Chamomile Tea and Hugs – Practical Tools for Anxiety

Anxiety has been a life long companion for me.

It pops up when I least expect it and it loves to needle at all my deepest insecurities…

I’m not faithful enough to hand it over to God.

I’m not smart enough to stop thinking like that.

I’m not enough…ever…to overcome this issue.

It’s one of the reasons I become so exacerbated when I hear someone quote flippant Bible verses to others about anxiety, or when someone shares a meme that tells me Do Not Be Afraid is found in the Bible 365 times.

I wish it was helpful. I really do. But it never has been for me. It feeds into the not enough aspects that anxiety wields like a sword, but don’t fit with the message of Truth and Love that I see from Jesus when He’s speaking in Scripture.

So, I do what any theologian-therapist-anxiety-prone person does…

I opened the Word to make sense of it all.

Lord, I don’t get it. I don’t understand anxiety and I don’t understand where in the world you are in all of this. Who are You? What is Your message here? Give me true Law and true Gospel and take out all the stuff I want to see, for what you are actually saying. In Jesus, in Him who rescues, Him who delivers, Him who Saves, I pray. Amen.

You know what I found?

Chamomile tea and hugs from a friend go a lot further than advice on how I should overcome it.

Jesus didn’t intend for me to struggle with this alone. He gives me people, connection, and care. When I share my burden, even when I can’t quite put it into words, God does miraculous things. It is still uncomfortable and sometimes I just have to sit in it. But, wow, the inexpressible becomes somehow alive with legs and arms and words. I can externalize what was pent up inside. I can rest because God sends people. God sends the Body.

Even better…

Jesus is that friend.

Some things I just have to sit with on my own. But…not really. Because when He says,

Come to me.

I know He’s for real. He sits in the discomfort with me. His Spirit resides in me, that Helper, that Counselor.

It still feels uncomfortable, but not alone is so much better than not enough.

In today’s podcast we address some of the very Scriptures I struggled to understand, as well as find some practical tools for anxiety and the Spritiual Care of anxiety.

PS – This podcast and blog are not a replacement for local mental health care resources. Please seek out and utilize counselors, psychiatrists, and other professional mental health providers in your local area.

PPS – Did you know that chamomile tea daily has been shown in at least one study to reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety? See the study link here. So, bringing it to visit a friend is a good idea. Now, if only I liked the flavor… 😉

Developing a Theology of Anxiety…and Why It Matters (The Truth about Mental Health)

In the famous words of Lin Manuel Miranda via Hamilton: An American Musical

“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”

My oldest daughter wanted a t-shirt with this phrase on it for Christmas, but low and behold, of all the Hamilton shirts I could find… this one didn’t exist, at least in time for Christmas.

I have a theory. It’s just so much work to even know what we stand for.

It’s work to scour the internet for research on whether news is fake or real. It’s work to decide what matters to us personally. It’s work to jump on another bandwagon when the next day brings a new thing we need to stand up for.

It helps to have a basic foundation. It helps to believe in something greater and bigger and truer than momentary movements and messages.

As you can imagine, I don’t expect you to know how you feel about everything, or take on every social injustice. But if you’re tired of trying to figure out what ideas to keep and which to set aside, it’s time to get into the Word.

There is a theology to everything we think, feel, and see in this life. We have a basic belief system through which we view life. That thing, whatever it is, gives us stability in an ever changing world.

Why do we need a theology of anxiety in particular?

I’m so glad you asked!

Without a basic lens, you feel like you’re watching a tennis match: looking one way and then the next, following the thing of the moment hoping it’s something that matters.

Studying topics and concerns from the foundation of Scripture tells us what God values, how God sees our situation and our need…otherwise we end up feeling sad, alone, and abandoned because He isn’t participating in this life with us or by our rules.  Then we default to whatever sounds like a good idea to help us at any given time, trying one thing, then the next, and the next, so we end up feeling worse.

In this episode, we look at what God values rather than what the world around us values, and how it affects anxiety and the care we offer for anxiety, as well as mental health stigma in general.

After you listen, give us your thoughts! How do you think the foundations we recognize in our life impact mental health, spiritual care, and anxiety in particular?

*Did you know? The ILMS podcast is sponsored in part by Melissa Sue Photo and Design. I highly recommend her! She does much of my graphic art work and is a gifted professional photographer. She is unapologetically enthusiastic about helping people tell their stories! Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Pssst – she’s helping me redesign this summer, so look for an exciting reveal in the Fall. 😉

Hiding in the Cubby Days: Redefining Anxiety (The Truth about Mental Health)

When our youngest was in kindergarten, I went to pick him up from school and saw the teacher shaking her head at me from across the long hallway.

It wasn’t an angry shake or even a disappointed shake. It was really more of the sad, I-wish-this-world-was-less-hard kind of shake.

You see, our sweet Zeke is on the Spectrum. Most days we don’t even notice it. Zeke thinks different, responds differently, I’m convinced even tastes differently, but you never know when it’s going to kick in. Our life looks more like, “Surprise, it’s Austism Day!” than “My name is autism, I have settled her for a long winter’s nap.”

Everyone’s experience with special needs is different.

This is ours.

That day with the kindergarten teacher, I listened to her tell me a story of my son’s experience in the world that doesn’t always understand frazzled nerves and pinched sensory systems and too bright, too loud, too soft, too…everything.

As the tears rolled down my cheeks, she told me the story of a small child so overwhelmed by the swirl of life around him that he hid himself in a cubby, folded himself right up into it, because it felt safe.

Zeke’s teacher was nothing short of amazing and she expressed perfectly my sentiment –

I just wish life was a little less hard. I wouldn’t want Zeke to be any different. I just want it all to be less hard for him.

Once I stepped back from the situation, I realized there have been many a day in my own life I’ve wanted to hide in a cubby…and for all the same reasons! Too much noise makes me grind my teeth, I’m easily irritated if I’m hungry or tired, and goodness knows I have lots of opinions about colors, lights, and textures.

As a grown-up discovering how to wander through my own journey of life with anxiety, I was struck by how often our medical and scientific definitions don’t quite fit for anxiety, each missing a piece. Nothing offered as a definition ever felt full enough to me.

Today on the podcast I offer a fuller definition of anxiety. I’ve been researching and compiling this definition since graduate school, through the wisdom and research of books and academic articles, observation in my own life and therapeutic treatment for anxiety, and also my observations as a therapist. It’s not meant to be a complete definition, but an open conversation, a re-contextualizing of the pieces of our experiences with anxiety and how we understand it.

I’m hoping that this work will help us to:

– be more mindful for the sake of those around us with anxiety or sensory struggles

– help individuals understand the “why” of different components of treatment – in particular medication, therapy, and connection

– move toward better long term treatment of anxiety by encouraging expanded research concerning the definitions we utilize

– offer better spiritual care for anxiety, mental health, and working toward ending the stigma associated with both

The Truth about Mental Health….some days we all want to hid in cubbies.

Episode 43 – Defining Anxiety: A Recontextualization

*No small children were harmed in the writing of this article. Permission was granted by my son to share his story.