Are we the most anxious generation?
By Sarah Ruf
Fear is choking us.
Two current songs on Christian radio call out fear as the monster it can be.
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In one, singer Zach Williams sings:
Fear, he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear, he is a liar
In another song, singer Francesca Battistelli declares she’s breaking up with someone and doesn’t have room in her life anymore for him (spoiler alert: it’s fear).
Fear is a struggle for everyone. At times I feel overwhelmed by life. This is often short-lived, but my typical can-do spirit occasionally weighs down as the day glides by. Guilt accompanies these feelings. Collective parts of my life are made up from aspects which many people crave: security, a supportive network of family, friends and faith communities, health, and relative wealth compared to the rest of the world. But fear happens anyways.
For others, it’s much worse. I have friends who suffer from extreme anxiety and living in the United States, it seems to be a special problem here. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports anxiety disorders take up the number one spot for mental health conditions in the United States, accounting for nearly one in five American adults. That’s huge. Some people’s anxiety levels may not reach diagnostic standards, but a pulsing sense of dread and worry follows them around like a cloud all the same. I believe the emergence of social media has created a bubble of despair that creates an easy pit we can fall down into. So much of the world’s tragedies are now accessible at the touch and swipe of a button or screen.
As a recovering news junkie myself, I used to subscribe to CNN notifications, which popped up on my smartphone any time a national news event occurred. Needless to say, I eventually deleted my news text alerts – the constant drum of negativity first thing each morning as I picked up my smartphone was not healthy.
Fear is undoubtedly a preferred tool from the devil, used to prevent God’s kingdom from flourishing and God’s peace and justice from flowing.
So what to do? As a believer in Christ, my primary drive should be toward Him. There are ways to diminish fear, but God must be our focus.
Say It Out Loud
Speak your favorite fear-conquering Bible verse out loud, along with some affirmations. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:7,”For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Psalm 56:3-4 is another powerful verse to say aloud. Name it and claim it!
Another technique involving vocalization is to stand in front of your mirror and try saying aloud some positive affirmations to yourself. You may feel silly, but who cares? “I am strong, beautiful and capable because I am a child of God” works for me.
Stop watching TV
You know what I am talking about, and it ain’t anything narrated by David Attenborough. We are living in the Golden Age of television narratives, featuring complex characters and deep storytelling. But binging long-form R-rated dramas on Netflix for hours on Sunday can set the stage for anxious thoughts. I’ve abandoned shows like Mad Men and House of Cards because it was affecting my sleep. If your guilty pleasure is more of the sugar pop fluff variety—here’s looking at you, Bravo and E!—you may begin to experience anxiety that comes due to comparing yourself with the edited, glamorous lives marketed through them.
Speaking of the ‘Gram…
Okay, some scrolling can be harmless. But if you are finding thoughts of comparison creep up into your brain as you scroll or if you can’t enjoy your vacation because you need the perfect angle at the perfect spot, this is low-key setting you up for some bad anxiety. Be present in the moment, and realize perfection is boring.
Reach out to a Professional
Yes, sometimes anxiety reaches the point where it’s time to talk to someone. That’s okay – think of it as an investment that will set a foundation for the rest of your life. Call your local church for suggestions and if that makes you uncomfortable, Psychology Today allows you to search specifically for Christian therapists as part of their directory of counselors in your area.
What’s your tried and true way to beat back anxious thoughts? I’d love to hear them because we are all in this together. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more fear-busting power verses, check out these promises from Soul Shepherding in their Fear Not series.