I could feel my chest tightening and my palms beginning to sweat. Soon would come the difficulty breathing followed by the flow of tears. There was nothing I could do to stop it, control it, or understand why it was even happening to me.
I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks as a teen, but my anxiety hit an all-time high as a freshman in college. And the worst part of it all? I hid it from everyone.
I’m wondering today if you’re someone struggling with anxiety, or you know someone who is?
You are not alone. And most importantly, God has not forgotten you during this time of struggle.
Back to my earlier story.
It was nothing new for me to internalize my stress over things and let it simmer under the surface until the situation (or me) erupted. But showing physical signs of that stress taking over my body and my life is what pushed me into the reality that I needed to stop pretending everything was okay. It started with a panic attack every now and then, but before long they happened so frequently that I didn’t even want to go to class or out in public much at all.
I felt powerless to stop it.
A broken relationship. Academic probation. Feeling lost and unsure of the future. Strained friendships. Low self-esteem. All of it just came to a head.
But a smile goes a long way doesn’t it? An “I’m doing well,” makes people stop wondering how you’re doing. A night out with friends proves you can make it without him and you’re doing great after the breakup. Right?
Lies and more lies the enemy wants us to believe. He wants us to think we’re supposed to handle it all on our own. Suffer in silence. But then we break and we feel like a failure because we can’t handle the stress of the situation we’re in.
Did you know that is the complete opposite of what God wants us to do with anxiety?
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) tells us:
Cast all your worries on Him because he cares for you.
Or as the Voice Translation puts it:
Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries.
Wow. Such powerful words! Such a powerful command for us. Yet why is it so difficult for us to do this?
Well for one, we find it hard to give up control to God. Even though we can say it over and over again that He is the one in control, we never quite fully believe it. I think sometimes we also feel ashamed that we’re struggling with anxiety and we wouldn’t dare want anyone to know that each day is a struggle. Sometimes even moment to moment can be hard.
We are meant to not only cast our anxiety and worries on the Lord, but also to share our struggles with others.
We are not designed to go it alone.
I kept telling myself that if it got any worse I would tell someone. Well, the problem with that theory was that I just kept lowering my idea of what worse looked like. I will never forget the day I had an attack in my dorm room while I was on the phone with my mom and I finally uttered the words, “Mom, I think I need to talk to someone about this.”
Now, I want to be transparent with you on this issue as I feel like a lot of people struggle with this on varying levels. I am no expert on dealing with anxiety or giving up full control to God. I have not yet mastered either. But I do have some tips that helped me during my period of struggle and perhaps they will help you.
Tips for Dealing with Anxiety as a Teen
- Make small tasks. Now I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but it definitely helps me. When you overload your to-do list with a lot of tasks, you can get overwhelmed very easily. Do you have multiple assignments due for your classes or a lot of commitments? Organize them by priority–what’s due first and then move on. Also, don’t worry if you can’t check off all your to-do list items. It may not seem like it, but not everything has to be done in one day.
- Revamp your time with the Lord. Mix it up! Instead of having a typical “quiet time” with God, go for a walk and just talk to Him. Listen to music. Create a collage. Make a prayer journal. There are numerous ways to spend time with God and maybe mixing that time up will allow you to share your worries with Him more freely. Spending time with God doesn’t have to be structured or look the same all the time. It doesn’t even have to be complicated, just time between you and your Heavenly Father.
- Ask for help. This one is the hardest for me. We are prideful creatures and we don’t often want to ask for help. Do you have an adult you can trust or a group of believers you can surround yourself with? As I mentioned before, you’re not meant to struggle alone. We are designed for companionship and to share with other believers. Asking for help not only allows you to share your struggles, but you would be surprised at the bond it creates between friends.
- Give grace to yourself. Learning to cast all your worries on the Lord or give up control to Him is a lifelong battle and one that comes in time and depends on your current walk with Him. While I’d like to tell you that it’s a change that comes overnight, it doesn’t. So remember to give grace to yourself! This struggle is not easy. It takes time.
Like I said, I am definitely not an anxiety expert or a professional on this issue. I’m just a girl who has struggled with it and as a teen, I remember how hard it was to deal with. My relationship with God was really tested during my struggle with panic attacks and anxiety. I wish I could tell you that it immediately got better after I said a prayer one day, but it didn’t.
It took a long time of walking with Him, learning what caused my attacks, and leaning on other believers to overcome that struggle.
Today, if you identified with any part of my story, I pray that you feel you’re not alone. I hope you’re encouraged to acknowledge the struggle, and most importantly I pray that you’re able to begin to cast all your worries on the Lord.
Have you or someone you know dealt with anxiety?
What tips have you found helpful?
How can you encourage a friend dealing with anxiety?
You might also want to check out these thoughts on dealing with anxiety, especially as an adult.