On Worry | Part 3

It all came back. Not in the force of the dark thoughts that I had before. This was totally different, but it had the same effect. These new thoughts twisted my gut and imprisoned me. I didn’t expect it. I hadn’t dealt with an onslaught like this for a long, long time. But, it came. Fast and sure, and plunged me back in the depths. Even though I’d climbed out before, I didn’t know how to crawl out now. I felt trapped. I felt broken. I felt dark.

worry3I had succumbed, dived deep, and here I struggled again. Frustration and heartbreak overwhelmed me. This all over again?! The earlier darkness hadn’t returned but worry plagued me, thick and suffocating.

If only…

What if….

Maybe if I…

How come I didn’t…

It circled endlessly, tearing at my heart. As I backed away from social media, talked to my husband, and worked through these personal struggles, I realized the root of my worries. I also began to apply, once again, Scripture truths to my life.

I asked myself the hard questions. Who defines my worth? Christ. Is this____ true about my life? No. Is this____ real in my life today? No. So, what is true? What is real? I did the hard work once more. I wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards. I prayed. I even started re-reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. (I highly recommend it!) I combated the wrong thoughts and chose to cling to real things and the truths of God. Once again, I found freedom from worry, from unreal things that didn’t matter. I found refuge in God, His Scripture. I’m 21 and anxiety, worry, what if’s, and unreal thoughts still come back to shake me to my core. I am imperfect. I get ragged and I fall back into the depths easily. Anxiety will follow me for the rest of my life.

BUT–

 There is hope. There is always hope for me and for you!

I have a sure way to fight this darkness. I know I hold the victory as I meditate on God’s truth, throwing out the untrue and unlovely, and embracing that which is real, honorable, and true. A lifetime struggle can look discouraging, but that is where I have to pause.

Am I facing the future right now? No. Is the future real right now? No.

What is true? This moment, right here. I can choose God’s truth or my own worry. What is real? The victory I have in Him. What do I need to think on? The truths of God.

Doesn’t all of this sound redundant? It is! We are experts at repetition. We just have to learn how to meditate the right way!

Perhaps, today you face discouragement because, after months of a worry-free mind, it has all come back. You crumple, not expecting this. The force of worry consumes you.

It buries you.

It pushes and pulls you.

It pierces you deeply.

You are not alone. It just happened to me. I am sure it will happen again.

BUT–

Decide to think on the truths of God. Ask yourself the hard questions, banish the unlovely and dark thoughts, and focus on real and true ones. Bathe yourself in Scripture. Experience refuge in God all over again.

Don’t despair! Rather, bask in the knowledge that God has the power to rescue you every time you fall! Every time! God will not refuse helping, comforting, and rescuing us — even after the 100th time you fall back into deep worry.

You will know freedom as you know Christ.

And you will have victory again!

Don’t dwell on the anxiety you may face tomorrow, two weeks from now, or next year.

What is real today?

The victory you have when you remain rooted in God.  

What do you need to think on today? 

The truths of God.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

If you missed them, catch Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

On Worry | Part 2

Last week, we talked about the depths of worry. (Don’t miss part one.) We discussed verbally admitting the struggle and touched the surface of freedom from darkness. By now, you know that I fight some deep, perplexing issues. We all do! We may struggle differently, but we all struggle deeply. This is a safe place for us to talk about it. So, let’s dive right in. If you haven’t written Philippians 4:8 on a 3×5 card yet, you will definitely want to by the end of this post!

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For the rest of this article, you’ll read what I like to call the Truth Process. This process is hard and easy all at the same time. But the good news is that one can live free of worry, even when it doesn’t feel possible. I can’t express to you the depths of my worry. Maybe if we sat over a cup of coffee, I could adequately describe how far I sank, but we aren’t face-to-face, and I’d rather show you the way of HOPE than drone on about my own past darkness.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

As a teen, I began the process of thinking on truth. I memorized this verse. We often say it’s too hard to meditate. But if you’re the anxious worrier that I was (and still can be sometimes!), you are an EXPERT at it. In other words, we excel at meditating! But the problem comes in dwelling on the wrong things. We focus on what could be, what might be, what I might do, what I didn’t do, on dark things, on lies, and on destruction.

So how do we use our expert meditating skills the right way? Let me share three practical ways (aka–>the Truth Process) to change those bad habits.

#1. Write Philippians 4:8 and other Scriptural truths on 3×5 cards. 

Be sure to write down Philippians 4:8 (one of the most helpful verse for freedom from anxiety), but also study Scripture to find other verses that give you comfort, strength, and hope. Remember, God wrote these truths for us! He gave His Word to help and sustain us — to tell of His love, His care, His power! Keep that in mind as you look for Scripture to write down.

After you compile 3-4 verses, carry them with you wherever you go. Read the card(s) every time you walk through a doorway, pass a trash can, look out a window … you get the point! Pick a daily action that you do frequently, and when you find yourself doing that action, read the verse as well! Just do it. You will be amazed at the subtle changes you’ll begin to see. The invasion of truth in a dark, battered mind makes a huge difference.

#2. Ask yourself, “Is this True? Is this Real?” 

We can’t just read Scripture and be done with it. We have to apply it as well. When you read Philippians 4:8, pull your anxiety parallel to God’s Word. Is this _____ true about my life? Is this _____ real? Is this ____ lovely? Continue asking yourself if these thoughts line up with Philippians 4:8. If you can’t say yes to any of these questions, then you have to throw the thought out.

How can you throw out a thought? How can you stop thinking it? Restructure the questions above. So, what is true? What is real? What is lovely? Answer those questions after you reject the untrue, unreal, and unlovely thoughts that we are so apt to focus on. You’ll begin to see a huge change!

#3. Do this over and over and over and over again. 

You won’t see much change if you don’t continually think on truth, discard wrong thoughts, and think on truth some more. It took a lot of the same dark thoughts to plunge you into despair and anxiety. It’s going to take daily, hourly, minutely meditation on truth for you to live free from anxiety. You have to keep reading Scripture, memorizing it, knowing it, and then applying it.

Ask yourself the hard questions, throw away the untrue, unlovely thoughts. Next, think again on what is true and real. You will find that God’s truth overrides darkness every time. You will find freedom from despair.

Perhaps you say I’ve had victory before, but I’m ragged again. What do I do?  Oh my dear, I understand. I recently went through a whole struggle myself, but I’ll talk about that next week. You are not alone. Keep thinking on truth and come again. We will find truth and comfort together.

In Christ,

Sierra Straightforward

P.S. Consider reading Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. While I wrote this article in my own words, I’ve taken the advice from her!

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.6

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Fight

Fighting doesn’t always mean resorting to violence. We know that the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds, and that is exactly what we intend to do…demolish the strongholds of anxiety and depression.

Do not allow these killers (anxiety and depression) to murder you, which is precisely their purpose. Make no mistake about it ladies, anxiety and depression can be just as deadly as some forms of cancer and you must fight against it with everything in you. Known for being relentless and ruthless, do not underestimate the enemy of your soul, whose determined to steal, kill, and destroy. Anxiety and depression will attack with no holds barred. Therefore be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! When your strength is depleted, remain standing and let the Lord fight your battles. Your first line of defense is ALWAYS GOD.anxietydepression6

There are several tactics that can be implemented when breaking the cycle of ungodly thinking. Because both anxiety and depression are known for altering the perception of their captors, you are their main target. If they can get you to believe that you are anything less than what God says, they’ve won half the battle. The blows that anxiety and depression throw at you may sometimes leave you dazed, confused, and barely able to see clearly. If the way you view yourself is off, if your vision is even slightly skewed, the way you view yourself must be reestablished immediately. Be determined in your strategy to overcome by any means necessary. Do not let your guard down and extend no mercy because trust that none will be reciprocated. You must fight for your right to be free from the mental prison that will not hesitate to arrest all other aspects of living. Roll up your sleeves and fight ladies, fight for your life in Christ.

Just one more day to go before our journey comes to an end, are you still with me ladies? Hang in there because I saved the best for last. Today, I pray that each of you would be endowed with the supernatural power of the One who fights constantly for you, with you, and on your behalf – the Champion of life, death, and satan himself: the One and Only, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.5

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Focus

I am all too familiar with the negative spin that anxiety and depression puts on everything fanxietydepression5rom future expectations to the way you see yourself and everything in between. Contrary to popular belief (and popular usually means those who haven’t dealt with depression personally), when battling with these two monsters, blanket statements like “mind over matter,” “wishful thinking,” and (my all-time favorite…NOT) “just think positive” will not cut it. As a matter of fact, it could actually make things worse because now feelings of guilt develop due to you not being able to “positive think” it away.

If anxiety and depression were that easy to get rid of, why is it that an alarming amount of people have these issues and the number of people dealing with them are constantly growing? Ladies, anxiety and depression is so much more than being “down in the dumps” and to overcome it means you must be willing to concentrate on the Lord wholeheartedly.

To break out of the ungodly thought process you must focus – control your mind, don’t allow your mind to control you. Yes, thoughts will come (guaranteed), however, you do not have to entertain those thoughts. Be intentional in your thinking and purposeful in your processing.

While in these bouts of mental anguish, remember who you are in God, and should you forget, revert back to the only truth that does not waver – His word. Listen ladies, you cannot rely on your feelings because not only are they unstable but they can lie to you as well. It is crucial that you become completely dependent upon the Lord of hosts. He is the same today, yesterday, and forever.

Unfortunately, many people who have issues with anxiety and depression, are also perfectionists. Perfectionists are constantly holding themselves to higher standards and unrealistic expectations. Sometimes people fail to realize that God is not interested in their attempts at being perfect, He doesn’t have to look beyond His own throne for perfection (quoted by Laurie Lewis). God already knows you are incapable of perfection. Alleviate self-imposed stress by allowing yourself to be less than perfect, instead focus on who you are in Him.

Writing has always been therapeutic in my opinion. Consider keeping an ungodly verses godly thought journal. Whenever an ungodly thoughts pops into your head, write it down, afterwards, write a godly truth (may include scriptures) that will negate the ungodly thought. Focus on the godly truth you wrote down, read it often, memorize it. Soon, each time the ungodly thought enters your mind the godly thought will be sure to follow. It won’t take long for you to obtain a few pages full of godly thoughts that are now ineffective due to the godly truth you chose to focus on. If you keep you mind on the Lord, He’ll keep you in perfect peace.

Wow ladies, it has been awesome to share with you today. As we come to another day’s end, please know that my prayer for you is that you would fully concentrate on God’s goodness and His grace. You won’t want to miss tip six, join me again tomorrow! May the Lord keep you, until we meet again.

 

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.4

anxietydepression4Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Fitness

Exercise is such an ugly word, wouldn’t you agree ladies? LOL! In spite of how we may feel about the word, it is a necessary evil. I’m sure you’re all too familiar with the spirit of heaviness that causes such menial tasks, such as getting out of bed or taking a shower, to be insurmountable, much less exercising. However, research tells us that staying fit is proven to be just as effective as prescription medications used to treat anxiety and depression. Apparently, staying fit with regular physical activity such as exercise, actually triggers new cell growth in the brain which has several benefits. It causes muscle tension relief and it increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and endorphins, as well as reducing high levels of stress.

When establishing a fitness routine, keep in mind that most of your benefits will come from exercising at least thirty minutes or more every day. Whether you are an amateur or an expert as it pertains to fitness, you can start small. If you do too much too soon, your fitness action plan will fall apart before you know it. Short bursts of activity in 10 minute intervals will have a noticeable effect on your mood. Buckets of sweat, gym memberships, personal trainers, signing up for marathons, etc. are not necessary to be fit. Any activity that gets your arms and legs moving and raises your heart rate may be considered as exercise. Dancing, swimming, walking, running, (requires moving of the limbs and accelerating the heart rate) can all be incorporated into your daily routine. It makes it easier if you choose activities you enjoy because you’re more likely to stick with it. Committing to several small activities spread throughout the day can quickly add up. It also allows you to tackle your fitness routine in small doses rather than all at once. With the smaller portions it doesn’t seem as overwhelming, especially to those of us who don’t exercise regularly.

There are several ways to implement those smaller chunks of exercise into your day, like parking your vehicle in the farthest spot on the lot, using the stairs instead of the elevators, make walking the dog a part of your daily routine, etc. These are all small adjustments that will make huge impacts.

Four down, three to go! I hope you all will join me again tomorrow as we discuss our fifth tip. My prayer is that every woman who is having this battle will know without a shadow of a doubt that she is not alone. Lord, I ask that You remind these ladies who love You that you have loved them with an everlasting love and nothing will separate them from the miraculous love that You have so freely given to each woman. Speak to them throughout the day in ways that would assure them that You are right there in the storm with them, providing shelter making it impossible for them to get swept up by the treacherous wind and rain. Remember ladies, your hope is in God alone. Blessings!

Redefining FLOURISH Pt.3

anxietydepression3Overcoming Anxiety and Depression – Fun

When we become adults, the world suddenly becomes so serious. For adults, fun is something that we simply don’t have time to indulge. We have unscheduled it on our calendars and removed it from our to-do lists.

We have to come to the realization that in order to overcome anxiety and depression, we gotta have some fun. Girls just wanna have fun, right?! Do things that relax and energize you. In doing so you will learn how to better manage stress, develop healthy habits, and schedule some long overdue, fun activities into your day.

In your pursuit for fun, try exposing yourself to a little sunlight each day, a minimum of at least fifteen minutes per day. Sunlight actually helps to improve your mood. Sitting in a garden, reading a book under a tree, even taking a stroll in the park will help in obtaining your daily dose of sun.

It’s not unusual for anxiety and depression to alter your normal sleep pattern. Whether you’re sleeping too much or too little, your mood will be affected by it. On average we need about eight hours of sleep, which should be your goal each night. You may even need to try some relaxation techniques prior to your bedtime, it will help to relieve some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression, while reducing stress. It can also enhance feelings of joy and well-being. Creating healthy sleeping habits will definitely help to improve your mood.

Before anxiety and depression took over your life, you had fun and enjoyed doing certain things. Of course you can’t force yourself to fun, however, you can make a conscience decision to participate in activities that you once found to be pleasurable like an old hobby you’d like to revisit, or an interest you may want to explore. Investigate your creative side through art (painting, sculpting, etc.), writing, build a collection of some sort, or take a trip to the park, the beach, even the mountains with a few friends. Music has the ability to greatly influence its listeners, it has extreme mood altering capabilities. Having said that, be careful when selecting your playlists. Opt for music that makes you feel good, empowered, inspired, strong, etc. Stay away from dark music with violent lyrics, sad songs, and music that triggers painful memories.

You will have to push yourself to have fun because most likely you won’t feel up to doing anything, but follow through with it anyway. It may not happen the first time, but eventually you’ll notice a gradual improvement in your moods accompanied by being more energetic. Whether you see change immediately or not, continue to make time for fun.

This brings us to yet another end ladies and I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts thus far? This question may be a little premature but have you been able to apply what you’ve learned to your life? I’m excited to hear your feedback. If you want to share with me personally as opposed to commenting below, please feel free to contact me via email at: Takiela@TakielaBynum.com . Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Blessings!

On Worry | Part 1

I washed my hands all the time. I fretted about everything. I cried easily. Anxiety plagued me. I lived in prison — a prison of my own making. My struggle with anxiety increased in my early teens. I feared stealing, lying, cheating, killing myself, and so many others things.

Today, I open part 1 of my journey through worry. I hope you’ll stay for all of it.

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A life of constant worry lead to exhaustion. I felt stuck in a black hole, unsure of how to climb out. How could I go from chains to freedom? How could I break the cycle of questions and torments, especially when trapped so deep? Would it ever happen? Or would I always live like this?

These feelings tormented me.

As a young girl, this did so much damage. Such thoughts always lead to deep damage. Eventually, I voiced my twisted, dark thoughts, because I couldn’t cope alone anymore. It wasn’t hard for those close to me to know I struggled, but it was hard for me to verbally admit it.

But at last, I told my Mom the struggles I faced. I was tired of the endless darkness. My Mom gave me the first shreds of hope. She wrote Scripture on 3×5 cards for me to read over and over again. She also bought me Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. This book pointed me to Scripture and showed practical ways to break out of my self-destructive thinking patterns.

However, it isn’t easy reaching this point. Admitting one’s struggles takes courage. It’s hard to share the dark thoughts inside us or to say, “I’m afraid I’m going to kill myself.” If I could travel back to my life as a young teen, I’d tell myself three things. Continue reading “On Worry | Part 1”