6 Steps to Overcoming Fear and Anxiety
Updated: Feb 19
Today my husband is gone. He will be gone for two more nights. Night-time “aloneness” is one of the greatest fears I’ve had to walk with Jesus through. Yes, there’s the fear of failure, motherhood, giving birth, homeschooling, finances, etc, etc. BUT, being alone at night has been a huge source of anxiety for me. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that bad things only happen at night. Basically I watched TOO MUCH CSI and crap as a teenager and somehow I’ve ingrained into my mind that if I have to sleep alone (without another adult in the house) that I will for sure have an intruder/burglar that will do horrific things to me or the ones I’m protecting. It may sound silly but it has been very real for me to experience.
The anxiety began when I was a little kid with simple things like not wanting to go down in the basement. I’m sure we can all laugh about our scary, dark, gloomy basements and the terror we felt to have to go retrieve something from there. I’d always try to bribe my sisters to go down there for me and get whatever it was that I needed. If I had to go by myself I’d SCREAM praise songs on the way down the stairs, then SCREAM out of fear running up the stairs on the way out. It’s ridiculous. I know. But it happened.
In my logical brain I am in a safe place–a house small enough that there’s nowhere to hide, with a security system, and with excellent neighbors that we could call or run to at a moment’s notice in the case of an emergency—versus living out on land surrounded by a forest where no one can hear you scream. Yes, I’m that morbid and have thought this out thoroughly.
But on my emotional side–fear has conquered my faith more times than I’d care to admit. A year ago I got to a place where I started panicking–sweating and shaking throughout the night. Call it a panic attack or anxiety, but it was not healthy. I was trying to do everything I knew how to do to help myself overcome this fear of sleeping alone–reading scripture, praying, casting out Satan and every evil thought, staying away from social media or news in the evenings which might fuel the fire of fear. But the fear had turned to a dangerous level of anxiety–like where you don’t sleep and then try to function as a homeschooling mama with young children the next day, and then the next, while waiting for my husband to come home. I remember telling Andrew, “I did better this last time you were gone, I only got out of bed every 45 min with a knife and car keys (to sound an alarm) in hand.” His response was, “I think it’s time to talk to someone and get some help, Megan.”
Here’s the steps I took with God that helped me work through my anxiety:
Getting help by sharing the struggle
Turning my eyes away
Speaking truth out loud
Being patient with slow results
1. Getting help by sharing the struggle.
Galatians 6:2, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
I thought I’d give myself some time before actually going to a counselor or therapist. So I decided to get help from my inner circle first. Friends that came and stayed at my house until 1 in the morning to help me get tired in the hopes that it would be easier to sleep. Friends that texted with me throughout the night when I was scared and prayed for me. Friends that checked on me throughout the day or offered to help with kids so I could nap. I was overwhelmed with the amount of encouragement I received from the few I shared this burden with. Praise God for sisters in Christ.
Bringing others in on the level of my struggle was embarrassing. BUT, I literally felt like now I had an army to fight this fear with. I could feel my friend’s prayers, I could sense God’s Spirit of peace flowing throughout our home. I was no longer tense throughout the day–waiting for the inevitable nightfall. I was slowly making baby decisions every moment of the day to prepare for the nighttime battle–knowing that I wasn’t alone and that an army of prayer warriors were surrounding me.
2. Capturing thoughts is a lot like potty training.
2 Corinthians 10:5, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Can you tell that I’m currently in another season of potty-training? Haha! But capturing thoughts IS like potty-training in more ways than you can imagine! It takes a lot of practice, time, discipline, planning, repetition, grace, strength to start over, and attention to detail. For instance, you might not have even realized your thoughts have started to spiral until it’s too late (hence the attention to detail) and your thoughts have hit the bottom of the dark pit of your ultimate fears. When a child has an accident we don’t quit potty training. We clean up and try again–we understand that mishaps are a part of the learning process. It’s the same with capturing thoughts. You don’t have to stay in the dark pit of fear–with one thought we can MOVE TOWARDS thinking about what is good, lovely, righteous, pure, admirable, etc.(Phil. 4:8).
It’s extremely hard to STOP THINKING about the fears agonizing you. It’s like saying, “don’t think about an elephant.” Well, guess what? I’m thinking about an elephant, dang it! Instead, we move our thoughts TOWARD goodness. Toward truth. I didn’t even realize how much of the battle started in my head throughout the day even before nighttime came. For instance, I would hear a noise and automatically think, “this is it, I’m doomed, somehow they’ve gotten in and bypassed our security system and locked windows.” Or I would look at the garage door and immediately imagine it opening and an intruder walking in. I’d open a closet preparing to be attacked. I’d walk past my bed and look down picturing a hand reaching out to grab me. (I could elaborate on all the creepy graphic thoughts that haunted me throughout the day). This was an often occurrence. I’ve been working to change these thoughts and release them as soon as they enter my mind—like looking at the garage door and thinking, “I’m so thankful I have a warm, safe home and can’t wait till my husband walks through that door.”
We know as moms that potty-training has to get done. We know that in time our kids WILL stop pooping their pants. Could we be as diligent with capturing thoughts as we are with potty training? And could we believe that we CAN conquer this battle within the mind just like we eventually conquered potty-training? I believe we can. I want to have faith that with the Lord’s help I do NOT have to be a slave to the darkness of my own fearful thoughts, but can create a habit of thinking purely regularly, and having a mind full of hope and peace.
3. Praising God overtakes fear.
Psalm 56:3-4, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid.What can mere mortals do to me?"
Writing, singing, and speaking words of praise and worship to God have a way of slowly disabling the stronghold of fear. Praise turns our eyes and hearts to the Father instead of our situations. Praise focuses our thoughts on His Goodness instead of our weakness. Praise takes us before the throne surrounded by Truth, instead of buried in the darkness of the lies of the enemy. Praise has helped me overcome a heart of fear. Even in the moments I was shaking, trembling, and sweating the most, I began to praise more and more. No, it didn’t change things immediately for me. I had built a broad clear path of fear in my mind that was trodden down. But praise began to chart a new path in my mind. It took time to wear that trail down so it could be easily accessed. I’m letting the weeds grow up on the path of fear in my mind so that it will be harder to traverse.
So for now, I praise–not always because I feel like it, but because I know it’s a straight shot to my heavenly Father’s arms. If we wait to do something until we “feel like it” we might never succeed. Self-discipline is about doing what you know you need to do regardless of how you feel. Self-discipline is an important part of changing any habit, especially habits of thought. I want to be a disciplined worshiper of God at all times.
4. Turning my eyes away from what scared me.
Psalm 123:1, "I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven."
This one seems simple, but often the truth is quite simple. I needed to stop physically staring at and walking towards my fears, literally. It was time to stop staring at the back door every time I walked by because that was feulling my imagination. It was time to stop looking out the window to see if someone was in the backyard. Time to stop getting up every second I heard a sound–it only triggered my body to respond with anxiety instead of self-soothing with Spirit’s help, turning over in bed, and going back to sleep trusting that I was safe. I had to become a master of my body even though everything in me wanted to run and allow the fears to overtake me.
Just like an athlete disciplines their body to keep running or keep lifting weights even when it hurts, I had to restrain myself from looking at the things that were sparking my fearful thoughts. Just like any new habit, I had to be intentional and have a clear plan to divert my eyes so that my mind would not become entangled with fear yet again.
5. Speaking truth to myself out loud.
Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Speaking scripture and proclaiming victory has been helpful to me in this process. I literally would speak, chant, and sing these truths until I started to believe them. Here are some of the prayers and truths I proclaim out loud along with Psalm 23:
“I am safe in the arms of my heavenly Father.”
“No matter WHAT happens you are with me and for me.”
“God is working for my good because I love Him!”
“Satan, you have no power here, begone! No evil will overtake this home because the Spirit of God lives here!”
“I am okay and will rest well tonight.”
“My children are safe in God’s hands.”
“I will slow my breathing and my mind and fall asleep.”
“I can hear my children and trust they are safe.”
“God will be glorified no matter what.”
“No matter what happens God, I know you are with me.”
6. Being patient with slow results.
Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
When you’ve gotten to a place of extreme fear and anxiety, it is most likely going to be a long road of rewiring your brain to no longer be afraid. This may seem daunting, but do not give up! Just like potty training doesn’t happen in one day, we know that with time, repetition, and faith we will one day get there. The real cure for anxiety is actually facing the fear itself. As one of my favorite children’s books says, “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we gotta go THROUGH IT!” (We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen) Every time I slept a few minutes longer when my husband was gone that was a win. Every day that I didn’t explode at my kids or walk around the house stressed out because of the fears I knew coming at night time was a win. (Yes, my fears were often manifesting as anger during the day).
I still sometimes dread being alone at night but I have to remind myself that I can do it. I’ve done it. Nothing bad happened. I can do this again. We’ve been here. Satan did not win. I have slept well when alone. It might not be a full eight hours, but God has given me rest, and He’s given me strength for the day when I could not rest. God is my strength. He is with me.
There’s no straight path through the battlefield of fear. It’s more like a squiggly winding roller-coaster of steps forwards and backwards–but it’s progress. If I get to a place where these steps are no longer working for me, then it’s probably time to get professional help and resources from someone trained for such a battle. One of the books that I’ve read to help my daughter (but ended up helping me as well) was Sissy Goff’s, Raising Worry Free Girls. She talks a lot about how anxiety looks and feels and gives very practical tools to use. Honestly, as “heady” as this book was, it was like getting several free counseling sessions with tools and resources to implement at home. I pray that God uses my testimony of battling fear to encourage and empower others to believe that they, too, can conquer fear with His help. Ultimately, this world is not our home, and until we’re home, some wounds, worries, and fears, may still be battles for us. Let’s praise God for the ground we CAN take in the battle, and to keep fighting the lies and worries from the enemy with biblical truth and healthy disciplines.