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Catholic Spiritual Direction

How to Overcome Anxiety

October 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Anxiety, Fr. Najim

 

Anxiety robs us of inner peace. Nothing good comes of it. Anxiety causes restless days, sleepless nights, and even affects our health.

So if nothing good comes from anxiety, why do we allow it to have so much power over us? I think because it’s such a powerful emotion; it grips us, and we actually feel powerless over it. We feel that we are held captive by it.

But do we need to be slaves to anxiety? Not according to St. Paul. He tells us, “Have no anxiety at all” (Philippians 4:6). Easier said than done? Maybe. But St. Paul advises how to overcome anxiety.

He writes, “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” He continues, “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:6-8).

So, St. Paul gives us three steps to overcome anxiety:

  1. Pray and GIVE THANKS — Whatever you’re anxious about, St. Paul says to present it to the Lord. In other words, stop trying to control it or to figure it out on your own. In quiet prayer, surrender it to Jesus. But-and this is really important-give thanks to God. Don’t just petition the Lord; be grateful for all your blessings. Gratitude focuses you on the positive and lessens your focus on what is making you anxious.
  2. Receive God’s peace and let it guard your heart — Once you’ve surrendered your anxiety to the Lord and have given thanks to him, receive the Lord’s peace and claim it as the guardian of your heart. Let his peace, not your anxiety, rule your heart.
  3. Focus your heart and mind on “These things” — God has given you the power to choose your focus. If you’re anxious, you’re focusing on things that make you anxious. Instead, ponder truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, excellence. Ponder blessings, instead of fear. By focusing on “these things,” anxiety will decrease and peace will increase.

Anxiety is a powerful emotion, but it robs us of experiencing the peace of God in the present moment. Choose to follow St. Paul’s advice and you will have more inner peace.

 

Art:  == {{int:filedesc}} == {{Walters Art Museum artwork |artist = {{Creator:Eugène Delacroix}} |title = ”Christ on the Sea of Galilee” |description = {{en|This scene is based on an incident recounted in three Gospels of the New Testament; 1854; PD; Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. Michael Najim

Fr. Michael Najim is a priest of the Diocese of Providence. He is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary and serves as chaplain of LaSalle Academy, a coed Catholic high school in Providence, RI. He is the author of Radical Surrender: Letters to Seminarians, published by the Institute for Priestly Formation. He also blogs at www.liveholiness.com

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  • Anne

    Yes one of the greatest weapons against anxiety is to give thanks in all things. If we pray the Psalms of Praise and pray them over and over again regardless of how we feel. In our daily lives just stop and give thanks (instead of complaining), for even those things that are difficult. Also Merlin Carothers wrote some wonderful books on Praise and I would highly recommend them. And remember we have to give thanks in the midst of the most difficult feelings. Don’t give up but continue to give thanks to God and the anxiety will dissipate. The Saints learned this also, Venerable Solanus Casey was always telling those who sought prayer, that they were to give thanks before asking for something from God and he himself thanked God in the midst of his own sufferings. St. Faustina too also wrote in her diary about giving thanks in all her circumstances, through trials and sufferings. To accept Gods will in everything with an attitude of gratitude…

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Anne,
      Gratitude is definitely one of the keys to overcoming anxiety. When we’re grateful, we’re more focused on the Lord’s blessings rather than on the negative things happening in our lives.

  • Pam H

    We can give thanks, and ask to receive His peace, but sometimes the feelings of anxiety don’t go away. St Therese taught that we can offer the unpleasant feelings that remain after we turn to God up in atonement for our failings. We can also offer them for others, especially for those who hurt us.

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Very true Pam. That’s why we have the saints: they teach us how to live a holy life.

  • Sr. Dorcee

    This could not have shown up in my mailbox at a better time. We are in the middle of a very challenging situation at our motherhouse. We were just speaking about this passage of Jesus asleep in the boat during the storm . . This article is a great confirmation of the posture God wants us to take.

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      The Holy Spirit is amazing! I’m happy that this came at the right time for you Sr. Dorcee. Peace to you and your community!

      • Sr. Dorcee

        Thank you, Father Michael. Keep us in your prayers.

  • Jeanette

    I’m printing this for a friend who is going through much anxiety. Thank you so much for this Fr. Najim.

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      I hope she finds it helpful. I’ll pray for her right now!

      • Jeanette

        It’s for a priest…thank you for your prayers!

  • Alejo N. Verdes PMP

    Wow- I had forgotten about the scripture reading of Jesus in the boat sleeping while the sea raged around the Apostles! Then I saw the painting and it all clicked. How many times have I’ve been tossed around like a feather in the wind, only to say the Our Father, and have focus and peace restored. The anxiety of living is a passing thing when we remember that He is always with us. We need only to give our Lord a chance to help us.Thanks Father Najim, for providing your thoughts. Bless you!

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Thanks, Alejo! We can all get tossed around by the storms of life, but Jesus is always in the boat. He never abandons us!

    • Gabrielle Renoir

      I think we will always get tossed around by various storms in this life, Alejo. That is a consequence of our inheritance of original sin. I, too, suffer great anxiety at times, not for myself, but for those I love. I think the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, is showing me that I don’t, as yet, have enough trust in him, something that wounds me deeply and also increases my humility. I think, like the first poster, I will practice refusing to carry anxiety any longer.

      Thank you, Father Michael.

  • Cecilia Cuesta

    Thank you so much for this post, I have struggled unceasingly with my anxieties and have been unable to find a way to overcome them. This outlines a practical and simple way to allow the Lord’s peace to conquer my heart. May God bless you!

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Cecilia,
      I’m so glad that you found this post helpful.
      Peace!

  • Vivian Ike

    thank you so much this is really precious to me, the Word of God through His Holy Spirit never lies. Today after mass I was seriously cautioned by an elderly lady who is like a mother to me. She looked directly into my eyes with hers wide open and commanded me to let go of fear, she cautioned me seriously , hugged me tightly and prayed to the Holy Ghost for me. Then she told me that the next time she sees me , she wants no fear in me…

    This was exactly what my spiritual director told me not so long ago, he said I was carrying so much fear with me and I had to let go in order to advance to the next phase of my spiritual life. Iv been trying ever since then and seen myself improve so much but there is still a lot undone but im not far from where ought to be and I truly thank God from the depths of my heart for all He has done for me. His been so kind, patient, loving and merciful!!!!! What an awesome loving God we have. To be honest iv really suffered a lot spiritually and in my daily life from anxiety, fear and scruples, it was really bad, i believe most was partly my fault ” bad habit”, fueled by “demonic attacks” which caused me to stop saying my rosary prayers and even going to mass on week days. However, im so grateful that “Dark Knight” of my life has passed, im now praying my rosary always amd going to daily mass.

    To top it all , I received from my email today this verse
    “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. — 2 Timothy 1:7″ and then this wonderful post on anxiety from Fr Najim.

    The Holy Spirit is indeed always with His children, helping and supporting them through all trials. He graces even the slightest desire and effort. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end, amen.
    thanks everyone :) im definitely going to try to share this Roman Cath Spiritual Direction rescource with the members of my church. You all dont know how much you’ve helped and others who have benefited from your generosity

    God bless you all…..

    thank you so much this is really precious to me, the Word of God through His Holy Spirit never lies. Today after mass I was seriously cautioned by an elderly lady who is like a mother to me. She looked directly into my eyes with hers wide open and commanded me to let go of fear, she cautioned me seriously , hugged me tightly and prayed to the Holy Ghost for me. Then she told me that the next time she sees me , she wants no fear in me…

    This was exactly what my spiritual director told me not so long ago, he said I was carrying so much fear with me and I had to let go in order to advance to the next phase of my spiritual life. Iv been trying ever since then and seen myself improve so much but there is still a lot undone but im not far from where ought to be and I truly thank God from the depths of my heart for all He has done for me. His been so kind, patient, loving and merciful!!!!! What an awesome loving God we have. To be honest iv really suffered a lot spiritually and in my daily life from anxiety, fear and scruples, it was really bad, i believe most was partly my fault ” bad habit”, fueled by “demonic attacks” which caused me to stop saying my rosary prayers and even going to mass on week days. However, im so grateful that “Dark Knight” of my life has passed, im now praying my rosary always amd going to daily mass.

    To top it all , I received from my email today this verse
    “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. — 2 Timothy 1:7″ and then this wonderful post on anxiety from Fr Najim.

    The Holy Spirit is indeed always with His children, helping and supporting them through all trials. He graces even the slightest desire and effort. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end, amen.
    thanks everyone :) im definitely going to try to share this Roman Cath Spiritual Direction rescource with the members of my church. You all dont know how much you’ve helped and others who have benefited from your generosity

    God bless you all…..

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Vivian, remember, Jesus loves you…infinitely and unconditionally! I’ll pray that you receive his peace.

  • patricia

    This I needed to hear Father as I am comming across adversity in trying to find an internship site this has been most difficult. But following the steps in which pray and give thanks, be at peace, focus on other things of God. This has been most helpful thank you and God Bless!

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Patricia,
      You’re welcome! I’ll pray for you.

  • mrgees

    As much it is important from what we are running away it is important where are we running towards. Thank you for the correct direction, father. We are, however, sabotaging it by looking back. If we eat bad food we will have stomach issues. If we watch bad stuff or read bad news we will have soul issues. It requires God’s grace and our perseverance to do not look back lest we will share Lot’s wife fate. It is bettee to die before we die. That’s what we were called to by Christ – a grace to get to know Him now. Blessings!

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      You’re correct. Oftentimes we look back; but Scripture teaches us what happens: Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back! Yikes! God’s grace keeps us moving forward.

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  • Paul Giesting

    Thank you for this message. I have so much trouble with just the first step, giving thanks…it’s almost as if I’m convinced that I’m too evil to deserve the happiness that comes from gratitude. Yet I know that’s not how God looks at it at all. After all, He’s chosen to give me all these good things in the first place…

    • Fr. Michael Najim

      Paul,
      The Lord loves you! He wants you to be happy. You do deserve happiness because he created you for eternal happiness, and he wants you to have a taste of eternal happiness here. Peace!

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  • LizEst

    I love this post, especially the scriptural tie-in. Thank you, Fr. Najim. God bless you!

  • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

    Sorry for being AWOL for so long. The post is wonderful and the “Family” Responses very encouraging. I have found a way of dealing with, not only anxiety, but any problems that crop up in my life. Since I live alone, whenever any of these hit me, I just wait for the Holy Hour, go before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and just ask Him what He wants me to do with whatever is on hand. Recently I asked him why He created my very beautiful infant Granddaughter and now He is putting obstacles before us to have her baptized. I remonstrated Him why does He not want to take Residence in Her tiny heart and Soul, and frankly told Him I was very upset with Him and I would leave that problem with Him and will not carry it outside the Adoration Chapel.

    Well, you know what? He refused to carry the blame and as soon as I left the Adoration Chapel I met the Priest friend of mine of this Parish of my Mondays to Saturdays Prayer and Sacramental Rule of Life to whom I explained our dilemma. He there and then told me to tell my daughter to bring the Baby and she will be baptized without any dramas!!!!!.

    At my age I have discovered that the best way is to go before God just as I am and without any masks or trying to dress up my communication with Him. So I just drop everything at His feet and tell Him to do whatever He wants with it because I refuse to carry the baggage of worries and problems I have no answers or solutions to. And after that I deliberately refuse to think about whatever is before me. I told that to my Spiritual Director yesterday, a wonderful Jesuit young Priest, and he told me that was the right way to deal with daily trials and tribulations.

    • LizEst

      I agree with your spiritual director and recommend it to others. Frank prayer is the prayer of the heart. God bless you, Mary and your new little granddaughter, too.

      ps. God does not put obstacles in the way of sanctity…though He can permit them to strengthen our resolve, purify us, increase our patience, and for many other reasons. His ways are much higher than ours!

      • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

        I know, my dear Liz. But you see nothing happens without His Permission. So I have come to believe that in my case, there are times He wants to play hide-and-seek with me to teach me the patience which I sorely need!!!.As I have told Jeanette above, I discovered the best way to deal with that is taking whatever is on hand to Jesus personally and leaving it with Him and He removes it from my mind.

        • LizEst

          Yes, I agree that He permits even bad things to occur. This He does in order to bring a greater good out of them. But, permission is not the same thing as wanting this for you. It does not mean He wills evil or puts obstacles to sanctity in our path. He allows them for our benefit to draw our best out of us, our patience, our love, our fortitude, our communication/prayer with Him. He never, ever wills the bad for us. We call it His permissive will as a way of understanding how a good God can permit evil in the world. I agree with you that taking it to Jesus, and talking to Him personally as one would do friend to friend, is a very, very good way to pray.

          • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

            Oh, I know Liz, He is sending me all these in answer to my incessant Prayers to Him for the Virtues of Humility, Fortitude and Patience which I need badly. But, Liz, you do understand for an old gal to practice Humility which can only be done by embracing Humiliations is sheer torment!!!!! That is why I run to Jesus and tell Him to help me by taking them Himself and I then run out of the Adoration Chapel after dumping them on Him. It is cowardice but that is all I can do for now.

          • LizEst

            It’s not cowardice. He wants you to come to Him. He is our heavenly Father…which makes us sisters in Christ. Do not fear. Daddy loves you and wants what is best for you.

          • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

            Thanks, Liz. You sure are an Angel of consolations to a aging gal. May God bless you and all your loved ones.

    • Jeanette

      Hello Mary! I say a very short prayer when I don’t know what to do in a situation: “O Jesus, I surrender this to You. Please take care of it.” This really helps me leave the situation at His feet and not worry. God bless you!

      • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

        Yes, Jeanette, that always works. But you see, I am what my daughters call a one-track minded old gal. If I have a problem my mind will not think of anything else and the problem will continue playing in my mind like a stuck gramophone. So, I discovered confronting Jesus personally with it and leaving it at His Feet and refusing to walk out of the Adoration with it removed it from my mind!!!! I tell you, Jeanette, old age has something surprising to teach one each day.

    • Marg

      Thank you Mary for sharing with us ! Thi s gives me great hope today, I was touched by the statement ” just go to God as I am no need to dress your communication up with The Lord! I Struggle with total surrender but at the end of the day,it’s the only way I. Can move forward with God! Thanks again Mary and May God bless you to day with His reassurance of His love for you ! Marg uerite

      • LizEst

        …and thanks for sharing, Marg. You continue to be in my prayers and I prayed for you at Mass this morning. God bless you!

      • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

        Thank you, Marg. I am glad my way of going to God without any frills or good “grammar” has helped you. Whatever you are struggling with, be sure God understands all of it more than you do. And He has all the answers. Just give it to Him and let Him be God – as my Confessor keeps telling me to do.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    Hi to all you OTHER anxious souls out there! . If REALLY anxious ‘Break Glass and Use’!:

    “Lord Jesus, I come to be silent in your presence, trusting that your Heart will speak for me, knowing that all I could ever want to say, that all I would ever need to say, is spoken eternally to the Father by your Sacred Heart.”

  • lroy77

    Anxiety can be a good thing, it all depends what you are anxious about. For instance, if you are anxious of a storm coming, you can use that almost supernatural adrenalin and take active steps to prepare—get the laundry and dishes done, stock up on essentials. If what anxiety is beyond your control (which it often is), use it to your advantage, find constructive ways (besides prayers) to get things done and use it to your advantage to move forward. At least this is what works for me.

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