There is something about the slower, calmer pacing of the summer season that has brought me a greater understanding of how I function within my mental illnesses. Daily time devoted to prayer and reading scripture, a healthy sleep schedule, going to the gym, and making sure I drink plenty of water throughout the day has helped me recognize how much of my mental health issues are really a physiological response to the way I treat (or mistreat) my body.
But even though I have found my healthy, physical, and mental summer rhythm, and haven't been struggling with waves of depression or episodes of anxiety as often as I did throughout the school year, worrying and overthinking have still been a hurdle for me.
I've written about my struggles with overthinking in the past, and have even called it my ultimate sin. Still, this summer I have begun to crack down on this specific struggle, in a way I never thought to approach it:
I can struggle with my anxiety disorder but not be overthinking.
The simplest way to explain is this: I have found that my anxiety is often out of my control, that sometimes my mind and body react to situations and circumstances in ways that paralyze me from acting/processing what's going on around me. But when I overthink or worry, it not so much a physiological experience, and rather a very bad habit I feed.
A good example of this would be when I wrote and prepared to give my sermon during a recent gathering in my Christian community. A few days leading up to the sermon I struggled with anxiety (which can sometimes include overthinking) but sometimes can also simply be a tenseness and "fight or flight" feeling that I can't shake or avoid. (Obviously, some stress about public speaking is normal, but where I know it's my anxiety acting up is when my bodily and mental response is way beyond normal forms of tension or apprehension.)
Compare that to me re-writing and constantly deleting/restarting my sermon just because I think it's "dumb" or that it's not good enough. I would worry that I could do better, that it wasn't my best work, and before you know it I'm rewriting sections of the sermon the morning of!
Maybe some are reading this and not seeing the difference between struggling with an anxiety disorder and struggling with overthinking/worry. I think it's okay if not everyone agrees that there is a difference: that's where healthy debate and conversation surrounding these topics come into play.
However, I know myself, especially where my overthinking comes from a lack of trust in God.
I find myself worrying the most when I am not reflecting back on how God has provided for me, how He is currently moving in my life and guiding me. I remember part of the Sermon on the Mount (one of Jesus' most famous speeches), where He describes people who "store up...treasures on earth," and therefore give way to darkness and serve for the materialism of this world. From here, Jesus leads His sermon into addressing the topic of worrying, telling His disciples to "therefore...not worry about [their lives]" (Matthew 6:25, NIV).
For Jesus, there is a correlation in where your heart and desires are set and your current state of worrying. I have found that to be nothing but the truth.
I overvalue how people perceive me and wish to be loved by everyone all the time. I desire to be looked up to as smart and stylish. No wonder even when my anxiety is low my worrying is still high: my treasure is in the earth, giving my mind away to worrisome darkness.
But in this I believe there is hope for all of us, as Jesus closes this section of His great speech with this call to action: "For the pagans run after [food, drink, and clothing], and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:32-33, NIV).
It is through pursuing God first that the darkness of worry and overthinking give way.
By prioritizing prayer, making communication with God the most valuable and integral part of my schedule, I tell myself and my worries that my overthinking doesn't control me, that I can put things on the back burner and not hold a million concerns with me all the time. I have found that naming my worries and praying to seek a relationship with God first might not automatically heal me of my anxiety disorder, but it most definitely chips away and eliminates the storm cloud of worry that, indeed, can be shaken.