Anxiety comes in many shapes and forms, it is becoming increasingly common, and it looks a little different for everyone. But there is one consistency in which I have personally found linked to many forms of anxiety: expectation.
Dealing with anxiety is an ongoing battle – it’s not usually something that you can just deal with in a single moment and carry on as per usual. It has a reoccurring nature, visiting also in the most inconvenient of times. It’s almost always difficult to articulate – in the moment all that is recognisable is panic, causing your mind to literally be all over the place. For those who haven’t experienced the arrest of anxiety, or perhaps it takes a more subtle form that aren’t intense waves of emotion – it is awful, it truly does take over the mind and body, and feeling nothing but panic and fear isn’t pretty.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say we are friends, but I have come to know anxiety quite well. Thankfully the attacks have grown less and less over time, but they still do occasionally happen. It’s taken healing in many forms, but I’m definitely not ashamed to carry this or to share with anyone just what that struggle looks like. Because more and more people do fight these battles, I feel this is something we need to be more aware of, we need to talk about it and we need to acknowledge that it isn’t a weakness.
This definitely won’t apply to all, because the complexity of mental health is immense and unique to every individual – but I do have an observation that has really helped. It always feels slightly ironic when I think about being more conscious of mentality – being conscious of my own conscience. But that is it – I have to be conscious of what I am thinking, of how I am thinking, in order to win the daily battles.
Placing expectation on myself, on situations, on what something could or should look like – that’s when it can all turn. Real quick.
When placing expectation and pressure on something (that is most often completely outside of my control), I’m setting myself up for disappointment. Let’s inject what some may call cynicism but I call a little bit of reality. I’m sure most people are familiar with it: things don’t usually go exactly how we would like them to. So why then, in knowing this, do we try so hard to force them to?
When those expectations aren’t met, it can all feel like life isn’t going so well.
These overwhelming emotions that build up to panic – we can catch these and prevent them from layering and piling on top of ourselves. It takes effort that can be exhausting initially because it feels like we are pulling apart every thought. But when we do become more conscious of thoughts that shouldn’t be present – the ability to remove them frees our entire mindset.
It’s really down to recognising that it isn’t wise to have unobtainable expectations of yourself, beyond what is within your own control and reach. We should never be setting ourselves up for failure by attempting to live up to ridiculously high standards and a self-constructed reality of what it all should look like, where we should be. And we shouldn’t be living so far ahead in our future, that our future removes us from our present.
Take comfort in knowing that you are fully loved for everything that you are, and for exactly the place you are in right now. And that will never change, no matter what you yearn to happen.
As soon as you can identify a thought in your mind, one that is a form of worry, that unsettles you, or adds pressure to everything you are already juggling – capture it, acknowledge it, figure out where it’s come from, but then surrender it.
It’s been really playing on my mind lately – calling myself to re-recognise anxious thoughts building, and surrendering these as quickly as I am able to identify them. I don’t believe we become conscious of these thoughts until the pressure starts to build and these negative expectations have very much become present. We all have a natural desire for everything to work out seamlessly, to never be inconvenienced or experience pain and heartache. But we all do. We have never been promised a life without troubles. But trouble also comes in creating this for ourselves, in setting ourselves out into deep waters by the desire to do and be all that we aren’t called to be.
There is only one expectation God places on us. Just one. To wholeheartedly believe in Him.
When we are able to identify the expectations we place on ourselves, and strip back the feeling of inadequacy, that’s right where we really need to be. Present, open, clear-minded and a lot more likely to be receptive to all we should be focusing on. When we strip back the negative pressure, we can experience a place of peace, and it’s amazing how much clearer God can speak to us.
Attempt to arrest the thoughts in your mind, identify with them and question them. Then hand them over to God. Really pray over them. I know it’s a difficult thing to do – I personally hate admitting these thoughts are even there in the first place. But every single time I hand over my fears, I experience incredible grace. Our Father doesn’t want us carrying such burdens. He seeks our hearts and wishes for us to find rest and comfort in Him.
I pray that you take some pressure off yourself and that you experience the freedom that does come from handing over all that consumes and arrests the mind. It’s an ongoing battle, but it’s important. And please always remember, that our God is never the source of hurt, and all emotions of fear, worry and inadequacy do not come from Him.
The only expectation that I continue to hold is this: He is ever faithful, He will provide only goodness and I will never be without – always fulfilled in Him. Every other expectation that adds restless pressure and stress to my life is noise, distraction from true purpose and a pull away from where God needs me to be – with him.