How to Deal With Anxiety as a Catholic
As a teen there were many times that I was super anxious and didn’t even know it. It wasn’t until college that I realized what I was experiencing wasn’t completely healthy. I remember being in one of my smaller classes and feeling so anxious that I had an intense desire to get up and literally run out. I wasn’t even sure why I was feeling that way!
When I began to see just how much anxiety was affecting me I began to pray and pray that God would alleviate this burden from my life. I found it difficult to sit still for too long, had trouble focusing, and would constantly question my words and actions with others. I kept praying and was hoping that God would zap it out of me and when He didn’t, I was angry and felt stuck. Through prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, I felt God nudging me to seek help to deal with my anxiety, and because of that I sought out therapy for the first time.
Most of us probably have that random uncle or family friend that believes therapy is a bunch of baloney. In my family mental health wasn’t really talked about. My family had gone to a therapist a few times but it still seemed taboo. In studying to be a therapist myself, I unfortunately encountered so much stigma that still exists in society for those trying to seek out therapy and for those suffering with mental illness. So many people suffer day to day but so few people seek help. In all reality, even though it’s not talked about much, millions of people struggle with mental health.
In the therapy work that I do, I’ve encountered people who experience anxiety through panic attacks, stomach or head aches, intense worrying, and even crying themselves to sleep. These things are symptoms of anxiety and deeper issues, but the those deeper issues don’t need to rule your life. You are not defined by your anxiety. Many teens tolerate these symptoms or even embrace them as a part of everyday life. The truth is that God wants to help us carry this cross, which is why He gives us practical tools to do so. First and foremost you are His beloved child. You might experience anxiety, but it doesn’t define who you are or shape your life.
If anxiety is part of your experience, it’s important that you seek the help that you need through the tools that God has given you. Many people are afraid to seek help and are often afraid of the label or what it could mean if they need it; but seeking out a therapist or psychologist for help can be the first step to living a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Don’t Wait for a Zap
While we might want God to zap us all better, treating anxiety isn’t something that can be done without our own effort and cooperation. Christ wants to help us carry our crosses, but we also have to let Him and accept the help. Anxiety exists because we live in an imperfect world where suffering exists. Too often we question whether God cares and whether He wants the best for us. It’s too easy to become overburdened by fear and doubt and we can become accustomed to it. God isn’t leaving you to figure it out on your own but He is giving you real tips to improve your battle with anxiety. God is giving you the tools to live a better life, but you have to pick them up and use them.
Reading the Gage
Your car is sputtering on the highway and you can either pull over and seek help or keep driving and maybe make it worse. Your life with anxiety is similar. But how do you know when enough is enough? How do you know if your anxiety is worth seeking out therapy? Who knows, maybe God is starting with having you read this blog. Here are a few guideposts along the road that may help you. If you experience the following with your anxiety frequently, it’s probably a good sign to seek out help:
- “I’m always freaking out about [insert worry here] and I can’t to stop thinking about it!
- “I don’t want to eat much anymore because I’m so stressed out.”
- “I can’t relax or sit still and my body feels so restless!”
- “I get shaky and can’t calm down. Sometimes I feel dizzy and throw up.”
- “I feel frustrated with others, am on edge, and get really wound up.”
- “I’m tired all the time and don’t want to do anything anymore.”
- “I can’t fall asleep because I lay awake thinking about everything.”
- “I can’t focus, and my mind wanders to negative things.”
- “I space out when I worry and don’t realize I am doing it.”
- “I have panic attacks and am terrified that they will keep happening.”
These guideposts can be a sure sign to get help. This begins with taking real steps for real help. One of the best ways to seek help can be to talk to someone you trust. This may be your Youth Minister, parish priest, teacher, coach, a reliable friend, or best of all your parents. These people (especially your Youth Minister & Priests) should be able to help you determine what the next steps in finding help to treat your anxiety might be. You can also check out several helpful websites to help you find a good Catholic therapist near you. Don’t feel like you have to go the journey alone. Simply talking about it can help tremendously.
Faith, Hope, and Love
It can get better. There is so much peace in knowing that. As a therapist I experience clients healing and managing their anxiety and truly living better lives! Therapy isn’t always a walk in the park because it takes hard work. It takes honesty with yourself and others. It’s a process of getting to know yourself on a deeper level. Therapy requires faith in Jesus our Lord and also that God will give you the tools necessary to help you through therapy. It requires hope in knowing that you can live a more fulfilling life through Christ in real prayer and in using the tools He lays before you. It requires love of self enough to recognize that you truly are a child of God the Father, and are worth seeking out and living a healthy, peace-filled life, with Christ at the center. So do not worry! Christ has conquered your struggle with anxiety! Give your anxiety to the Prince of Peace himself and begin to take real steps today.