In my 32 years of practice I have found that anxiety has continued to increase, affecting people who seldom would have wrestled with it in years past.
A certain amount of anxiety is actually good. In the right amount it increases chemicals in our brain that help us to perform better in sports, acting, selling, etc. Too much anxiety can be the proverbial kiss-of-death, causing our brain to go into the fight-or-flight mode, limiting our frontal cortex (executive processing function), and as a result getting something along the line of “brain lock.”
God put the anxiety tendency in us to protect us. We probably didn’t need it before the Fall in the garden, but it clearly helps us now. However, like the scripture, “be angry, but sin not,” we are told to not be anxious. I really believe the instruction was to not be overly anxious. It is a healthy level of anxiety to double check that we turned off the stove, or to make sure our name is on the paper, etc.
When anxiety is unhealthy, it does not help, but hinders us. The evil one loves to get us caught up in anxiety, believing the lie that by worrying we can have an effect on what we are worrying about. Have you heard of “FOMO” – fear of missing out? Other versions are; “FBLO” – fear of being left out, “FBLA” – fear of being left alone.
These tendencies have always been with us to some degree; however, with the constant access we have into everyone else’s lives through social media, these conditions are going off the charts. It causes the natural struggle of comparing ourselves to others to become a central focus in our lives, reducing our own sense of personal peace with one’s self, yet creating more narcissism in us at the same time.
“I feel more inferior because I see all that others are doing or getting, yet I assume everyone wants to see what I ate for lunch, and I will be offended if I don’t get enough ‘likes’ in a certain period of time.”
While it is good to limit our social media involvement, it is not where the real work needs to be done, It’s in the soul and psyche of the person. Social media has not caused anxiety near as much as it has drawn it out, by erasing the “natural buffers” that used to exist.
For instance, it was good to know the general understanding that you just didn’t call another person’s home after nine o’clock, unless it was pretty important. Or, it may have been a bummer to find out others were doing something that you would have loved to do with them, but at least you were off in your own world at the time, not watching it unfold in real-time on your phone!
There are many who have always felt unworthy, unwanted, not good enough, like they are faking (and fear others will figure it out), etc. If that is you, social media has probably helped to increase the struggle with those thoughts. But, it’s like my friend who was taking a stress test and he had a heart attack right then. The stress test didn’t cause his heart attack near as much as it exposed the condition that was already there.
Having anxiety is not a sign of not trusting God, (although putting our trust in God obviously is a good thing and will help us). I have found it has to do with the truth we do not understand, and lies that have been engrained in our thinking. Much of this faulty thinking often goes back to what we experienced when we were young and in a very formative time.
It could be a person experienced severe abuse; however, I have seen where well-intentioned words and actions were not understood by the child, and they came to a different understanding of what was meant. Satan loves to take these experiences/memories and twist them into a narrative that is destructive and debilitating.
Seeking help for anxiety is not a sign of weakness, any more than a person getting a personal trainer and stepping in a gym is a “weak” person. In both situations you have a lot of work to do, but in both situations, change will happen as one stays consistent and does not allow discouragement to rob them of the goal.
Our goal, especially as believers, should be to break free of any inner messages that we have allowed to make us believe we should live our lives fearful of “not being good enough,” or that we are not likeable people.
Proverbs 139:14 says, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”
Do you know it deep in your soul very well?
–Shane M. Jones, LSCSW; Jones provides counseling services in Topeka and Lawrence; Shane M. Jones & Assoc., P.A. Shanemjones.com