Anxiety Faith Mindfulness Monday Mantras

Avoid Numbing or Distracting: A Better Alternative to Deal with Stress

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”
-1 Peter 5:7 NLT

Shoot, I did it again! 

A moment of awareness snapped me out of my wandering, anxious thoughts and brought be back into the present moment where I was caught red-handed.  I looked down to assess the damage done to the latest victim of my stress.

Bahhhh… Darn it!

My left thumbnail had been ruggedly gnawed down to its finger bed.  It’s a nasty habit.  One I’ve intentionally worked at weeding out of my coping mechanisms toolbox. But as the saying goes, “old habits die hard.”

Well, that’s okay. It’s just a thumbnail.  It’ll grow back.  And soon enough, this habit will be put to bed once and for all.

But in the meanwhile, I’m thankful I’ve learned to recognize my nail chewing is more than a mere bad habit.  Oh no…it’s more than that. 

External Signs of Distress

For me, nail biting is one (of several) tell-tale signs that something’s gnawing at my soul. 

Some of the other common warning signs that show up for me personally:

  • a racing mind (hard to focus)
  • irritability, impatience, and a short-fuse
  • anxiety (often showing up physically as a burning in my throat and a tightness in my chest)
  • jumping from one task to another
  • excessive gum-chewing
  • headache

These signs of distress (and others) are smoke signals communicating there’s a fire within that needs to be put out. 

When I notice these warning signs, I know it’s important to take a moment to push pause, take a step back, and assess the situation within my internal world.

Escaping or Numbing to Cope with Stress, Pain, and the Problems of Life

Now, you may not be a nail-biter…

But chances are you have your own kind of coping mechanisms to “help” you deal with or try to avoid the stresses, pains, or problems of life. 

Way too often, we attempt to escape our problems or numb away our pain or worries.  Because in the moment? It sounds easier. It feels better

What are your “go-to” coping mechanisms?

  • Maybe you “play hard” on the weekends to make up for how hard you work during the work week. 
  • Maybe you zone out in front of the TV to numb your mind and avoid thinking about the worries of today or your tomorrows. 
  • Perhaps food is your healing balm.
  • Or maybe you turn to shopping.
  • Or the affection of a “special someone.”
  • Or working out.
  • Or cleaning.
  • Or one most of us can relate to…scrolling social media.

The opportunities of escape or numbing are endless

Our “go-to” coping mechanism strategies may look different for each of us. However, they all accomplish the same thing: momentary, temporary relief and/or escape from our troubles.

If we’re honest, our humanness causes us to prefer to turn to our numbing or distracting agents. Because the alternative…sitting in the pain or dealing with the problem…sounds dreadful. 

Pros at Avoidance

Some of us excel at numbing or running.  

Present company included. 

I mean, for years, I was a pro at using an eating disorder to avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings, worries, or insecurities.  And while I no longer turn to my eating disorder to numb and distract, I need to be diligent in keeping an eye out for numbing and distracting tendencies.  Because the struggle is real, folks. For all of us.

But when it comes to avoidance, here’s the rub: 

We can’t run or escape from our problems or emotions forever. 

Even if we’re successful at avoiding them for a short while, our pain, our fears, our feelings…well…they have a way of catching up with us. 

Whether we like it or not.

A Better Alternative: A Healthy Solution

Rather than running and hiding, I suggest we opt for a better, healthier solution: 

Facing our feelings and problems head-on.

Wait, what?  

Yes, you heard me correctly. 

  • Running toward the thing that’s been stressing us out. 
  • Sitting with the uncomfortable emotions we’ve been too afraid to feel. 
  • Owning up to our mess and admitting that change is necessary.
  • Acknowledging and facing the insecurities and fears that have been ruling over us. 
  • Getting real about the problems we face or the habits or addictions that currently control us. 
  • Digging deeper inside to uncover the reasons behind all the pain, stress, anxiety, or other emotions that are trying to bubble their way to the surface in our lives.

Now, before you bow out of this challenge…

Before you think, “Thanks, but no thanks, Rachael! Peace out!”…

Before you allow resistance to lead you into inaction…

Keep this one key truth in mind:

Anxious? Stressed? Remember: God’s God This!

No matter how difficult the problems or challenges you face. 

No matter how hopeless you feel. 

No matter how painful the past memories…how messy your present situation…or how ingrained the toxic patterns and behaviors have become…  

God’s got this, Friend. 

God can take any difficult or bleak situation and turn it all around for good.

From your current perspective, it may be difficult to see past your problems, see outside of your pain, or see through the foggy-cloud of worry that surrounds your inner-world. 

But fear not. 

God not only sees the current situation in which you find yourself.  But He also has a clear view of what’s ahead. 

  • He knows the best way to lead you through your present situation.
  • He also knows how to use your pain for gain. 

You can trust God to use all of your circumstances….including (perhaps even especially) the bad ones…to shape you into the person He created you to be. 

And you can bet your money on this fact: He will accomplish some very, very good things (for you…and through you for the good of others).

My Challenge To You

So Friend… 

Through whatever you face in the days ahead, remind yourself that God’s is always with you.  In every situation and any circumstance.  

When you encounter challenges, difficult emotions, or anxiety-provoking situations…

  • Choose to opt out of avoidance.  Don’t run from or attempt to escape your pain, fear, or the stresses of life. 
  • Rather, seek Him. Cast your worries and cares on God.  Lean into His presence and ask for His help in confronting those problems head-on.
  • Declare victory in advance. Remember to see your problems through the lens of God’s mighty sovereignty and prophesy His promise to carry you through and make good out of any kind of bad.

Because the truth of the matter is:

May you maintain a grateful heart, no matter the circumstances. 

May you be confident in who you are in Christ and the person God created you to be.

May you be radiant in God’s love, shining brightly for all to see.

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