Tips for Stilling the Fear in Your Belly

From focus groups, we’re hearing anxiety is an epidemic among women.

We’re not surprised.


Because we battle it too.

I am anxious as I type this. Its physicalness resembles a smoldering bed of glowing coals in my stomach….like the effects of making a mid-morning snack of embers. For the past couple of weeks, I awaken from a sleep as deep as death into full-blown fear.

It subsides and flares throughout the day, without obvious prompting. This isn’t altogether new for me, but I am usually aware of the triggers (i.e., hormones, media, parenting issues). This bout has seemed global and random.

And I’m in good company. A 2010 report entitled America’s State of Mind disclosed the following:

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults. An estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders.

Not surprisingly, women constitute the largest demographic prescribed anti-anxiety medication, almost twice that of men.

While I haven’t determined how to completely extinguish the dogged heat in my guts, I have discovered some strategies helpful for managing the fire.

anxiety drawing

Tire it.

As much as we may hate to hear it, exercise is a natural antidote to anxiety. Our daughters were both fighting through anxiety four years ago. We registered them for the city’s recreational track team, and it eliminated the issue. Physical exertion uses up the excess energy that bounces around inside of us as anxiety.

Question it.

What is the real source? Because I am a praying girl, I spent the morning asking the following questions:

  • What lie am I believing that has me afraid?
  • What aspect of God’s character am I not trusting?

This equipped me to apply the right Truth to my fear. When I determined that this current season of anxiety is rooted in a fear of failure, I was better educated about how to combat it.

If you’re not of the praying sort, it would still benefit you to dig into the underbelly of your anxiety to address it most effectively.

Act in spite of it.

The more we cater to the thing we’re afraid of, the bigger the fear grows. Do what terrifies you. Press into it. Believe Truth when it feels false, and do what needs to be done – even if your stomach is on fire.

Give it room to breathe.

Rest and space in our schedules grant us the margin to fight smarter. Busy exhaustion contributes to anxiety. When anxiety is high, expect less of yourself. Extend more grace in your own direction and confront the thing instead of running from it.

Starve it.

All forms of media (including social media) increase my anxiety, so I have found it helpful to limit or eliminate what unnecessarily feeds my fear. What compounds fear in your life?

Downsize it.

It’s impossible for me to stand before the ocean and not feel smaller. Being in creation and fully aware of it provides right perspective about how small my fears and I are. It refocuses my attention on the God who’s already been to my tomorrow, and He’s vastly capable of handling what’s there.

Share it.

Allow a friend to know you’re battling anxiety. She can pray for you, encourage you, check on you, and you can return the favor when it’s her turn. Avoidance is a byproduct of anxiety, so we can proactively disable the isolation we’ll default to by inviting someone in.

And if you are experiencing debilitating anxiety, share it with your doctor. While I’ve never taken anti-anxiety medication, I have driven myself to the ER mid panic attack. It’s a vicious thief that can snatch your ability to function normally.

[Image: The Home of Fixers on Flickr and Kyle Steed]
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