May 072018 3 Responses

The Hidden Secret to Lower Anxiety

As a parent, when one of my children is experiencing a time of high anxiety, my first thought is to do everything in my power to lower the stressors they are experiencing. If they don’t like an approaching storm, I try to move them to the center of the house so they won’t see the lighting and may not hear the thunder. If they are struggling to sleep at night because of fear, I try to make sure they don’t see any scary commercials before they go to bed. When something is causing stress, a common-sense approach is to distance the person from the sources of anxiety.

While this approach is helpful, it’s rarely fully possible to avoid all points of stress. As a matter of fact, it can be debilitating if this is our primary approach. Many people learn to avoid rather than to cope with circumstances which cause them discomfort. While it might lower their stress at the moment, it creates more anxiety in the long-run. Avoidance can be useful, but it’s not the best approach. (See: Anxiety–Learn From It Before Your Fix It)

A second approach is often considered but rarely implemented. Stress impacts all of us, but it has a greater influence in the times in which our emotional, physical, and spiritual energies are depleted. When we fail to rest and rejuvenate, we allow anxieties to have a greater control over us. How many times have you been greatly worried about a situation, but after a good night’s rest, you saw the circumstance in a new light? Any time stress is high, we must ask ourselves if our energies are low. A healthy meal, good sleep, and moderate exercise can lessen the impact which anxiety has over us.

Everyone thinks about separating from the source of anxiety. Many of us consider how to strengthen our abilities to endure stress. Yet there is a secret weapon which many never think about when it comes to combatting stress and anxiety. Strengthening connections weaken the impact of anxieties.

Anxiety is both a cause and effect of being disconnected. We quickly see how stress can hinder our bonds with others. Fearing what others might think, not having the courage to be vulnerable, and unconsciously pushing others away are common byproducts of those who are in seasons of high anxiety. Yet what we often overlook is that being disconnected actually strengthens our worries. It empowers them and weakens us.

The greatest weapon we have against anxiety are relationships…deep, meaningful bonds with others which give us a sense of connection, control, and value. When our connections are high, our ability to endure stressors greatly increases. Yet as we disconnect from others or feel our bonds are weakened, we are vulnerable to the fears and concerns around us.

We know this for children. If my child is worried about an approaching storm, I try to shield him from the sights and sounds of the storm. But if that doesn’t work, I take him in my arms and hold him as tight as possible. The connection with me doesn’t change the storm, but it empowers him to endure it. This is not something we grow out of. No matter our age, meaningful connections with others strengthens our ability to endure stress. Our level of anxiety often says more about our relationships than it does our circumstances.

So when our children are stressed, our first question should be: how can we strengthen their bonds with us and others? Rather than focusing on correcting them or trying to talk them out of their fears, we should find ways to connect with them and make them feel loved and secure.

When we are stressed, our first question should be: how can we strengthen our bonds with our spouses, families, and friends? While it’s fair to consider if we can lessen our stressful inputs and it’s important to get a good night’s sleep, the greater weapon at our disposal is good relationships.

This is why meaningful connections should be a continual priority in our lives. We must value others to such an extent that it influences our schedules, dictates our actions, and determines what we must do today and what can be put off until tomorrow. Too often, we push aside relationships in order to accomplish what feels like a more demanding to-do list. Unknowingly, we are setting ourselves up for failure. It takes a great deal of insight to recognize that while a lunch with a friend or a phone call with a mentor may not give us immediate results, it is more important than the daily emergencies which often fill our calendars. (See: Does Praying Add to Our Anxiety?)

We were created to connect with others. While differing personalities might have differing needs, no one is without the need to be connected with at least a few people. When we deny our needs, we will suffer negative consequences.

3 Responses to The Hidden Secret to Lower Anxiety
  1. Bob Roberts Reply

    I knew this, but I constantly forget.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Jamie Pogue Reply

    Kevin, everything I read of yours is so right on! When I struggle, it’s your books that I grab and read, or I’ll look you up on FB, because no matter what I’m going through it always speaks directly to me and for that I’m very thankful for! I love you as my pastor, friend and (counselor) so to speak….
    Thank you for all you do and your services!

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