Overcoming Anxiety by Pursuing Peace

Maintaining P.E.A.C.E. in Troubled Times

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health challenges worldwide today. While many people suffer from it, few seek help or treatment for it. Yet, there are many avenues available to support our fight in overcoming anxiety.

This topic is very personal for me as I have struggled off and on with anxiety for many years. While I am not a medical provider or licensed counselor, I can share what has helped me most just as one beggar might tell another where to find food.

Freedom from Fear

Some time ago, I was blindsided by a panic attack right in the middle of Walmart. An illogical fear choked my breath as an unseen weight squeezed my chest. My palms sweat and my heart raced. I felt slightly dizzy and weak.

My mind raced, trying to recall what I was supposed to do. I knew that there was no legitimate reason for the fear that gripped me, but I was powerless to stop it all the same.

Just then, a Walmart worker popped up in front of me with a friendly smile, “Are you finding everything you need, okay?” On the inside, my mind screamed, “No! I’m not. I need help!” On the outside, I managed an unconvincing nod indicating his services were not needed at the moment. What could he do anyway?

My brain was drowning in anxiety and it desperately searched for anything to grab on to. What had my therapist said? What was that verse I had memorized for such a time as this? Why I am feeling this way? What is wrong with me?!

As my eyes scanned the store, (What was I trying to buy, anyway?) they landed on the box of 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies that were sitting calmly on the bakery shelf. You know, the soft gooey ones that are made fresh in the store. They looked very peaceful. My brain suddenly knew what it needed. Cookies!

I bought a box and fled the store, locking myself safely in my car. I dove for the cookies and ate a few. My heart rate started to slow. My breathing became less rapid. A few more and the grip of fear loosened. Starting to feel normal again, I started the car and left the parking lot.

How to find peace when you really want to panic (That time I ate 2 dozen cookies so you don't have to.) #truestory
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I drove home, eating cookies the whole way, not bothering to count how many I’d consumed. By the time I got home, all was well with my mind again and normal functioning had returned but sadly, most of the cookies were gone.

Not only was I alarmed at my meltdown (in public, no less!), but I was sorely disappointed in myself for how I had coped with the situation. Why couldn’t I remember any of the freeing truths I had been learning? After everything I had studied and read and the Scriptures I had memorized, why was it cookies (of all things!) that finally calmed my crazy?

As tasty as they were, I knew consuming chocolate chip cookies by the dozen was not a sustainable option for me. I had to be better prepared next time so that when my brain lost a few marbles, the marbles that were left could pull it together. So I came up with a simple strategy to help me remember what to do when I’m feeling battered by anxiety and my racing thoughts are grasping for anything positive to cling to.

If we want to get rid of anxiety, we can just throw it out. We have to proactively replace it with something more beneficial. To be free from the harassing presence of fear, is to know peace.

The easy way to remember the 5 steps I’m about to share with you is to just remember that you want P.E.A.C.E. Each letter stands for something you can actively do to climb out of the anxiety pit.

To help you remember it, I’ve even made a handy cheat sheet you can download and print out to take with you. Just fill in the form below and I’ll send it right to you! Don’t forget to come back here and finish reading after you print it out. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay, awesome. Your back! You can follow along with me on your cheat sheet and make notes that will help you overcome the next time anxiety comes knocking at your door.

PPRAY to your God. (Strong Spirit)

God tells us quite plainly that anxiety won’t fix anything, but prayer will. Not only will God use our prayers to work in a situation that has us stressed, but our prayers also have a profound impact on our own hearts and minds as well. Prayer is the vehicle through which God delivers the peace we so desperately crave.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7
Prayer is the vehicle through which God delivers the peace we so desperately crave. Find 5 steps to P.E.A.C.E. here! #peace #anxiety #prayer Click To Tweet

God knows that worry is a dead-end street or, more accurately, a terrifying merry-go-round that goes round and round in circles but never gets us anywhere; always in motion but never making progress. That’s why he tells us not to even bother with it.

Prayer, on the other hand, gets the job done. It unleashes spiritual power our physical senses are not perceptive enough to detect. But when that warm blanket of God’s peace envelopes us in the midst of the storm, we have no doubt it’s the real deal.

Why wait until later? Start now. What are you most stressed about at this moment? Instead of venting on Facebook, texting your friend, yelling at a family member, or cursing a politician, just stop and pray about it. Facebook, friends, family, and yes, even politicians, can’t fix it.

God alone is the cure for what ails us. So go ahead. Dump your burdens on him. (1 Peter 5:7) He’s big enough to handle it no matter how it comes out. You don’t have to have the “right” words. He just wants you to turn your heart in his direction. He’s been waiting for you.

Personally, I use the Lord’s Prayer as a model when I pray. I’ve written a prayer journal and eBook so I can share it with you. This way of praying has radically changed my conversations with God. You can get your own copy free by clicking the banner below.

Prayer Guide ebook on the Lord's Prayer

EEXCHANGE your worry for worship (Strong Will)

Worry often pesters our thoughts regarding parts of life that are outside our control. In order to release the anxiety, we must relieve ourselves of the burden of perceived control. We actually have a lot less control over most aspects of life than we like to admit.

Sometimes, we don’t even need to give up control, because we never really had it to begin with. We just need to let go of the idea that if we do our part, nothing undesirable, painful, or tragic will ever happen to us or the ones we love. Sorry folks. That’s just not how life works.

In order to release anxiety, we must relieve ourselves of the burden of perceived control. #godsgotthis #worship #overcoming anxiety Click To Tweet

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

JESUS (Luke 12:25-26)

It’s so hard, but we must learn to abandon our false perceptions and trust God alone. He is faithful to deal well with everything beyond our control (which is most of life). This requires surrender to God, which is an unpopular concept, but the only winning strategy.

Therefore, instead of being anxious, we pray and instead of worrying we worship. Same deal. Anxiety and worry don’t take us to any fruitful places. But prayer delivers peace and worship tramples evil. So worship God for who He is and all He’s done. 

Instead of being anxious, pray and instead of worrying, worship. Anxiety and worry don't take us to any fruitful places. But prayer delivers peace and worship tramples evil. #pray #worship #overcomeanxiety Click To Tweet

Worship is my personal weapon against despair, anxiety, lies, selfishness, negativity, cold-heartedness, and more.  Worship helps me to be more aware of God’s presence with me in the midst of my daily life.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Nehemiah 8:10 - Exchange your worry for worship.
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When I am feeling depressed or anxious, worship is pretty much one of the LAST things I feel like doing.  But when I make myself worship anyway, it is one the most effective means of overcoming a spirit of despair soothing my fears with peace.  And once I overcome the inertia and get started, I do want to worship.

I used to wonder why God is always telling us to praise Him throughout Scripture. Truthfully, it sounded a little egotistical to me. But then I realized our worship is not for His benefit, but ours. He knows the truth, but we need to be reminded.

God does not need us to stroke His ego, but we definitely need to focus on His goodness and greatness rather than our problems and fears. When we worship, we remind ourselves of the awesomeness of the One who lives within us.

When we worship God, our enemies of fear, doubt, and discouragement flee. Praise is like taking a sword to all the negative thoughts that harass and pull at us and telling them to get lost because our God is great and He fights for us.

Did you know that worship was a military strategy in ancient Israel? I’m sure you have heard of the story of Jericho—the first city the Israelites had to overcome to claim their Land of Promise. Joshua, who was their new leader at the time, came to be an accomplished military commander. But their first battle was not fought with military strategy or physical weapons. The walls of Jericho fell at the sound of trumpeting priests and shouting worshipers.

The Lord is my strength and my song. He has given me victory. Exodus 15:2

It’s significant that their battle was first won through worship before it was accomplished through fighting. I think God wanted them to know where the real power originated so they wouldn’t be so eager to trust their own strength.

Exodus 15:2 says, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.” Music and strength go together. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. If you want to stand strong in the face of overwhelming anxiety, find strength in the joy of worshiping the Lord in song.

So get out your D.O.C. (device of choice) and start curating your praise playlist today. Then whenever dread starts creeping up on you, just crank the volume and blast it away with praise. Here’s one of my praise lists to get you started.

5 Ways to find peace when you feel like panicking
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AANALYZE your thoughts (Strong Mind)

Anxiety’s root is fear comes from the enemy. Fear is a liar. Holding on to God’s truth and refusing to let go will help you vanquish your anxiety.

In Scripture, the truth of God’s Word is likened to a sword. Think of that truth as the sword that mortally wounds the fear that hunts you. Truth is a weapon with the power to set you free. But you have to pick it up and use it.

Overcoming anxiety requires a mental shift to an eternal perspective. Think about the long game, not what’s right in your face this moment. Put God first and let him take care of the rest. (Mt 6:33)

The Bible speaks of the necessity to capture our thoughts (2 Cor 10:5) and while that’s much easier to do than to say, it’s the only way to keep negative thoughts from poisoning your whole outlook on life. The best way I’ve found to do that is to use Philippians 4:8 as a guide.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
~ Philippians 4:8

So if what stresses you is not:

  • True
  • Noble
  • Right
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Admirable
  • Excellent
  • Praiseworthy

Then you would be better off choosing something else to think about.

If what you're thinking is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, you'd be better off thinking about something else. Phil 4:8 #overcominganxiety #COVID19 Click To Tweet

For example, when I start to worry about my kids contracting COVID-19 or me being intubated or not getting to kiss my husband goodbye before he dies, I get way stressed out until I remember that none of that is my reality right now. Sure it might be in the future, but God will take care of us if we get there. He’s not equipped me today to handle imaginary problems of tomorrow (Mt 6:34).

So, I check out the list above and choose to be grateful instead. I’m happy for the quiet evenings we get to spend together as a family now. The warm weather and a little extra time to enjoy the outdoors is appreciated. I take time to be grateful for doctors, nurses, teachers, police, and others on the frontline.

You know, we should have been grateful for them all along. We should have been looking out for the elderly, the physically vulnerable, and the financially vulnerable already. It shouldn’t be a new thing that we give folks grace when they struggle to pay the rent or we share with others when supplies are low.

So whatever has you anxious right now, give that over to God to handle. Deliberately and decisively choose not to think about that anymore. Instead, find something praiseworthy and admirable to think about. And by all means, make sure it’s true! Lies and miscommunications are always stressful. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Isaiah 26:3, NLT

C CONTROL your fear (Strong Heart)

Anxiety reveals a lack of trust in God’s concern and abilities. If we really trusted that he loves us unconditionally and has the power to help us, we wouldn’t fear so much.

To overcome our anxiety, we have to focus on who He says He is. We must trust his character and claim his promises to us. Remember times past when he showed himself faithful to you and remind yourself that he is the same God today.

Use the strength of your will and the clarity of your mind to steer your heart. Our emotions are wonderful and useful gifts of God, but they aren’t always the best leaders. They are meant to be indicators, not dictators.

Our emotions are wonderful and useful gifts of God, but they aren't always the best leaders. They are meant to be indicators, not dictators. #overcominganxiety #fearisaliar Click To Tweet

The problem is that if we don’t control our fear, then eventually it will control us. We are meant to be lead by the Holy Spirit, not terror that originates from the enemy. Allow the perfect love of Jesus to fill your heart and push out the fear. (1 John 4:18)

We can’t control the storm that rages around us, but we can control our response to it. We can choose to trust God’s leadership rather than become slaves to fear. Christ died to set us free from that nonsense! Why would we ever go back?

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”

jesus (John 14:1)

EEXERCISE your body (Strong Body)

Exhaustion, illness, and injury only make anxiety worse. It’s so hard to keep my mind where it needs to be when I’m battling physical pain and discomfort as well.

Though our spirits are eternal, our bodies are disposal. They are good for one-time use only. When they quit, our work here is done and our spirits depart for Eternity.

In the Western world, we tend to disregard the body’s influence on our mind, will, heart, and even our spirit. Yet they are intricately interwoven in ways we don’t fully understand or appreciate. Anxiety and depression are both often connected with various physical ills and vise versa,

The science is complicated and I’ll save that for another post, but for now just know that exercise is one of the best remedies for anxiety. Even better than medication alone!

I know this from personal experience as well. Over the last few years, I have inadvertently become an exercise junkie. I’ll be honest, physical reasons alone are not enough motivation to make me leave my desk and hit the gym or the running trail. I workout primarily for mental health reasons. Any physical body improvements are just a side-effect of my treatment.

I workout primarily for mental health reasons. Any physical body improvements are just a side-effect of my treatment. #overcominganxiety #fitness Click To Tweet

I have a lot more to share with you on exercise and health in other posts so stay tuned. For today though, just figure out some way to get your body in motion that enjoy doing – walking the dog, pushing a stroller, dancing, cleaning, playing with young kids, a backyard sport – all of these count. (Carrying a load of laundry up the stairs also counts but nobody enjoys doing that.)

What are you going to choose? Pick something now. Make an appointment with yourself and then keep it as if it was a super important meeting – because it is. Give yourself the same respect you would give another and show up when you said you would to do what you promised. K?

Remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy.

Ecclesiastes 11:9B-10a

The Road to Freedom Starts with Faith

If you’re sick of anxiety getting the upper hand with you, remember this: Faith (trust in God) leads to peace, which brings freedom from fear.

FAITH (TRUST) → PEACE → FREEDOM

On your journey to freedom, remember to pray, worship, steer your thoughts, control your fear, and exercise your body.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ~ Galatians 5:1

Start Overcoming Anxiety Today!

Overcoming anxiety is not easy, but it is possible and very rewarding! Especially when you have the right tools.

The most important tool, of course, is an active relationship with Jesus cultivated through studying the Bible and communicating with God (also called prayer).

If you need a little more help, please feel free to use the same methods I use to overcome my own anxiety. I made a handy little cheat sheet for you to easily remember the steps. Download yours today!

And, please … if you ever spot me in Walmart buying out all the chocolate chip cookies, will you sweetly remind me to find my P.E.A.C.E. elsewhere? I’d certainly appreciate it! Thanks. You rock!

Can you think of one person who would benefit from hearing this message? Please share it so together we can reach as many people as possible with a roadmap to find PEACE in troubled times. Thank you!

Will you pray this prayer with me?

Overcoming Anxiety by Pursuing Peace
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Oh Lord, our hearts are troubled today. The heartbreak in the world around us is all-consuming. Our fear for ourselves and those we care about haunts us. Our confidence in our leaders and the people we share this planet with has been rattled. Oh God, we need you. We always need you, but we are especially aware of it today. Our weakness, fragility, and lack of control is staring us right in the face with piercing eyes that leave us shaken and afraid. We can’t quite process one loss before another is announced. Where is peace now, Father? You promised to overcome the evil in the world, but boy does it feel like evil is winning today. Still … we hold tight to your promises. We trust your heart for us, even when we can’t see your plan. We are confused and caught off guard but you aren’t. Help us cast our burdens down at your feet and leave them there so we can be free from fear and ready to mobilize our energy toward helping those in need. Lord, there are so many. We cannot help others when we are paralyzed by our own fear. Wash our minds with your truth. Clean out all the silly lies we’ve swallowed for too long. Put a guard around our minds with gates that only allow what’s true to stay. Help us stop fearing the enemy. You have already conquered the grave. You overcame evil and death and by your power, we can overcome anxiety.

we claim these truths in jesus’ name. amen.

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