Did you know that anxiety is the most common mental health struggle? More than 40 million people suffer from anxiety in the United States every year. Consequently, a lot of people are wondering how to stop feeling anxious. If you’re one of those people, I have good news – you’re in the right place!
In this article, I’m going to cover the 3 steps that will outline how to stop feeling anxious. The steps are actually not very complicated, but the work is challenging. You probably already know that .
The 3 steps that will teach you how to stop feeling anxious are based on cognitive behavioral therapy. This is just a fancy way to say that your thoughts drive emotions and your emotions drive behavior. But, this is nothing new – God’s Word has been saying the same thing for quite some time .
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ~Proverbs 4:23
Thoughts are Powerful
The way we think about things has a powerful impact on the way we feel. The craziest thing about our thoughts, is we likely don’t even realize what exactly we’re thinking. Our thoughts tend to be like blinking eyes or a beating heart – it’s happening, but we’re not always aware of it.
Here’s an example of one event. My family of four was on vacation and had a zip lining excursion booked. Everyone (husband and kids) thought it was gonna be a blast. My thoughts were more along the lines of, “The line could break and we will plummet to our death.”
It’s the thoughts about zip lining that brought up all kinds of fear and anxiety. Yet, my family had emotions of excitement and joy.
See how the same event can elicit different emotions? Those emotions come from our thoughts.
Wait there’s more…
Emotions Drive Behavior
In the case of the great zip lining debacle, my family excitedly zipped over the rain forest without looking back. I, on the other hand, gripped the railing, refused to go and started to cry (true story!). You see, I wanted to manage those uncomfortable emotions with an action. Refusing to go would remove the fear. We tend to do things to manage feeling anxious… usually doing means controlling or avoiding. That’s how we typically manage anxiety and fear.
Is this making sense? Now that we have the foundation, how do we stop feeling anxious?
How to Stop Feeling Anxious in 3 Steps
Step 1: Identifying Anxious Thoughts
At first glance, it seems like figuring out what you’re thinking would be easy, but it’s actually harder than you might think. Remember, our thoughts can be like a blink or a heart beating. It’s happening, but we’re not always aware of it.
It’s more common to feel an emotion first. I recommend mood trackers combined with journaling to identify anxious thoughts (so we know what thoughts to challenge).
First, mood trackers can be very helpful in becoming aware of uncomfortable emotions. Moods are usually easy to figure out, then the thoughts come next. Additionally, mood trackers show patterns. Patterns can be very telling because you can see when you typically feel anxious.
Once the emotions are identified we have a specific event we can draw from to pick apart the thoughts beneath the surface.
The next step is journaling… I know what you’re thinking, “ugh, journaling!” Hang on though… when you’re dealing with anxiety, thoughts and emotions can feel as though they are moving really fast! The simple act of writing slows the vortex of anxious thoughts way down.
Once those thoughts and emotions are moving at a manageable pace, then they can be examined more closely. In the workbook, I give a great outline on how to journal to get the most benefit.
Ready for the next step?
Step 2: Challenging the Anxious Thoughts
This is the step that will stop those anxious feelings and thoughts in their tracks. Typically anxious thoughts loop in our head like a bad song on repeat. Usually, we won’t tell those thoughts to stop or even consider that they are inaccurate
But all that is about to change!
I looked up the word challenge. Challenge is defined as, “an objection or query as to the truth of something, often with an implicit demand for proof.”
In the workbook, “How to Stop Feeling Anxious,” I outline and provide 7 worksheets to challenge the thoughts. The seven worksheets are based on the cognitive behavioral therapy model and biblical truth.
Those very worksheets range from using simple logic to analyze anxious thoughts to trusting the truth of God’s Word. Consequently, anxious thoughts will no longer be allowed to live in your head without a fight.
Step 3: Preventing Anxious Thoughts
You know the quote, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? ” this quote is so applicable to changing the way we think!
Our thought patterns are shaped by life experiences. As we practice those thought patterns they become deeply ingrained. In other words, when I put my thoughts to fearful things it will grow and I will get really good at being anxious and fearful.
That’s a really scary thought, but it’s totally changeable. We can create new thought patterns that aren’t filled with anxiety and worry. That means there is hope!
Imagine going through your day without the “what if’s” looping through your mind. Imagine restful sleep without excessive worry keeping you up at night.
When you identify and challenge anxious thoughts you are literally changing the thought patterns/habits in your head.
This brings us to the third step – prevention. What do you do to prevent anxiety? Practicing healthy thought patterns are paramount to more peace and joy.
In the workbook I outline three ways to practice healthy thoughts and offer a plan of action to get you started.
First, practice gratitude. Research is now backing up huge benefits of God’s design to give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Second, renew your mind (Romans 12:2). Renewing our mind helps us grow in our faith. Faith grown is fear shrunk. Third and final thing- praise and worship is an incredible way to take our eyes off our stress, fear and worry and fix our eyes on the One who holds it all in His hands.
Quick Recap on How to Stop Feeling Anxious
First step to changing anxious thoughts is identifying them. Second step to taking anxious thoughts captive is challenging those thoughts. Third and final step is practicing new thought patterns. This will help you win the battle of the mind before it ever begins.
In the workbook, “How to Stop Feeling Anxious,” you get a 20 page download, a 30-minute instructional video walking you through each work sheet. Plus, two bonuses – a printable gratitude prompt list and a Bible study on “Taking Thoughts Captive” . In this workbook, I give the step-by-step formula I use in my counseling office to help others stop feeling anxious.