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Reducing Anxiety – Practically Depending on God

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – Jesus to the apostles in John 16:33

Jesus warned the apostles and He warns us today that we will have trouble, but in the end God wins!!  I called this blog entry ‘Reducing Anxiety’ because I have found that these tools help but they don’t eliminate anxiety.  These tools should be available to all, especially Christians, as we deal with the trials of life.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

When we get anxious, we start to breath quickly and shallowly.   Obviously you get less oxygen and it can be harder to think clearly.  I’m not an expert on this but here are the steps I follow for this technique, along with some additional resources:

  1. Although you can lie down, I typically do this exercise while sitting up tall in a chair.  Back straight, head looking straight ahead, comfortable and relaxed.  Place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  3. Optional: after your stomach is filled, then you can fill your upper chest (see diagram to right).  If you do this optional step, then first exhale from the chest before…
  4. Contract your stomach muscles bringing your belly button towards your spine. Exhale through pursed lips (like you are blowing up a balloon)
  5. Repeat, inhale to a count of 8 (but don’t strain yourself) and exhale to a count of 4 (again, don’t strain)

Additional resources on Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring is much like journaling but with a focused template and the goal of understanding and practically addressing anxiety.

  1. Find a quiet place where you can think and write.  Briefly describe (in your journal) the situation (provide context, date, etc.).
  2. List all the thoughts you are having about this situation.  Don’t filter yourself – this is important.  These are your automatic thoughts.
  3. How does this make you feel? (anxious/nervous, angry, frustrated, sad, irritated, embarrassed, ashamed, hateful, confused, etc.)
  4. List the thinking errors in your automatic thoughts.  Here is a list of possible errors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_distortion
  5. Challenge your thoughts.   Here are some sample questions that could help:
    1. Do I know for certain that___________?
    2. What evidence do I have that ________?
    3. What is the worst that could happen?  How bad is that?
    4. Do I have a crystal ball?
    5. Is there another point of view?
  6. Rational Response is a summary of the challenges into a rational statement to use to combat your automatic thoughts.
  7. Achievable Behavioral Goal – what is one thing that is do-able that you can do right now to help reduce the anxiety?

Afterwards, you can further ask more questions like: Did you achieve your goal?  Did the rational response help?  What did you learn?  This is from a book called Managing Social Anxiety: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Approach Client Workbook (Treatments That Work).  You can find the complete two page worksheet to use as a guide below.

Cognitive Restructuring ExerciseCognitive Restructuring Worksheet

I find that after doing this exercise for a while, the anxiety creating thoughts immediately bring the rational response to mind which acts like a cure.  Here’s a very short example:

  1. Situation: Getting over a cold that has kept me from working for two full days
  2. Automatic Thoughts:
    1. I’ve got a lot to get done but I’m still fatigued from my cold.  I’m falling behind!
    2. I also would like to post a new blog entry but I want to do it well and not rush it.   -> Honor God
    3. Job search is stalling with no word from multiple opportunities while I was sick.
    4. Worried about upcoming storm – the tree near our garage could fall on our house.
  3. Feeling: Anxious, tired
  4. Thinking Errors: Disqualifying the positive, Fortune telling
  5. Challenge:  I’ve been sick and despite that I spoke at a conference and have had somewhat productive days.
  6. Rational Response: Give yourself a break;  Trust God for the outcome; Make a list
  7. Achievable Goal: Make a list of the follow-up items and actions I need to respond to first.

I sincerely hope this post gives you some tools that help you reduce your anxiety.  Please let us know your thoughts.  Do you have other techniques that have worked for you?   Have you tried these before and had success?  or not?

God Bless!

Creative Commons License
Reducing Anxiety – Practically Depending on God by Westchester Men’s Ministry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://nymensministry.com/2012/11/01/reducing-anxiety/.

Comments

  1. My doctor told me exercising help reduces anxiety like going to a gym, walking, bike riding. I go to a gym here in the apartment complex i live at. Of course, I do it to lose weight, for my heart also

  2. The reason why I subtitled this post “Practically Depending on God” is because this exercise (cognitive restructuring) allows us to determine what we are anxious about and place them in God’s hands.

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