Our struggle with anxiety and anxious thoughts primarily happens in our mind. What we think and believe often affects what we experience physically. Let me show you.
As you read this, imagine yourself holding a lemon. Look at it. Feel the texture. Smell it. Now take a knife and cut the lemon in half. The smell is stronger now. Close your eyes, and imagine taking a big, juicy bite of the lemon.
Did your mouth water? If you really imagined that lemon in your mind, then most likely, it did. I find this experiment amazing, because it proves that a thought can trigger a physical, chemical response in your body. And, if that’s true, then surely anxious thoughts can produce chemical reactions in your body.
Here are four practical steps on how you can stop anxious thoughts:
First, you need to recognize an anxious thought as simply that: a thought. It’s only in your mind. In most situations, there is no real danger. Too often, we’ve built a pattern of dangerous thoughts in our mind that really have no danger.
If we can start by recognizing those anxious thoughts when they come, and see them simply as thoughts, then it becomes easier to stop them. It helps to write down irrational thoughts when they hit. When you have a thought that doesn’t feel right or brings anxiety or confusion, write it down and take note of how it makes you feel. Keep a journal. This will help you recognize certain patterns in how you think.
2. Take those thoughts captive
When an anxious thought hits you, it’s essential to capture that thought immediately and think though where it’s coming from. Remember, the enemy can put thoughts into your mind and make them sound like your own. Don’t believe everything you think. Look at the fruit of that thought. Does it produce peace or fear? If it produces anxiety, fear or heaviness, then don’t receive it. It’s not from God. Reject it as a lie and ask God to give you peaceful thoughts.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
The Bible says we must renew our minds and stop conforming to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:2). This world–with its horror movies, fear-inducing reality shows, depressing news broadcasts, and unstable economy–will not produce peace. Quite the opposite. My family and I no longer watch the news on TV. We don’t watch horror movies, nor television shows that would produce anxious thoughts.
3. Find a healthy release
Most anxious thoughts release adrenaline into your body, raising your heart rate and blood pressure. Guess what? That’s what adrenaline is supposed to do. It’s preparing you to face danger. The problem is that there’s no real danger. So, our mind starts racing around, looking for something that’s a threat because our body is screaming, “Danger! Danger!”
I have found exercise to be an extremely helpful release of adrenaline. At the end of the day, when anxiety levels are raised, I often go for a run or a bike ride. The exertion is very good for ridding your body of the excessive adrenaline. If exercise is not an option, then spend time in prayer, meditation and reading scripture. Flood your mind with God’s truth and his promises of peace over you.
4. Get to the root
I read a great quote last week from Alan Smith, one of the freedom ministry pastors at our church. He writes: If I’m struggling, it’s not because of what I’ve been through. It’s because of what I came to believe when I went through it. God heals me, not by changing my past, but by revealing truth and displacing lies.
This is so true! Everyone has lies and wounds deep within our souls that affect how we perceive the world around us. That’s why it’s imperative that we know the truth so that the truth will set us free (John 8:32).
If your church does not have a freedom ministry, then I encourage you to start reading and studying all that Christ has done for you. There are some great books on our online bookstore. Also, check out our church’s Freedom Ministry foundation videos. They are wonderful! And, you can watch them online for free.
Prayer: Father, help me recognize the anxious thoughts when they hit, take them captive, release them and then get to the root so that I may find complete freedom in Jesus.