Here’s What I’ve Learned About Responding Well To Anxiety

Jun 20, 2024 | Lifestyle

By: Akos Balogh

Anxiety was never a part of my life.

At least, not until I turned 40. But then it entered with a bang: panic attacks, and intense feelings of anxiety that affected my job (or at least the part that involved getting on an aircraft). But over time I learned some ‘game-changing’ truths that changed how I responded to anxious feelings. Truths – grounded in the Bible and the best of modern psychology – that serve me well to this day.

I talk about my journey with Anxiety in an episode of the Australian Christian podcast, ‘Anxious Faith’. If you suffer from anxiety or know someone who does, I hope this episode gives you hope and encouragement:

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts

Click here to listen on Spotify.

As I discuss on the podcast, here are two of these ‘game-changing’ truths that set me on the path to responding well to anxiety:

1) Anxiety is something I experience; it’s not who I am

During my struggle with aeroplanes and anxiety, I would often want to escape from the aircraft soon after sitting in my seat. I felt that I was my anxious feelings, with no way out.

But then I realised that thoughts and feelings don’t necessarily reflect reality.

They’re distinct from us: the more I could learn to see them from a distance, as it were, the more I could respond appropriately whenever anxious thoughts and feelings reared their heads.  They’re merely something we experience – like rain, sunshine, or many external things.

As author James Clear puts it:

Your mind is a suggestion engine. Every thought you have is a suggestion, not an order.

Sometimes your mind suggests that you are tired, that you should give up, or that you should take an easier path.

But if you pause, you can discover new suggestions. For example, that you will feel good once the work is done or that you have the ability to finish things even when you don’t feel like it.

Your thoughts are not orders. Merely suggestions. You have the power to choose which option to follow.

There is a strong analogy here to what Scripture says about other difficult thoughts and feelings: such as our sin. Sin is something we experience, yes; but it’s not who we are. And we can choose to say ‘no’ to sin, even as we battle against it (see Galatians 5:13-26).

2) I can choose how to respond to anxious thoughts and feelings.

While I can’t always control when anxious thoughts and feelings come my way (and in some situations, it’s important to feel anxious), I can choose my response to those thoughts and feelings.

I can choose to acknowledge their existence. And if necessary, heed them (e.g. don’t walk down a dark alley at nighttime). Or alternatively, ignore them (e.g. when sitting in a perfectly good aeroplane).

As I did this over time, I noticed the anxious thoughts and feelings decreasing in intensity, becoming less frequent, and exerting less control over my life.

I unpack other aspects of my mental health journey in the article: 10 Surprising Things I’ve Heard About Having Good Mental Health

Disclaimer: This article and interview are only general advice based on my reflections and experiences. If you are experiencing Mental Health difficulties, consult your GP. If you’re a resident of Australia, you can also call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or Lifeline on 131 114.