When My Anxiety Has Been Triggered

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10  NASB 1995

I memorized Isaiah 41:10 in this translation four decades ago. I was encouraged as a teenager when I learned that God would strengthen me, help me, and uphold me. Those were precious truths for me that I wanted to hide deep in my heart. Little did I know this verse would become a lifeline for me decades later. 

As challenges and sorrows began to pile up faster than I seemed to be able to process them, this verse “popped” back into my mind one day. I began quoting it as I had done many times so long ago. But this time a completely different part of the verse jumped out at me: “do not anxiously look about you.” Wow! That was a word picture that described exactly what I was experiencing. I was anxiously looking around, trying to figure out what was going on, what decisions needed to be made, and what direction I needed to take. I could feel it physically; I felt frantic, even a little panicky.

Since that day, this verse has served as a “triggered warning.” You read that correctly: it isn’t a trigger warning, it’s a triggered warning. I know exactly what it feels like when my anxiety is triggered - I am anxiously looking about. My mind is flooded with ideas, plans, worries, fears, and dysregulated emotions. I feel responsible to solve my problems on my own or at the very least to “help” God figure things out. When this happens, I’m growing in the practice of stopping in my mental tracks and remembering the next part of that verse: that He is my God. My anxiety gradually calms down as I breathe deeply and remember the truths that God is still God - He is still in control, He is still good, and He is MY God. 

“Do not fear, for I am with you.” He is with me in my challenges, troubles, losses, and sorrows. I may feel alone as I am facing decisions that need to be made and losses that needs to be acknowledged, but I am not alone – my God is with me. With those truths in place, I find comfort in remembering the rest of the verse: He will strengthen me, help me, and uphold me.  

When my mind starts racing, when I’m anxiously looking around and trying desperately to come up with answers and solutions to whatever I’m facing, when I’m feeling frantic, panicky, or alone…those are the signs that my anxiety has been triggered. I recognize and name the anxiety. I take several slow, deep, intentional breaths. I recite this verse and remember I am not alone, I am not helpless, and the situation is not hopeless. My God is with me. My God is working. My God will strengthen, help, and uphold me. Those truths remind me of God’s care and concern for me. My mindful breathing calms my body, and I begin to think calmly and clearly as His truth replaces my triggered emotions.

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