medical help. If your fears are keeping you from performing daily tasks and enjoying life, seek medical counseling in addition to prayer.
Bonus: My 5 favorite songs when I’m afraid
“Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices” – St. Teresa of Avila