Bobby McFerrin wrote what is probably one of the most annoying songs in the history of music, and one of the worst pieces of advice… “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.
Yes, I know. You will all be screaming at me later when you can’t get this song out of your head, but hey I’m going to make a point with it, so hang in there!
So, in theory it sounds easy, “Don’t worry, be happy”. But how exactly does one do that?
Anxiety and worry are normal reactions to stress (much like denial) and are helpful in some situations. When the anxiety becomes excessive and you begin having difficulty controlling it, then it may impact your day-to-day activities.
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, I’ve listed them here for you:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Phobias (fear of heights, small places etc.)
Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders experienced by Americans?
It’s true, according to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) approximately 60% of women in America have experienced some form of anxiety in their adult life and less than 40% of them seeking treatment. That is a huge number.
So why is this a problem?
Anytime we are in denial and live with untreated anxiety we open the door to self created coping skills. When these coping skills involve escape and avoid tactics we are no longer living in the fullness of Christ, we are merely surviving.
There is a common thread among those dealing with anxiety and worry, meet the dynamic duo: shame and guilt. Shame says things like, “I’m the only one who feels like this” or “I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone”, while guilt hits below the belt with statements such as, “If you were a real Christian you wouldn’t be struggling with…”.
These are examples of self – blaming thoughts and are no more helpful than the song lyrics, “Don’t worry, be happy”. In order to make effective change, you need to be able to identify your distorted thinking and stop the cycle.
How do you know when it is time to get help? If you have more than a few of the symptoms listed below, and have been unsuccessful in moving past this on your own, it may be time seek out the help of trusted friend or a professional.
If you worry about everyday things (illness, injury, relationships etc.)
If you have trouble controlling your constant worries
If you know that you worry about things more than you should (you realize it is unreasonable yet you worry anyway)
If you have difficulty relaxing
If you are easily startled
If you have a difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep
If you feel tired most of the time
If you experience headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches or unexplained pains and tension
If you have a hard time swallowing
If you have trembling or twitching
If you are irritable for no apparent reason
If you feel light headed or feel you cannot catch your breath
If you have to go to the bathroom a lot
Friends, the good news is that while anxiety is one of the most prevalent mood disorders, it is also very treatable. Don’t let shame win and keep this to yourself. Anxiety is more than telling your self that everything is fine.
Treating anxiety requires being able to identify the lie and replace it with truth as well as being willing to address the underlying fear that is driving the worry. When you can do those two things you are well on your way to healthy thinking.
I’ve provided some resources for you to move from surviving to thriving.
Celebrate Recovery – Christian 12 Step Recovery