The rhythms of life that we’ve all grown so accustomed to have found themselves turned upside-down. What does it look like to find a new rhythm? Join me for a quick look at what it means for us, so far as well as what to expect in the near future.
In a time when everything feels a little less than certain, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by anxiety. Today, I sit down and talk with Caris Snider, author of “Anxiety Elephants: A 31-Day Devotional to Help Stomp Out Your Anxiety.”
As a business owner, speaker, worship leader, wife, and mom, Caris looked like she had it all together. But like so many, she found herself at the end of the road, realizing she had two options: Give up or look up. Fortunately, Caris bravely faced the unknown with the help of her doctors, family, and friends and learned how to contend with her anxiety.
It was an honor to have a conversation with Caris about her own journey through anxiety, especially as the entire world is facing with these topsy-turvy times in the midst of a global pandemic. Caris’ story offers hope and encouragement as she learned what it means to carry one another’s burdens and rest in God.
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway
The simple fact is this: we’re all a little broken.
It isn’t a pretty truth and certainly not one that most people like to cling to, but it is a fact, none-the-less. We’ve all been hurt by someone as a small child, whether with words or fists. We’ve all seen horrible things happen. We’ve all got some form of addiction – turning even a good thing into The Thing we need in order to numb out from the daily toll of life.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Hurt people hurt people.” We’ve likely even seen this played out in our lives, when someone who’s having a horrible, no good, rotten kind of day turns around and berates us for the smallest thing. They didn’t mean to lash out, but their words hurt all the same.
So what do we do with all that? How do we move forward in life recognizing that sure, maybe we’re not quite as well put together as we’d like to believe and that, yeah, we can even recognize how we’ve hurt people we care about without even meaning to?
It seems to me like we have a couple of different options.
Option 1: Fake It Til You Make It
This is the approach that a whole lot of people take. They white-knuckle their way through life, striving to be disciplined enough, strong enough, smart enough, attractive enough, good enough. These people likely have the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality. They’ve probably heard this message and others like it throughout their lives, messages including, men don’t cry.
But…what if…after all the faking it, you still don’t quite make it? What if you strive and strain and reach and just…don’t…get…there…?
Honestly, a lot of people are able to go through life with this approach and even do alright. They work hard, have all the right things, look put together enough on the outside, they even seem happy. And maybe some of them are. But maybe not quite as happy as they know they could be.
Option 2: Deny, Deny, Deny
Listen, I am well gifted in this approach. I have been known to quite literally bury myself in a pile of blankets and hide because the checkbook needed to be balanced and I knew it was going to be a big ugly mess caused by me.
Denial seems like such a simple way to make the problems go away. We like to fool ourselves into believing that if time heals all wounds, then surely it will cure the mess that is my life. But that is a lie and every one of us who has lived on our own and seen the credit card bills come in can attest to that. Denial will get you nowhere but further behind your problem. Whether it’s overdue bills, an eating disorder, an undiagnosed lump on our breast, addiction, anxiety, or a wounded relationship it will not correct itself. Our problems only seem to grow as we try desperately to shove them into the closet.
Option 3: Name Your Monster and Face It
This is probably the least popular approach to dealing with the messier side to life, but it is hands-down, my favorite.
I’m assuming that everyone reading this has probably watched a movie or tv show where there are good guys and bad guys. Let’s, for example, look at Harry Potter. Harry, along with his friends, has faced many monsters in his time at Hogwarts. They’ve dealt with Death Eaters, a three-headed dog, a spider the size of Chicago, Bertie Bot’s Every Flavor Beans…you get the point. They’ve fought some very scary foes.
What did they use to fight these adversaries? Well, it’s easy to say they used magic. True. Most of the time, that’s what they used. But more specifically, they used certain types of magic. In fighting Dementors, they used a Patronus. When Harry needed to do reconnaissance work, he wore a cloak that turned him invisible. To disarm another wizard, the spell, expelliarmus was used. The point is: there were different tools used to fight against different opponents.
The same is true for us as we face the issues that are causing us to live in a cyclical pattern of bad choices. Unless we know what “monster” it is we’re fighting, we don’t know how to fight against it.
I can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about alcohol addiction, but if what you’re fighting is grief because your spouse died and you don’t know how to move forward in life without that person, the knowledge you may acquire about addiction isn’t going to do you an ounce of good. It’s important for us to be able to name our monster because then we can be better equipped to overcome it.
This is why recovery matters not just for the “obvious” people – the strung-out junkie or the inebriated raging alcoholic. Recovery is for everyone. Recovery literally means to “return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength” (Oxford Dictionary).
God didn’t create you broken. He made you a masterpiece (Eph. 2:10) and then placed you into a broken world where you experienced hurt and abuse and the ugliness of sin. He wants to return you to the state you belong: whole and complete in Him.
We won’t get there 100% this side of Heaven but we can experience joy more fully, we can find healing and forgiveness for ourselves and others, and we can understand our purpose and the purpose for our pain when we allow God into the broken places of our hearts and begin the transformative work of recovery.
To learn more be sure to check out our website to find links to other episodes.
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Welcome to the New & Improved The Road Home to You!
We’re going to start off this re-launch with Matt and Brandy in the studio talking about changes you can expect to see as the show moves forward as well as what’s been happening as they’ve been leading Genesis for Change Groups.
:50 Intro to Relaunching The Road Home to You 3:05 Why you should listen to TRHTY 5:45 Talking about mental health is important 6:50 Mental health in the context of faith 10:25 Authentic conversations with real people need to happen 11:41 Name Your Monster 13:00 Structure of show – what to expect moving forward 13:52 Call to Action – Be A Guest! 14:20 Recovery – Genesis Groups 16:25 What is Genesis? 21:10 What is the Limbic System? 23:35 Recovery means being honest & taking risks 26:10 Vulnerability in men and leaders 35:29 Progress of Recovery 45:04 Call to Action – Join a Genesis group 47:41 Upcoming Guests 48:55 Call to Action – Subscribe and Share! 50:10 Thank You’s 51:05 Blooper
The Road Home to You
“Offering hope and faith in Jesus to those wounded by others, stuck in addiction or afflicted by the storms of life.”
The Genesis Process for Change Groups are meant to happen in the context of relationship. You may gain some insight simply by going through the work on your own, but true recovery comes as learn to trust again, which can only happen as we interact with other people. You may be able to find a Genesis group at a local church. If not, feel free to contact Brandy for further information.
Christmas may be the hap-happiest time of the year, but it can also be the saddest. Tune in for this brief look at 12 things you can do this holiday season to help you stay grounded, focus on what matters, and enjoy Christmas even in the midst of pain.
On the 1st Day of Christmas – Let Go of Expectations
We all have an idea in our mind about “how” Christmas ought to look. We’ve all seen the magazines and Hallmark movies. We know there ought to be decorations galore, fresh baked cookies piled high, and perfectly wrapped gifts spilling out from under the tree. But the simple truth is, that’s just not realistic. And if that is someone’s reality, they are definitely the exception to the rule.
Most of us just don’t have the time, money, or energy to have that kind of idyllic vision of Christmas, but somehow we still manage to be disappointed when we don’t deliver the kind of holiday glow we envision.
This year, let it go. Especially if you’re in a new season due to the death of a loved one, a recent divorce, a newly empty nest, or any of the other hundred things that might have you feeling anything but merry and bright. It just doesn’t have to look the way you think it “should.” Do what you can – and want – and know that it will be enough.
On the 2nd Day of Christmas – Meditate on Scripture
Read John 1:1-9 and reflect on what it means that Jesus came as a light into this world. What about the world was dark? Why did we need light? What kind of light did He provide? What is the quality of His light? And finally, how does His light influence your grief or pain?
On the 3rd Day of Christmas – Set Boundaries
“No” isn’t a word any of us like to hear, and quite honestly it’s a word most of us have a hard time saying. But it’s time to work out your “no” muscles.
Only you can determine what is actually reasonable for you to do this holiday season. Maybe hosting everyone you’ve ever known feels overwhelming this year. Maybe baking cookies with your favorite 5-year old exhausts you before you even get out the first mixing bowl.
Figure out what will drain and deplete you and then say no to it.
I promise everyone will survive, as much of a shock to the system it may be to hear you say it. Who knows? It might even encourage someone else to step into a role that they’re quite gifted and enthusiastic about. Or not…and that’s okay, too.
On the 4th Day of Christmas – Write Down Your To-Do List
But don’t stop there.
Write down everything you want to accomplish this holiday season. Put up lights, trim the tree, bake all the cookies, make snow angels, feed the homeless, start a diet, wrap the presents…
You know the list. It’s a mile long and just seems to grow.
Once everything is written down, I want you to evaluate it and cross off 3 things.
There. You’re done. You don’t have to do those 3 things. Give yourself permission to let them go. Ask someone else to fill in for you if it’s something that MUST be accomplished, otherwise…your list is now a little bit lighter and Christmas will still be just fine.
On the 5th Day of Christmas – Turn Off Social Media
Pinterest. Instagram. Facebook. Twitter. TURN THEM OFF.
For one day this holiday season, just do it. Stop comparing your experience with everyone else. I promise they are also having anxiety, stress, sadness, and feelings of isolation and inadequacy. They might be hiding it behind a filter, but it’s there.
Today, don’t get caught up in the madness. Turn it off and just enjoy where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing without turning it into a social event for the world to see.
Likewise, when you do look at social media this holiday, remember that the people you’re viewing are only giving you what they want you to see. It’s only a piece of the bigger picture.
On the 6th Day of Christmas – Find Ways to Serve Others
One of the best, and quickest, ways to get out of an emotional funk is by serving other people.
It seems counterintuitive, but it’s a fact. When we take our eyes off our own troubles, as real and as big as they may be, and we serve people around us, we recognize that we truly aren’t alone in our suffering. It turns out, everyone has pain. By working to encourage another person, whether it’s through charitable work or by simply opening a door for someone, we see humanity all around us and realize that we’re all in this together.
This won’t solve all your problems. It might not even dull the ache for very long, but it will take you outside of yourself for just a moment and maybe in that moment you’ll see there is room for hope.
On the 7th Day of Christmas – Light A Candle
Find yourself a quiet little corner of the world and light a candle. Then, reflect back on the passage in John 1:1-9. You’ve had a few days now…how have your answers changed? Are you beginning to feel The Light stir inside your heart?
On the 8th Day of Christmas – Allow Yourself to Be and Feel
Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of grief, it seems impossible to let out emotions out. Laughing feels disrespectful to the enormity of our pain and crying feels so useless and unproductive.
But the truth is, God has given us our emotions. They are a good thing. Today, just let yourself feel.
If there’s something that tickles your funny bone, go ahead and laugh! Laughter really is great medicine for the soul. But maybe you just can’t take another Christmas carol and the sight of others with their joy and glee is sapping you of any energy you have left. That’s okay.
Just be there with your emotions. You’re not going to let them control you or take over your life. You’re going to honor them today by feeling them and acknowledging them and letting them co-exist with you.
On the 9th Day of Christmas – Journal Your Gratitude
Even in our darkest days, there are still things to be thankful for. They may be hard to find, but I want you to dig deep and find 3 things you are thankful for. Write them down and write down why you’re thankful.
It seems like it’s good enough to just do this in your head, after all, it’s not like anyone’s going to be checking your work, but you will benefit more by actually taking the time to write them down.
And hey, if you get done with that and want to keep writing whatever is on your heart, go for it!
On the 10th Day of Christmas – Take a Walk in Nature
Now, for you city folk, this might be a bit harder. But…find somewhere you can go today that is as far away from the noise and the hustle and bustle.
Then close your eyes, breathe deeply, and just listen.
What do you hear?
What is God saying to you right now?
Take some time to get quiet and see the trees and birds and leaves. Really look at nature. Examine the details. What do they tell you about God?
On the 11th Day of Christmas – Create a New Tradition
A new season in life often means we’re leaving behind something that we valued and grew accustomed to. Things are different now. But that doesn’t mean they have to be bad.
This year, find something new to incorporate into your celebration. Maybe it’s as simple as driving around and looking at Christmas lights, or maybe it’s serving in a shelter for abused women. You could do something fun and silly like eat only desserts for an entire day or have a crafting day.
Whatever it is, find something that makes you happy and start doing it this year!
On the 12th Day of Christmas – Take A Nap!
Whatever emotional roller coaster you’ve been on the past few days, weeks, months, or years, emotions are exhausting! Even laughter leaves us all tuckered out.
So today, find a cozy corner with your favorite blanket and let your eyes and soul rest.
You’ve done a really big thing: you’ve made it through what’s arguably the hardest holiday season. You’ve faced your emotions and felt them, you’ve worked on managing your expectations, you’ve tuned out toxic (albeit addictive) social media…You’ve done a lot.
You deserve a rest.
May God bless you this holiday. Merry Christmas, friends!
I really struggled with what to write about this week. Nothing was coming to me naturally and every time I tried to force something out on paper, it was just that, forced. And then it occurred to me why: my anxiety is pretty high these days, which makes me want to “go ostrich” and bury my head in the sand. (Though, now that I’ve googled that particular phrase, I am well aware the way we use it is highly inaccurate. I trust you get my point.)
So…here I am. Anxious. My heart is racing. My blood pressure, I’m sure is up, though testing it seems like wasted energy. Depression levels are sinking. I’m overwhelmed, under-rested, and would rather be in bed with my favorite blanket and the remote control.
This isn’t terribly uncommon.
In fact, if you’ve ever suffered from depression or anxiety, chances are you can relate. Likewise, if you’re a Christian suffering from either of these or a whole host of other mental health issues, you’ve also been told all the reasons you shouldn’t ever be depressed or anxious.
You’ve heard it, too, I’m sure…
It seems to me, the most-oft quoted scripture I hear is Matthew 6:27, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” This is, of course within the context of a much larger portion of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus gave his magnum opus in the preaching world.
To be sure, there is great wisdom in that verse and the ones surrounding it in regards to trusting that the God who created us will also care for our needs. I dig that. A lot.
But here’s the thing: anxiety and depression have little to do with those concerns. When someone says they suffer from anxiety, they’re probably not talking about worrying about how the bills are going to get paid. That can certainly be a part of it, don’t get me wrong.
Anxiety vs. Worrying
Anxiety, though is less about ‘worrying’ about things and more about being paralyzed to do anything about what causes normal worry. At least, for me.
Most people, when they worry about bills getting paid, they find a way to increase their earnings, through a second job or selling some goods. Likewise, most people, when their homes start to get messy and cluttered, they take a day and whip things back in to shape.
Sometimes I can do those things, too. A lot of time, though, I become completely overwhelmed and unable to see what next step to take. That leads to frustration because I know I should know the answer. You know?
Instead, I pace the house, seeing clutter and mess all around and I can’t figure out how to make it go away. I get jittery and snappish with the people around me. Even if they try to help in one way or the other, odds are their help will feel threatening and they’ll still get snapped at, anyway. (It’s a barrel of laughs, yeah?)
Christians Suffer, Too
It’s just not enough to tell Christians that they shouldn’t suffer from these issues. It’s not fair to say that because we’re Christians we shouldn’t need medication or therapy and even then, continue to battle with it on an on-going basis. To suggest, in any way, that followers of Christ are supposed to somehow be happy and content at all times, is dangerous and needs to stop.
The fact is, we live in a fallen and broken world. If you turn on the news or look at social media for five seconds, it’s pretty clear just how broken and fallen we are. It’s easy to find 100 things that cause stress on a daily basis without even trying hard.
When we look through scripture, it is riddled with people of faith who suffered greatly and wrestled with their own falling societies and cultures. Moses, Gideon, Jonah, Ruth, David, Esther, Paul, Jesus himself. They all lived in times of serious upheaval and societal pressure. Only one of those listed (and the list is quite a bit larger, just read your Bible), was perfect. I imagine Jesus, though He grieved at the knowledge of what He was being asked to do in His final hours, didn’t succumb to worry or anxious thinking.
But I do. And so do lots of other people of faith. You might even be one of them. You’re not alone.
Stop the Stigma!
The more we address this very real and growing epidemic that is ravaging the people in our churches, the less stigma there is surrounding mental health care. We are bold to pray for healing for people with cancer, but mental disease is the modern-day plague of Biblical times and we run around crying, “Unclean! Unclean!” as though depression were highly contagious. (Hint: it’s not.)
So, here I sit with this anxiety weighing me down. I’m able to stave off an anxiety attack; I’ve learned pretty well how to fight those back. But the general sense of overwhelm and lack of motivation is a very real battle I fight almost daily.
Look, I know where my Hope is. I know who I am and to whom I belong. I know that God has my present and my future safely locked in His hands and my eternity is secure. But that kind of knowledge still won’t help me get my To-Do List done.
So, if you’re feeling like I am today, let this be our plan: one foot in front of the other. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Repeat as many times as needed. Take a nap if possible. Do the next thing.
And at the end of the day, find that cozy blanket and remote. You did amazing.
It came on suddenly and without any warning, in the middle of the local grocery store with my cart half-loaded.
I looked into the basket and couldn’t recognize any of the items resting at the bottom. My eyes seemed to glaze over as I tried to piece together where I was and what I was doing.
My heart was racing, I was getting hotter and hotter. Looking around, all I could see was a sea of people and it seemed like they were all crowding in. My defenses on high, my first instinct was to lash out at the women passing by with their own carts full of goods. I wanted to crash into them. To knock them over, out of my way.
What was I even doing here?
Coming into some sense of awareness I realized that I had to finish my grocery shopping and get home. But if I’d had a grocery list in my hand at one point, it certainly wasn’t there now. My brain kept shouting, “Just get the groceries and leave!”
With no ability to regulate my thinking, I simply started grabbing items from the shelves. All I knew for sure was that we had no food at home, we needed food, and this was the place to get it. What kind of food didn’t matter.
It took amazing effort, but I was able to convince myself that I had to wait at the check-out line and pay for my groceries. All I wanted to do was running, screaming,”Tawanda!” through the doors, but not in the funny ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ kind of way. More in the panicked, I-may-just-run-someone-over-spree-killer kind of way.
Groceries paid and bagged, now all I had to do was get to the car and navigate my way home. But even getting through the parking lot was an ordeal. Everyone seemed determined to hinder my progress. Meanwhile, my heart was still pounding loudly in my chest, my breathing was shallow, my vision was blurry and death seemed imminent.
I’m not sure the exact order of things after this point. I know I ended up at the University’s theater where Matt was working on the production of an upcoming show. Sitting at the light booth in the middle of the auditorium, he listened as I recalled my flash of crazy while grocery shopping.
I was beyond worried. Dad had died from a sudden heart attack just a couple months before. I didn’t know exactly what the symptoms were, but it seemed entirely possible that’s what I’d just experienced.
Later that week as I sat around the large oval cherry conference table, staring into the faces of others who’d also lost a loved one, I shared my tale with my grief group. Death. Loss. Sorrow. These were the only things we shared in common.
Our counselor listened intently as I recounted my experience then quietly assured me that what I’d had was not a heart attack, but in fact, a panic attack. She then proceeded to share different strategies for coping with the symptoms as they present themselves. She talked of deep breathing, visualization, and the simple mantra, ‘This won’t kill me.’
Years and countless panic attacks later, I think I understand better. They still come on sometimes. But now, rather than managing the symptoms, I am able to recognize their onset and head them off before they become crippling. Deep breathing, visualization, and mantras are still my most-trusted tools.
But why am I sharing this story?
Because on a regular basis I meet people who are dealing with anxiety and panic attacks and they don’t have any idea what’s going on. All they know is they feel like the fight, flight, and freeze responses have all kicked into high gear at once and it is terrifying. I honestly believe it is by God’s grace that I didn’t literally run people over with my car that day, 20-some years ago in the grocery store parking lot. Because everything in me felt like that would be my best course of action.
I’m sharing this because if you deal with these or similar feelings, I want you to know that you are NOT alone. You are NOT crazy. This does NOT have to overtake you. And for sure, this does not have to be something you suffer with alone or forever.
Please, if you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, depression or thoughts of suicide, seek help. We are created to ‘do life’ together. We’re not meant to go it alone.
If you see someone who is hurting, scared, isolated, anxious, depressed or any of the hundred other words we use to convey our burden, please reach out to them. Depression is rooted with fear. Fear keeps us paralyzed and unable to seek help from outside sources. Sometimes we need those outside sources to reach in and gently draw us out.
Friends, be well. You are too wonderful to lose. And you are never – not ever – alone.