Four Things I Would Tell a Friend with Anxiety

Four Things I Would Tell a Friend With Anxiety - FB |

April 8, 2017

I’ve had this conversation often recently. Sitting face to face or on the phone with a friend who is struggling with anxiety. As someone who knows what anxiety feels like in the heat of a panic attack and in the slow creep of the moments in between, I find myself offering advice and encouragement on this battle often.

If that’s you today, I wish I could have you over for coffee. I put whipped cream in my coffee every morning; how do you like yours? We’d sit on my back porch, listen to the birds sing, and feel the breeze roll through as we shared hard moments and encouraging hugs. My backyard birds are the best, by the way. They are guaranteed to make you smile.

But since I can’t have you over for coffee, I’ll tell you here. These are the four things I say to any friend who is struggling with anxiety.

Four Things I Would Tell a Friend With Anxiety - FB |

You are not alone.

I’ve said this before here, but its worth saying again. In fact, it’s worth saying over and over again. You are not alone in your struggle. One of the greatest lies we can tell ourselves is that we are alone in our suffering. And it’s just exactly that: a lie. I dare you to look a stranger in the eye today. When you do, I bet you’ll see that you carry the same burdens. No, they won’t have the same label, but we live in the same broken world and we carry the same broken hurts. And given that 1 in 3 Americans suffer from anxiety, chances are good you won’t have to look too many strangers in the eye before you are met with an anxious stare.

But because we are here to change that stat, I’d also tell you that your fellow humans aren’t the only ones who understand what you are going through.

Then He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Luke 22:41-44, emphasis mine

The word used to describe Jesus’ emotions as he prepared to face the cross is anguish. The Greek transliteration used here for anguish is agonia, which means – great fear, terror, of death; anxiety, agony.

Jesus understands anxiety. He knows what it’s like to feel the heart pounding between uneven and shallow breaths. He even knows what it feels like to sweat blood. Not once does He hear your prayer for relief and respond with trite and pithy instructions to “shake it off” or “get over it”. When you think that no one around you understands, remember that your Savior does because He’s lived it in the flesh.

You are not alone.

Start Small

Anxiety operates like a snowball rolling from the top of a giant mountain until it completely runs you over as you stand near the bottom. At least, that’s what it feels like for me. It will start small and eventually build into something that feels unmanageable. It’s not unmanageable, but that’s the way it wants you to feel.

If anxiety has grown into something that feels impossible for you, remember that it’s probably not something you will be able to tackle all at once. I say this to you not to discourage you, but to prevent you from heaping piles of discouragement onto yourself.

So…start small. Take baby steps. I’m a huge fan of baby steps. Build your toolbox for battling anxiety (spoiler alert: that’s next) and address one item in it at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a complete overhaul because that might lead to more anxiety.

And as you take those baby steps, remember that nothing is impossible with God. Since my diagnosis of Vascular Ehlers-Danlos, I have never seen God’s Word come so tangibly alive before me as I have in the truth that God is a God of the impossible.

Matthew 19:26 |

Everything about vEDS screams impossible! And yet, here I am, having coffee with you as we move forward together in God’s Word to battle anxiety. Start small and trust Him to move mightily.

Build Your Anxiety-Battling Toolbox

I’m a big believer in toolboxes. All of our efforts must start with God’s Word, but we need practical tools and strategies to support what it says if we want to move forward. Enter the anxiety-battling toolbox. These are actions and items that help you in the moment, in the baby steps, and through to the other side of relief. Here’s a glance at mine:

Intimacy with the Lord – Prayer, the Study of God’s Word, and Worship

This has to come first. We cannot expect to receive heavenly comfort if we are not comfortable in the Lord’s presence. My most profound moments of relief from anxiety always come in times of earnest and heartfelt prayer, Bible study, and worship. These aren’t obligations to the Christian faith, these are mechanisms of blessing.

Community – Time with Family, Friends, and the Church Body

Being a part of a community is an in-your-face reminder that you are not alone. Fellowship and community is God’s design for us.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25

Your family, your friends, your church body – spend dedicated time with them. Eat together. Laugh together. Make memories together. Share prayer requests with one another. Lift one another up and encourage one another.

Physical Health and Wellness – Eat well, Move well, and Rest well

I’ll confess that this one is sometimes the hardest one to do well. It takes a lot of time and effort to do all of these things. But for me right now this one looks like walking for a few minutes every morning, planning my family’s meals, and making sure I go to bed on time.

Nourish Your Soul – Spend time doing what you love

This one will look differently for everyone because we are not all wired the same way. What feeds my soul might not feed yours. For me, this includes time alone (introverts, unite!), reading, getting outside, and creating something new. Put taking care of yourself near the top of your to-do list. If you are not sure what self-care looks like for you, my dear friend Lauren has a wonderful list here.

Start with intimacy with the Lord and then build your toolbox one step at a time and know that the rest will be there when you are ready for it. As you begin to feel comfortable with the whole of your toolbox, train yourself to look for balance. When pieces of my toolbox are overly neglected, it’s a good warning sign that anxiety may start to creep in.

14 Days to a Courageous Heart | Instagram |

Things Won’t Stay This Way

I think it’s important to remind ourselves that bad, ugly days do happen to all of us.  I’m guessing that for some of you reading this, courageous living is a thing you’d like to embrace. I’m not just talking about living boldly and fiercely towards all that God calls us to do. I’m talking about the courage it takes to plant two feet on the floor on a morning you’d rather stay in bed. I’m talking about the courage it takes to move forward in life when life presents its most difficult circumstances.

I think it takes great courage to lift your chin when days are hard. That, and the desire to give you tools that help you trust in God’s plan for your life are pretty much the main two reasons I started The Rescued Letters.  If you’ve had a bit of a day with anxiety and we were sitting in front of each other right now, I’d gently pick your chin up and I’d expect you to do the same for me. I’d look you in the eye and remind you that the sun will set on this day and that it will rise for tomorrow. And like my dad always said, everything looks better in the light of the sunrise.  Most importantly, I’d pray Psalm 30:5 over you as we hugged and promised each other to carry on.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5b

Take heart, sisters. Lean heavily into God’s Word. And know that I love you.


Four Things I Would Tell a Friend Who Struggles With Anxiety | #anxiety #anxietyrelief #mentalhealth #veds |

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  1. Denise Pass says:

    Beautiful post, Heather. I have often reflected on the anguish Christ suffered. He was acquainted with suffering and anxiety and is able to help us in our own moments of inner turmoil. Keep going, friend! God is using you!

  2. Amy says:

    Heather, the timing of this post could not have been more perfect for me. I’ve had an evening of quietly and methodically trying to deal with an anxious episode, and as I started reading your post, tears came into my eyes at the mercy of God in letting me come across this at just the right time. You’ve reminded me of what is true, and relayed to me His “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” Thank you so much.

    I also want to thank you for the work that you’re doing with The Rescued Letters. My counselor mentioned that people with anxiety/panic tend to want to flee even thinking about anxiety in the “good times.” I’m one of them, so I haven’t always read every post, but I’m learning the wisdom of reading and building a toolbox of knowing how anxiety works, even when I’m not immediately dealing with it. And when I do read your posts, I’m very thankful for you. There are some things that hit home almost immediately because *you* are the one saying them — because I know that it comes from a place of deep understanding of how fear works, and your story has led you to learn these truths at a high but eternally valuable cost. Thank you again for being such an encouragement.

    • Heather says:

      Amy, thank you so much for your kind and generous words. I really appreciate you taking the time to leave them here and I know your words will encourage someone else who reads them, as they have done for me. I rejoice with you at God’s mercy – He does give us exactly what we need at exactly the right time, doesn’t He? And I join you in moving forward with building toolboxes, waiting for the sun to rise, and rooting ourselves in the truth of God’s Word. I wish I could hug your neck right now. Keep on stepping, sister. You are not alone.

  3. Tammy says:

    Heather I do appreciate your sensitivity and loving, logical, Bible based response to this topic. I probably have struggles all my life, but after menopause (age wise) I am not sure why, but it got REALLY bad. Many people are not understanding. My physician was. I now take the same medication that my physician does, and am GRATEFUL to God for this help. I live humbly and want to glorify the Father despite my weakness and flaws. I have not touched anxiety in my blog Grandma Mary Martha, and do not feel equipped at this point. I am grateful for YOUR ministry here. Blessings in Christ <3

    • Heather says:

      Tammy, thank you for your kind words. Anxiety is such a complicated subject, which unfortunately does make it difficult to understand. I think that’s one of the greatest challenges in conquering it – the fix is never a simple one and everyone’s battle with it will look different. While I am sorry that you are familiar with it, I praise God with you that you (and I) can turn to Him for help. Keep on stepping with Him and blessings to you as well, sister.

  4. Lisa says:

    Thank you Heather. This came at the perfect time for me and to share with others. God bless you for your heart and transparency and for using something so hard to bring God glory!

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