Intentional Living

How to Overcome Anxiety and Fear

Dr. Randy Carlson

We live in a fearful world, but we have assurance in our relationship with God to bring peace into out hearts. So, let’s count down the 10 things (from 10 to 1) that research shows can be very practical for dealing with fear and anxiety in your life, and some of them are very biblical.

  1. Seek professional help, if it’s needed, because anxiety is the leading cause of medical and mental health visits in America today.

If you wrestle with anxiety in your life, it’s not necessarily an indication of a lack of faith or spirituality. Our brains are wired in certain ways, and we also have seasons we go through. In my thirties, I experienced panic attacks. Over a period of several months irrational fear would just overtake me.

If you struggle with anxiety that keeps you from the freedom you should be experiencing with Christ, help is available.

  1. Exercise daily. Exercise does something good for you.

Donna and I walk two miles every day. If I don’t get them in, I feel it. It’s therapeutic; it clears the mind. There is so many things you can do – walk, run, stretch, dance or play a sport. It’s vital to do something on a regular basis.

  1. Change your focus.

Jesus said, “Don’t set your heart on what you will eat or drink. Don’t worry about it for the pagan world runs after such things and your father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom and these things will be added onto you” (Luke 12:29-31, my paraphrase). 

Back in the 1970s, Albert Bandura, a social psychologist, developed a social learning theory about how children learn. He pointed out that we become what we focus on.

So, become very intentional about what you focus on every day by changing your focus.

  1. Get enough sleep. Research shows people who get enough sleep every night reduce stress, maintain weight, improve memory, lower blood pressure and better equip their immune system to fight illness.
  1. Tell yourself the truth.

Proverbs 19:5 says, “A false witness will not go unpunished and he who speaks lies will not escape” (NKJV).

Psychologically, the further we move away from this very moment in time in our thinking, anxiety increases. If we lie about our past or our future, it damages us in this moment. But if we believe God forgives us, loves us and cares for us in this moment, then the past is the past. Our future is in God’s hands and we must trust Him.

Learning to live in the moment begins by telling yourself the truth.

  1. Simply lay it down. We all carry burdens God never intended for us to carry around. Past mistakes, sins, regrets and problems, some of which aren’t even our own, that weigh us down.

1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV). Casting your care literally means laying it down. A great picture of this is as you’re standing in line at a grocery store with an arm full of stuff, and you finally get to the conveyor belt, and lay it down.

  1. Breathe deeply. Oxygen is a life force, a vital sign.

Job 33:4 says, “The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (NKJV). Job wrote this, and he had some tough times.

Breathing deeply is a very practical thing God has given us to deal with anxiety. When we are fearful, we tend to pull in, hold our breath or breathe in a very shallow way.

  1. Learn the triggers that set off anxiety in your life.

What are things that can set off or trigger a feeling of anxiety or fear in your life? Different people have unique triggers, and so it’s important to recognize what sets you off and manage them.

  1. Meditate on Scripture. Do you have a go-to verse when it comes to anxiety and fear?

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28 NKJV). It’s a peaceful verse to have in your heart to meditate on.

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit for the power to face your anxieties and fears and defeat them.

Before Jesus faced the most difficult moments in his life – the arrest, the trial and the crucifixion, He prayed. When you are facing those things that produce anxiety, begin with prayer.