Depression and Anxiety/Emotions/Healthy Mind/My Life/Teen Life Dealing With Anxiety as a Catholic by Adam Cross As a teen, there were many times I was super anxious and didn’t even know it. In fact, it wasn’t until college that I realized what I was experiencing wasn’t completely healthy. I remember being in one of my smaller classes and feeling so anxious that all I wanted to do was get up and literally run out. I wasn’t even sure why I was feeling that way! When I began to see just how much anxiety was affecting me, I started to pray and pray that God would alleviate this burden from my life. Although I found it difficult to sit still for too long, had trouble focusing, and constantly questioned my words and interactions with others, I kept praying and hoping that God would zap it out of me. When He didn’t, I was angry and felt stuck. After finding myself in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, I felt God nudging me to seek help to deal with my anxiety and because of that, I sought out therapy for the first time. Therapy Schm-erapy Most of us probably have that random uncle or family friend who believes therapy is a bunch of baloney. Mental health wasn’t really talked about in my family. We had gone to a therapist a few times but it still seemed taboo. In studying to be a therapist myself, I unfortunately encountered so much stigma that still exists in society for those trying to seek out therapy and experiencing mental illness. So many people suffer day-to-day but so few people seek help. In all reality, even though it’s not talked about much, millions of people struggle with mental health. In the therapy work I do, I’ve encountered people who experience anxiety through panic attacks, stomach or head aches, intense worrying, and even crying themselves to sleep. These are symptoms of anxiety and deeper issues, but they don’t need to rule your life. You are not defined by your anxiety. Many teens tolerate these symptoms or even embrace them as a part of everyday life, but the truth is that God wants to help us carry this cross, which is why He gives us practical tools to do so. First and foremost, you are His beloved child. You might experience anxiety, but it doesn’t define you. If you experience anxiety, it’s important that you seek the help you need through the tools God has given you. Many people are afraid afraid of the label they’ll be given or what it could mean for their life if they need it; but seeking out a therapist or psychologist for help can be the first step to living a healthier and more fulfilling life. Don’t Wait for a Zap While we might want God to zap us better, treating anxiety isn’t something that can be done without our own effort and cooperation. Christ wants to help us carry our crosses, but we have to accept the help. Anxiety exists because we live in an imperfect world full of suffering. Too often we question whether God cares and whether He wants the best for us. It’s easy to become overburdened by fear and doubt, so much so that we can become accustomed to it. God isn’t making you figure it out on your own, but He is giving you real tips to overcome your anxiety. God is giving you the tools to live a better life, but you have to pick them up and use them. Reading the Gage Imagine your car is sputtering on the highway. You have two choices: you can either pull over and seek help or keep driving and maybe make it worse. Life with anxiety is similar. But how do you know when enough is enough? How do you know if you should seek out therapy? Here are a few guideposts along the road that may help you. If you experience the following with your anxiety frequently, it’s probably a good sign you should seek out help: “I’m always freaking out about [insert worry here] and I can’t stop thinking about it! “I don’t want to eat much anymore because I’m so stressed out.” “I can’t relax or sit still and my body feels so restless!” “I get shaky and can’t calm down. Sometimes I feel dizzy and throw up.” “I feel frustrated with others, am on edge, and get really wound up.” “I’m tired all the time and don’t want to do anything anymore.” “I can’t fall asleep because I lay awake thinking about everything.” “I can’t focus and my mind wanders to negative things.” “I space out when I worry and don’t realize I am doing it.” “I have panic attacks and am terrified that they will keep happening.” One of the best ways to seek help is to talk to someone you trust. This may be your youth minister, parish priest, teacher, coach, a reliable friend, or best of all, your parents. These people (especially your youth minister & priest) should be able to help you determine what the next steps in finding help to treat your anxiety might be. You can also check out several websites (like this one) to help you find a good Catholic therapist near you. Don’t feel like you have to go the journey alone. Simply talking about it can help tremendously. Faith, Hope, and Love It can get better. There is so much peace in knowing that. As a therapist, I help clients heal and manage their anxiety so they can truly live better lives! But therapy isn’t always a walk in the park. It takes hard work. It takes honesty with yourself and others. It’s a process of getting to know yourself on a deeper level. Therapy requires faith in Jesus, our Lord, and also that God will give you the tools you need. It requires hope in knowing that you can live a more fulfilling life through Christ in real prayer and in using the tools He lays before you. It requires love of self enough to recognize that you truly are a child of God, and are worth seeking out and living a healthy, peace-filled life, with Christ at the center. So, don’t worry! Christ has conquered your struggle with anxiety! Give your anxiety to the prince of peace, Himself, and take real step towards healing today.