“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
– Dune, Litany Against Fear
The strangest things trigger it. I’m learning to lean in and let it say what it needs to say, and then tell it a few things myself. It slaps me around a little, and sometimes drops me, but it can’t really hurt me.
Yeah, I’m talking about anxiety. Or you can call it stress if you like the more masculine sound of that.
Here’s how it goes with me. Let’s say I see something that reminds of a sad thing that happened in my life. A real thing. Suddenly I am awash that worse things are happening. That some unknown terror is about to hit. Then my phone alerts me to a text. WHAT COULD THAT POSSIBLY BE!? Remember the how the Wicked Witch of the West melted? Yeah, that’s me. Except I go into Child’s Pose.
I think there are a few things happening here with me. One, I’m not very strong and things hurt my feelings easily and sometimes leave a nasty mark. That is, I have a propensity toward fear. All of us have broken parts in our DNA, down to even our personality traits. I am a person who is easily spooked. I yam what I yam.
Another contributor could be disease. They (science people) are finding that many people with autoimmune diseases and other conditions such as fibromyalgia deal with anxiety and depression. Which came first, the anxiety or the diseases? I dunno. But why would inflammation occur in every area of your body except your brain? Hmmm?
So whether anxiety is a personality trait, a symptom of a physical disease, both, or neither – people gots it and it ain’t fun.
But God knows this. He knows what we are made of. He even determined it! He knit us together, starting with our DNA. And remember, “As a father has compassion on his children, so God has compassion on us.” This is extremely meaningful to me.
So, as cool as the Litany Against Fear is, my tools against anxiety are as follows:
1. Truth: I am safe. God has all things in his hands. He will never leave me or forsake me. This fallen life in this fallen world is the only hell I’ll ever face. Etc. These truths have to be applied daily, and sometimes throughout the day. Being reminded of God’s tender mercy all day isn’t a bad thing!
2. More Truth: Asking myself, what is really happening? I have found that often my fears do have a kernel of truth. There is something scary happening. But usually it is something scary that might happen. Big difference. I remind myself that I am safe and I am cared for.
3. Chemistry: I am grateful for the medications that help with anxiety. Finding the balance that allows you to enjoy life and feel real things is important. If a prescription isn’t working for you, tell your doctor and they will tweak it! Sometimes you have to try several things before you find something that works. Always talk to your doctor before getting off a medication. Some medications can make you seriously squirrelly if you just stop taking them suddenly.
Also, cut that caffeine. Try half caf drinks – they taste the same as full caf! And there are some lovely teas that are supposed to help calm the body. Chamomile is my best friend.
4: Breathe: There are so many good breathing exercises out there. Try one! Try another one! For me “one big breath in, hold for three seconds, then slowly exhale” does wonders. Really, do a Google search and see what you find.
5. Litany Against Fear (from Dune): Okay, kinda sorta. I like the part that says “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.” When I avoid things that may trigger anxiety, I am giving those things more power to give me anxiety. Facing what makes us afraid IS success. Not running or avoiding is brave and courageous and shows faith. And why can I face things that scare me? Because I am trusting God that (sing it again with me…) I am safe.
6. Whatever Else Works: For me, hot baths in the evening, reading my Bible, listening to music about God’s love especially the Psalms to music, writing (case in point), reading The Lord of the Rings over and over, gardening, and being around people. People are the best distraction! They cause other emotions to break out all over you – like compassion. It’s so good to see someone else’s face other than your own.
Whether it’s pets or books or cooking or painting or sewing or getting a great nap in the sun, enjoy these comforts! They are a blanket on a cold day. They are gifts from God. Which leads me to the last one…
7. Enjoy the times when you don’t feel anxious! Sometimes I wonder how God feels when I’m feeling good and don’t cling to him like a scared baby. I think he’s probably pretty glad! Not that I’m a burden, but he’s glad that I trust him to run the world without my help. And like a little child shows her gratitude for a new toy by running to go play with it, so I thank my Father for the gift of a fear-less day by gleefully enjoying it. As it should be.