Author Archives: AJ Watson

Four Terrible Ways to Fight Anxiety (and One That Works)

worry

A sumo wrestler was sitting on my chest and he wouldn’t get off. He was big and ugly. It was painful.

It had all started that morning while driving in to work. It was just a slight tightness at first… I was tense. Then it felt like my shirt had shrunk a few sizes. Then my chest and back felt tight, like I had been carrying weights and the weight vest kept shrinking. By the time I made it up the stairs to my office, I was sweating. When I reached my hand out to open the door, it felt like I would die if I just touched it. The sumo wrestler sat down.

So I gave up on going to work. I walked outside and walked around the block. I splashed cold water in my face and gave myself a pep talk. I walked back in to face the door one more time. Hello sumo.

This was anxiety. Do you know it?

Maybe not the sumo on your chest kind… but maybe the tightness in your shoulders kind, or the lay awake staring at the ceiling kind, or the slight twitch kind, or the snap at your spouse for no good reason kind, or the pretend you’re totally relaxed when you’re totally not kind.

I know each of these varietals of stress well. You see some people are a connoisseur of wine or a collector of furniture… I’m a connoisseur of fine anxieties. (What a terrible hobby) Like a fine wine, each anxiety has a nuance all its own… a unique bouquet to savor (endure). Some anxieties are more nagging, others more acute. Some are driven by family, others by work, still others by the future. Some bathe over you in waves covering your shoulders and back, while others just sit like a baseball sized stone in your gut.

I know anxiety well… and let me tell you: anxiety sucks.

I mean, at least other sins have the deception of being fun while you’re in them… anxiety is just awful from start to finish. There’s no joy in anxiety, but you didn’t need me to tell you that.

So with that in mind, here’s four terrible ways to fight anxiety (and one that actually works).

a. Eat

Eat food – Sweet food. Salty food. Crunchy stuff. Gummy stuff. Chocolate. I prefer taco bell, but we’ve talked about that before. Just eat your feelings. You can find comfort in food. Just take a bite and mmmm, then one more and ohhh.

I’m feeling a little better just thinking about food… aren’t you? Aren’t we all?

But the problem always is that you can’t eat or drink enough to fix it. So you eat, then eat some more. It’s not better, it’s just numb. A small distraction. You’re not fighting anxiety when you eat your feelings, you’re just temporarily pretending to ignore it.

b. Waste time (preferably on the internet)

If I’m Satan, I think that I absolutely LOVE IT when people try to deal with anxiety by wasting time. Television, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, that blog you love reading that’s sortof productive but not really productive right now and you’re totally not reading it to be productive right now. (Wait, are you doing that now?)

Distract yourself. Don’t do the thing you’re supposed to do. Don’t be alone with your thoughts to deal with your fears – that sounds horrible…definitely don’t do that. Look at Facebook a little longer. Like one more picture on Instagram. Favorite one last tweet. Oops. Now the day is over… now it’s so late… time to go to bed.

Your anxiety is never fooled. You can’t trick your anxiety by not thinking about it for 10 minutes. Your anxiety and the issues that cause it are patient. They will wait for you. They can wait all night if that’s what you prefer. “No,” your anxiety says, “I don’t mind if you check Twitter first, go right ahead. I’ll be waiting when you finish. Take as much time as you need.” (Apparently your anxiety has great manners and an open schedule.)

c. Work harder

This one is tricky because: what is a great way to solve your problems? Work on them.

Here’s the problem though. If you’re anxious about money and you work hard and earn more money: your anxiety will go away for a little bit. But then you’ll get used to what you have and you will want even more money. And the anxiety will come rolling back in.

If you are worried about popularity and then gain popularity, eventually you’ll become worried about something else socially related.

Anxiety is sortof like the book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” (or “If You Give A Dog A Donut” or dang Laura Numeroff, you really went with that “give an animal an object” thing, didn’t you?)Which is to say that feeding your anxiety will just make it hungrier. You might temporarily push back your anxiety, but if you didn’t deal with it’s root, anxiety will just come back bigger and stronger.

d. Pep talks

In college I used to look in the mirror sometimes and tell myself I was awesome. Not in a crazy way, just in a “hey, remember, you’re going to be ok” sort of way. It was positive self-talk. Then I read an article about power poses (here’s a similar one from the WSJ). So now I stand in my best wonder woman pose in the restroom at work while telling myself I’ve got a great bone structure. (Wait. What?)

I don’t actually do that, but the whole pep talk thing is sort of silly in the same way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for positive self-talk and even for posturing yourself to feel more confident… but if your fear is that you will never amount to anything, I’m not sure standing a little taller and using the words “I’m awesome” are going to help.

Pep talks miss the point because pep talks can’t solve your problem. Many anxieties are sourced externally – your job, the economy, your family – so how do empty, internal words help?

What works?

So what is the right way to fight anxiety? Maybe you won’t be surprised to hear that God has given us a very straightforward prescription for our anxiety – and best of all (at least for the Type A in me) it’s something we can do.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

When you are anxious, go before God with your anxieties with thanksgiving. If you do that, the peace of God will guard your heart and mind. (aka – anxiety squelcher.)

That’s a stone cold promise to you. When you are anxious, if you will bring those requests before God with thanksgiving, the result is that you heart and mind will be guarded by the peace of God. I almost wish it was more complicated than that. But it isn’t.

So pray. Present your request to God. If you’re anything like me, you’ll always be surprised when your anxiety subsides… though you shouldn’t be. Because God made you a promise.

And he’s never not kept a promise.

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This post is pretty long already, but I’ve put together the practical steps I use every day to fight anxiety. I’ve sent it to subscribers of the blog and would love to send it to you as well. Subscribe below and I’ll send you the 4 step template I use to fight anxiety.


When to Brag

Is your product so good that all the other competitors are criminals for selling such an inferior offering?

Is your service so good that your customers wonder what they ever did without you?

Is your work so good that your boss wants you to work on every project, even though your peers do a passable job?

If that were the case: if what you had to offer was undeniably better than your competition, wouldn’t you have an obligation to share it? If you knew what you had to offer could help the hurting, solve critical business problems, or make someone’s life better, wouldn’t you feel a compulsion to share it?

When you get to that point, where you feel like it would be doing people a disservice not to tell them about what you have to offer… That’s the point where you start advertising, promoting and sharing.

Share with them. Not because it’s in your best interest, but because it’s in theirs.

The advertising message that is motivated by, “Here, you need this, it will truly help you,” is much different than the one motivated by “Here, you need this, it will truly help me.”

For the believer, that’s our motivation at work to sell our product, advertise our service, and yes – sometimes talk ourselves up to our bosses (gasp). Not because it’s in our best interest, but because it’s in theirs.

And this, friends, is why Christian’s can be the best at marketing, advertising and promotion. Because we are experienced at having something far better than what’s on offer everywhere else. We’re already keenly aware of what it means to be compelled to share something good with others.

I don’t care if it’s the Gospel, or a toothpaste, or a restaurant, or a widget… or if it’s a dance number, a song, a blog post, or a painting. The believer knows what it means to say, “Here. Try this. Your world would be better if you had it.”

Hey! Asking you to sign up for the email list is hard to do. Personally, it feels like unwanted self promotion. But the truth is that subscribers frequently tell me they are encouraged by the emails they receive. So here I am promoting email signups (hopefully) for your good. Maybe you agree. So... are you a subscriber? Enter your email below and click "Subscribe" to receive a weekly reminder that your work matters to God.


All Hat, No Cattle

charles-barsotti-all-hat-and-no-cattle

All hat, no cattle.
All talk, no walk.
All bark, no bite.
All chips, no queso.

If you want your work to be worship today, people can’t be describing you as ‘all icing, no cake’. For your work to be worship, it’s likely you’ll actually have to do the work.

If you want people at your workplace to listen to you when you speak about Jesus, they can’t think you’re ‘all shine, no apple’.  For your words to be effective, it’s likely you’ll actually have to do the work. (and do it well.)

There’s freedom in this. You don’t have to worry about evangelizing perfectly, or strategizing perfectly, or positioning yourself in the workplace perfectly. You just have to worry about being obedient to the things in front of you today.

But if you don’t want your work to be worship, or your coworkers to listen when you speak about Jesus… well then by all means go ahead and phone it in.

The way you see it

There’s this new thing going around the internet right now. It’s this big color controversy about a dress. You’ve probably never seen it. (hahaha just kidding of course you’ve seen it… it’s been everywhere.)

Anyways, this dress.

thedress-obvious

It’s just a dress.

But this picture of the dress.

thedress

People can’t agree what the color looks like. The internet is collectively losing its mind over this thing.

After seeing the picture, some people say it’s blue and black, some people say it’s white and gold. The people that say it’s white and gold don’t say that just because they feel like being contrarian. They SEE IT as white and gold. Same thing for people in the blue and black camp.

Maybe you see it one way or maybe you see it the other.

But here’s the thing – that dress is actually a specific color. Right? I mean, we live in a world where most things actually are a specific color (because light and pigment and refraction and eyes and rods and cones.)

Let me work this out for you: There is a dress of a specific color. The picture we have of that dress does an ambiguous job of representing that color. We see the ambiguous picture and our minds go, “Oh. I know what that is!” And that’s what we see.

The colors on the screen are the same for everyone. (A fact. Not up for argument.) It’s our perspective that makes the difference in what we think those colors are. (Obviously up for argument.) Two people can stand side by side, looking at the same picture, and see two different things.

But don’t miss this – the dress IS a specific set of colors. That’s not up for debate. It’s how we see those colors – how we interpret those colors and make meaning of them in our minds – that has spurred this fiasco. Tracking with me?

And that reality – that our perception of something determines what we believe to be true about it – is on display every day.

Here, I’ll prove it in two sentences: One time, I totaled my car. It turns out that totaling my car is one of the top three best events of my entire life. No joke.

Many people could easily say, “But you totaled your car! That’s terrible!”

Those people would be wrong. That event, while hard at the time, was far and away one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It seemed subjective at the time. It wasn’t.

Let’s look for some other examples. Let’s take a quiz. If you are a believer, which of the following events are good and which are bad? (Spoiler alert: if you’re a believer, they are all going to be good.)

  1. You get passed up on a promotion you deserve.
  2. You ace a presentation.
  3. You are late to work because of unexpected traffic.
  4. Your company goes out of business.
  5. You don’t get a job you applied for.

(Answers: 1.Good 2.Good 3.Good 4.Good 5.Good)

If you are a believer, everything (everything) everything is ultimately for your good.

You may not understand it. It might be painful. You may perceive it as bad. Heck, from a worldly perspective it might actually be bad. But for you, ultimately, it’s for good. That’s a promise from God himself.

And it’s just like the dress.

Like we did for the dress, let’s work this out together: There is an event and it has a specific meaning and purpose. Our picture of that event does an ambiguous or misleading job of representing the true purpose. We see the ambiguous situation and our minds go, “Oh. I know what this is!” And that’s what we experience.

The truth though, is that if you are a believer, every experience you have is for your good. (A fact. Not up for argument.) It’s your perspective that makes the difference in what you perceive the experience to mean. (Everyone will have an opinion. Many people will debate it.) Two people can experience the same thing and conclude it as either good or bad.

But don’t miss this – the experience HAS a specific meaning and purpose. That’s not up for debate.

It’s for your good.

This doesn’t mean everything you go through will feel good or be easy. But knowing that it’s all ultimately for your good allows you to rest easy and can give you massive peace if you let it.

Trusting that all things are for your good allows you to do crazy things like give thanks in all circumstances even if you find yourself like Corrie Ten Boom did: surrounded by fleas in a Holocaust work camp.

You can do crazy things like that when you start seeing the world for what it is: for your good. Everything in your life has an actual provable purpose, just like the dress is an actual provable color.

What would be different if you believed that?

Whispers of Doubt

Here’s some of the things the little voice in my head said to me today:
“It’s just totally obvious to everyone that you are a fraud.”
“You can’t do this. You are going to fail and look really stupid.”
“I wonder how you succeed at anything given that you are so poorly skilled.”
“When you fail at this – and you will fail at this – everyone will realize you aren’t good at anything in particular.”

Does that voice sound familiar to you? Do your doubts and fears sometimes sound like this too?

I hear these fears and doubts anytime I create something, whether it be a blog post, a report at work, a call to a client, an interaction with a friend, a photograph.

Do you hear them too?

This self-doubt. This self-accusation. It sounds similar to the whisper of sin. The accusations from sin that you are not worthy of God’s love, that you are not capable of being forgiven.

“Other people get forgiveness, but not you… you’re too far gone.”
“God forgives most things, but not that.”
“It’s just a shame how disappointed in you God is.”
“I’m sure your worship would be meaningful and sweet to God’s ears, but for the fact you’re worthless.”

All these accusations from sin seem to rhyme with accusations we bring against ourselves. “You’re not good enough. As a matter of fact, you’re terrible.”

Luckily, we as Christians have the best answer to all of these accusations.

“You’re wrong… I’m far worse…”

“… but God is far better.”

The answer to these accusations is to understand that they are completely true insofar as they diagnose you as imperfect and broken. But they are wholly and completely wrong when they suggest you can’t do anything because of it.

As believers, we get to practice answering to our shortcomings with God’s mercy and Jesus’ righteousness every day. That’s a huge advantage when we turn our attention to creating and building and doing things. We have an advantage because when the daily whispers of doubt start, they sound just like all the other whispers from sin. It’s not a new enemy we are facing when we try to create and build and do, it’s the same old one we fight every day. It’s just that the pig put on some lip stick.

So when the whispers of “not good enough” and “you have no right to do this” start, we can answer confidently: “You’re right, I’m not good enough…” And then triumphantly, “…but I know someone who is. And he has called me. To this.”