The process of introspection, or looking within to examine one's own thoughts, feelings, mindsets, and behaviors, is not for the faint of heart.
It is a brave and courageous, yet often difficult, essential ingredient to any successful counseling recipe.
Without the client's willingness to look within and examine not only the roots of anxiety, but also the people, places, things, and circumstances that perpetuate ongoing or chronic anxiety, counseling will flatline.
Counseling is a collaborative effort between Counselor and Counselee, one that may contain many twists and turns as negative or maladaptive psychological and spiritual roots are unearthed, hopefully, to be uprooted and replaced by new, more fruitful seed.
In each case, useful questions to ask might include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. When did these feelings of anxiousness start (i.e., Am I able to identify a triggering event? How old was I? What events were co-occurring to the onset of anxious symptomology?)?
2. How often do I experience anxiety (i.e., weekly, daily, etc)?
3. What does my anxiety look like? (Notice physiological symptoms like flushed skin, increased heart rate, muscle tension, etc)
4. What has helped to decrease the discomfort of anxious symptoms in the past (i.e., taking a walk, deep breathing, redirecting focus from the problem to an external object, etc)
Your Counselor can go into more depth of these areas and more during your sessions, but when undertaking counseling to confront anxiety, these questions reflect some of the basic fundamentals of introspection or looking within.
"I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to Your statutes." - Psalm 119:59
In situations where pressures are high, emotions are strong, and fears abound, the natural inclination is to shrink down the prayer life, but in overcoming anxiety (or any distress for that matter), prayer is one of the heaviest hitters to overcoming it. Ephesians 6:18 (NIV) says to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV) exhorts the distressed soul to "pray continually."
However, while some are seasoned prayer warriors, others may be less attuned to living out a life of prayer when they enter counseling, so what, exactly, is prayer?
In a nutshell and a very basic nutshell, prayer is simply talking to God. Dress the nutshell up a bit with some biblical spice, and prayer can be described or defined as talking to God, listening for God, saying what is on the heart or mind, and really getting quiet before the Almighty Creator to hear His will on a given matter.
Prayer, like counseling, is often a collaborative journey.
It is speaking to God and pouring the best and worst of one's heart out at the foot of the Cross, but it is followed by a reverent silence and stillness to come together with His knowledge, thoughts, and direction.
Prayer, at its most simple, is a conversation; at its most complex, a harmonious symphony that has the power to move mountains, bring down strongholds, and yes, even to overturn every anxious thought, feeling, and emotion.
So, what happens when the struggling soul hits their knees and utters even the smallest of prayers to his Maker?
In the book of Jeremiah, verse 29:12, individuals are told to "come and pray to Me, and I [God] will listen to you."
Flip over to Mark 11:24 and it reads: "Whatever you have asked for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
Move back to Psalm 17:6 and the psalmist says "I call on you, my God, and You will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer," and in Psalm 145:18 the promise of God is made: "the Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth."
The street is not one way; it's two.
The prayers need not be fancy, long, or even eloquent; they need only to be genuine.
Sometimes, the most heartfelt prayer is as simple as "God, help me."
In today's world of pharmaceutical glory, many desperate individuals seek answers to their psychological distresses through medication.
Though the benefits of modern medicine can't be denied, nor should the person carrying a worthy and justifiable prescription be judged, the answers aren't always in a pill capsule.
Sometimes, the answer is a prescription, but other times, anxious thoughts and even overwhelming anxiety, are able to be resolved through less aggressive means like prayer, meditation, journaling, change of habits, increasing self-awareness, resolving childhood trauma, or simply having someone listen.
In mental health, one size most definitely does not fit all.
Each case should be explored individually and compassionately, regardless of where the path leads, but for the individual in Christian counseling, studying the Bible will always be one element of an overall treatment prescription.
While it may sound simple - studying the Bible - not everyone is able or willing to devote mass amounts of time to exegesis or even casual daily reading of the Scriptures.
Take the bricks of expectation off your shoulders now, though, and be comforted to learn that studying the Bible also doesn't come in a one-size-fits all.
Though some have undeniably been given an earnest desire to study it deeply and memorize it intently through sit-down reading, others might engage in study via different routes such as audio Bibles, daily devotionals, watching live sermons, or participating in a Bible study where the Bible is learned through small group instruction and discussion. Breathe.
Your approach to Bible study is yours to identify and explore, and you're not wrong in how you opt to tackle that study.
Every individual has a different learning style and what works for your spouse or neighbor or pastor may very well be ineffective for you.
That said, the importance of knowing the Bible on a personal level when seeking to overcome anxiety cannot be overstated.
Psalm 34:4, for instance, says "I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears," was a foundational verse in one woman's plight to reign victoriously over the fears in her head.
Sometimes, studying the Bible starts with simply identifying one verse out of many that speak to the problem to be solved.
Dig into Romans 8:38-39 that says "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present, nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Or, grab your highlighter and press down against the pages in Philippians 4:6 that instructs: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
Whatever the focus of your anxiety today, the Bible is replete with promises from God to walk you through every anxious hill and valley.
You just have to dig in via a study route that compliments your spiritual and intellectual receptors.
The task of overcoming anxiety is overwhelming at best and terrifying at worst.
Inherent in the very occurrence of anxiety some fear or worry that has grown to an unhealthy or even maladaptive height and depth.
Just as Rome was not built in a day, you can expect that anxiety will not be overcome with the mere decision to stop worrying, though that is a great decisional starting point.
As you begin your journey of healing and overcoming anxious thoughts and feelings, arm yourself with the assurance that you will need to persevere through some tricky spots.
Hebrews 12:1-2 implores individuals to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer, and Perfector of our faith."
The very essence of perseverance suggests difficulty, resistance, and challenges.
To persevere is to prevail against external conditions that make it difficult.
Consider the athlete who trains in harsh weather conditions or rocky terrain.
His success is not attained until he has first withstood the storms and climbed over the boulders.
Likewise, your journey of overcoming your anxiety necessitates spiritual, psychological, and emotional perseverance, but you can do it.
To overcome anxiety, you must also believe that you can and will.
On days when the world's cares are pressing in around you, it might take greater faith to believe that things will get better.
What happens when you don't see progress?
When you wake up every morning for five years with the same worries, same fears, same concerns?
It's easy to slip into a mindset of mistrust and doubt after a while.
Mistrust in your own abilities, doubt in the God who promised to deliver you, and an overall loss of hope for positive, lasting change.
Hebrews 11:1 says that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."
If you've already reached out for help to address the anxiety you've been experiencing, then you've already exercised faith.
You've laid the foundation and it's time to grow, heal, and overcome.
Your faith is the foundation from which it all begins.
Anxiety is no respecter of persons, and it's culturally unbiased. Individuals from every corner of the world have experienced it on some level.
For some, it becomes crippling, and for others, it may be of short duration, but in any case, it is challenging to navigate.
Whether your anxiety has become a Goliath and you're not yet ready to step up as a David, rest assured, it is God's will to walk with you through unearthing it, understanding it, and ultimately overcoming it.
Be willing to look within, pray through every circumstance, and study the Bible for Divine guidance.
Persevere even on the days you want to give up, and through it all, fight the good fight of faith to win the prize of peace for which you've been called.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful." - Colossians 3:15
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