YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
How Can I Deal With Anxiety?
What makes you anxious?
Do the following statements describe how you feel at times?
“I’m constantly thinking: ‘What if . . . ?’ ‘What if we get in a car accident?’ ‘What if our plane goes down?’ I’m anxious about things that a more rational person wouldn’t worry so much about.”—Charles.
“I feel anxious all the time, as though I were a hamster on a wheel running around but never getting anywhere. I’m working myself to death but not really accomplishing anything!”—Anna.
“When people tell me that I’m fortunate that I’m still in school, I say to myself, ‘They have no idea how stressful school is!’”—Daniel.
“I’m like a pressure cooker. I’m always worried about the next thing that will happen or the next thing I need to do.”—Laura.
Fact of life: We live in what the Bible calls “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Because of that, anxiety can affect young people as much as it affects adults.
Is anxiety always bad?
The answer is no. In fact, the Bible says that it is right for people to be anxious to please the ones they love.—1 Corinthians 7:32-34; 2 Corinthians 11:28.
Also, let’s face it—anxiety can be a powerful motivator. For example, suppose you will be taking a test at school next week. Anxiety might compel you to study this week—and that might help you get a better grade!
A degree of anxiety can also alert you to danger. “You might feel anxious because you know that you’re taking a wrong course of action and that you need to make changes for your conscience to be at rest,” says a teenager named Serena.—Compare James 5:14.
Fact of life: Anxiety can work for you—as long as it moves you to the right kind of action.
But what if anxiety traps you in a maze of negative thinking?
Example: “My mind races when I think about the different ways a stressful situation could turn out,” says 19-year-old Richard. “I play the situation over and over in my mind to the point that it makes me very anxious.”
The Bible says that “a calm heart gives life to the body.” (Proverbs 14:30) On the other hand, anxiety can bring on a number of unpleasant physical symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, and heart palpitations.
What can you do if anxiety seems to be working against you rather than for you?
What you can do
Question the reasonableness of your anxiety. “Being concerned about your responsibilities is one thing; being overly anxious is another. It reminds me of the saying, Anxiety is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”—Katherine.
The Bible says: “Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span?”—Matthew 6:27.
What this means: Unless anxiety leads you toward a solution, it will only add to your problem—or become your problem.
Take things one day at a time. “Think it through. Will what you are anxious about matter tomorrow? in a month? in a year? in five years?”—Anthony.
The Bible says: “Never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Each day has enough of its own troubles.”—Matthew 6:34.
What this means: It makes little sense to take on tomorrow’s problems—some of which may never even become a reality.
Learn to live with what you cannot change. “The best you can do is prepare for situations to the extent possible, but accept the fact that some situations are out of your control.”—Robert.
The Bible says: “The swift do not always win the race, . . . nor do those with knowledge always have success, because time and unexpected events overtake them all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11.
What this means: Sometimes you cannot change your circumstances, but you can change the way you view them.
Put your situation in perspective. “I find that I have to focus on the big picture and not stress over the details. I have to choose my battles and channel my energy into taking care of priorities.”—Alexis.
The Bible says: “Make sure of the more important things.”—Philippians 1:10.
What this means: People who put their anxieties in perspective are less likely to be overwhelmed by them.
Talk to someone. “When I was in the sixth grade, I would come home from school very anxious, dreading the next day. My mother and father would just listen to me as I expressed myself. It was so good to have them there. I could trust them and speak freely to them. It helped me to face the next day.”—Marilyn.
The Bible says: “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.”—Proverbs 12:25.
What this means: A parent or a friend might be able to give you practical suggestions on how to reduce your anxiety.
Pray. “Praying—and doing so aloud so I can hear my voice—helps me. It allows me to vocalize what I am anxious about instead of keeping it in my head. It also helps me to realize that Jehovah is greater than my anxiety.”—Laura.
The Bible says: “Throw all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:7.
What this means: Prayer is not a mental trick. It is real communication with Jehovah God, who promises: “Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you.”—Isaiah 41:10.