I’m not a worrier. Generally, when I have something that worries me, I present it to the Lord in prayer. Sometimes, it’s a two-second “take care of that” kind of prayer, while other times, it’s a hit-my-knees, face on the floor prayer. But after the prayers, I’m usually good at putting aside worries. Not that I haven’t had my moments of deep, debilitating fear—I am a mother of three teenagers. I visit fear and worry. I just don’t tend to live there.
So this niggling anxiety I’ve felt for the last few weeks has been an unwelcome and surprising twist in my otherwise peaceful existence. The problem is, there isn’t one big issue I can blame for this anxiety. In fact, most of the time, I’m not sure what I’m anxious about.
So the other day, I did an inventory of what’s contributing to my anxiety. Here’s the list I came up with for things that have happened or will happen in August:
- My oldest moved back to Oklahoma, moved into a new apartment, and got a new job—which he doesn’t like.
- He’s praying (and totally pumped) about going on a mission trip—to Africa—and wants to leave in January.
- My younger kids started school—a junior and a freshman.
- One of my teens was in two minor car accidents in four days.
- An old and serious behavior problem resurfaced in one of my children.
- I had a major and unexpected shift in my writing career.
- I’m preparing for a national conference, where I hope to meet with editors to pitch a book I’m passionate about. (The day you read this, I’ll be on my way.)
- I’m driving three friends to Nashville for the conference, so I have to make sure my car is ready for the trip. (As I write, I’m waiting for Hibdon to complete the oil change and installation of the new tires.)
- My oldest friend’s mother is suffering from cancer and has been sent home. She’s under hospice care while her family gathers to say goodbye.
- My closest friend’s mother had heart surgery.
- Another friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
- A close family member is struggling with serious pain, and her doctors can’t seem to find a solution.
- My editing jobs have fizzled this month (God-ordained, I’m sure. When would I have had time to edit?)
- I’m starting a small group at my church, which is supposed to begin the day after I return from Nashville.
- My husband and mother have decided to come to the conference in Nashville, so I’ve had to arrange hotels and gala tickets for them and helpers and rides for the younger two while we’re gone.
- And oh, by the way, my book is a finalist in the Carols in Nashville, so there’s this teeny weeny chance I might have to walk up in front of (what will feel like) a thousand people and give a speech—in three inch heels.
Phew. Now wonder I’m feeling anxious.
As you can see, it’s not like I’m battling a great white shark, it’s like I’m trying to fend off attacks from a hundred red-bellied piranha. And let me tell you, their teeth are sharp.
So what do I do?
For me, the first step was to identify the sources of my anxiety. I didn’t realize how much had happened and would happen in August until I wrote the list above.
Next, I went through the list to separate the things I have little or no control over (like my son’s new job) from the things I do have control over (like preparing for the conference).
The things I have no control over went on my prayer list. What else can I do but pray? And that’s exactly what Scripture tells us to do in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
The things I do have control over I transferred to a to-do list. And now, rather than worry, I go through the list daily and check-off what I can. And I keep my focus on God, remembering Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
I’ll be honest—I still feel anxious sometimes. But at least I know why, and when a wave of anxiety comes, I can stop, determine the reason for it, and lift it up to the Lord. In the end, the best, most productive thing I can do is pray.
How do you deal with anxiety?
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, was recently named a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards and won the 2016 Bookstores Without Borders Lyra Award in the Women’s Fiction category. Its prequel, Chasing Amanda, is currently offered for free at all major retailers. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com.