winning the war on holiday anxiety

photo-1481437156560-3205f6a55735You can feel it, can’t you?

It’s like this slow rise, when suddenly you realize your brain hasn’t turned off in hours. Your thoughts are taking over and you can’t even make a list to organize all of them. You’re doing all the things, but you know it can’t keep going this way. At some point, it’ll catch up.

It happens slowly, but it feels sudden. Yesterday, I realized in a second that my mind had shifted from involving Jesus in my momentary decisions and choosing peace to – “Crap, I’m overwhelmed.”

And what did I do? I got more coffee. Duh.

It was 1 pm before I realized I had drank any water or had anything substantial to eat. I’m running my kid to a bajillion stores, frustrated that he’s asking me questions. I can’t engage or answer him when I can’t fit my own thoughts in my brain.

Before you write me off, hold on and hear me. I recognize that anxiety can often have its own mind. As much as you work to take your thoughts captive, there are times you don’t always have a choice in the matter. It’s too far gone before you even realize that’s happening. But whether we like to believe it or not, we still have choices. We have preventative and reactive choices. Unless we slow down in the moment to moment decisions, we will absolutely be swallowed. Our joy will be lost, and our peace totally erased.

But the Bible tells us not to be anxious, right? So we’ve made ourselves believe that we’ve got to be out of God’s will somehow if we’re facing anxiety. I am convinced we’ve twisted the words right out of God’s mouth in Philippians 4:6 when He says: “Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.” [TPT]

God knew that anxiety and worry would surround us. He never told us that we could control any of our circumstances. And so often we fall into the trap of shame that because we’re being hit with anxiety, God must be disappointed. It’s just not true.

So, we’re anxious. Now what?

Honestly…drink some water.

Eat an actual meal.

Pray.

Choose to stop.

Priscillia Shires says it this way: “Resist the urge to continue.” 

We do not choose how anxiety comes to us. But we choose how we respond.

Unless we pause, we’ll never figure out why we’re so overwhelmed in the first place. If we don’t choose to stop, we’ll never remember that the Bible tells us to pray instead of worry. We’re so busy worrying and letting our hearts and minds fill with responsibilities, we’ve got no space for God. And definitely no room for the guidance or peace of His Spirit.

The older I get, the more precious the Truth of Christmas has become to me. The Truth and our Peace came into the world the same way we did. Honestly, Mary’s birth story could top all of ours.

God, in His all-encompassing love, joy, righteousness, peace and truth, allowed Himself to be wrapped, held, and led through life by parents who probably felt like they were messing it all up.

Every time we unintentionally invite stress and expectations of ourselves and others, we’re refusing His peace, His comfort, His freedom. We kind of hide behind ourselves during this season. It feels like we’re being selfless, but if we’re honest, we’re holding our reputation pretty tightly, aren’t we? If we’re super honest, the anxiety comes when we’re worried someone will be disappointed. Disappointed in us. That we couldn’t have it all together. The crafts, the food, the traditions, how much we spend, how well it’s wrapped… all of it. It starts off with good intentions to show love and slowly transforms into competition and stress.

The reason Christmas happened is so you wouldn’t have to be tied down to anything or anyone. Peace is a Person. The Person who’s offering to not only walk through anxiety with you, but to take it off of you. Will He heal your mind in a moment? Maybe. Will He walk with you through counseling or medication to find your healing? Maybe that, too. No matter what it looks like, I am absolutely convinced He cares about how you love yourself in this season, and how you choose His peace. We honor our Creator when we care for our own hearts, minds, and bodies.

Anxiety’s going to come at you. Our world is too busy and too full for it to be avoided. But you have something that not everyone else has. An offer for Peace that will stand watch over you. For Peace that sees your every nervous glance. You know that feeling when you exchange thoughts with your best friend with just a look? That’s how our God stands watch over you. He guards you. He covers you. He’s right there, waiting for you to turn and give Him the look that says, “I choose you, now. I choose Peace.” And His promise is that you won’t even be able to put into words the Peace you get to experience.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you.”  Isaiah 26:3

ps. I’m serious. Drink some water.

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