Win Today with Christopher Cook

Get Unstuck. Reclaim Your Purpose. Win Today.

A Journey to Freedom from Anxiety

anxiety help, how to beat anxiety, panic attacks, ptsd help, ptsd, post traumatic stress, ptsd help, christopher cook, chris cook, christopher cook success, christopher cook personal growth, christopher cook leadership, chris cook win today

I’m finally ready to tell you about a silent, invisible battle I’ve fought for the last three years: my battle with anxiety. Anxiety is no joke. It affects millions of people everyday, yet it is one that many people shy away from discussing openly. The treacherous part about it is that its source certainly can be circumstantial, but is often a result of one’s unrestrained thought life.

Our subconscious mind is nearly a million times more powerful than our conscious mind. It drives our motivation, our decision-making, and ultimately, our outlook on life—whether hope-filled or hopeless. Clinically, anxiety is described as “a general state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning.” For most people, though, anxiety is situational, but for some people, anxiety is just like a heavy lead blanket carried throughout everyday life.

Anxiety in Numbers

By the end of 2015, statistics reported that nearly 20% of all Americans reported a significant episode of anxiety, stemming from life circumstances or traumatic events. Within that statistic, most people were embarrassed to seek help and talk about the anxiety, especially when it appeared as though the anxiety was completely irrational. Because talking about anxiety is a touchy subject, I’ll go first.

I’m coming clean to tell you candidly that for the last three years, I’ve fought anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

My Story of Chronic Anxiety

Most of you know my story, and while I’m certainly not the only person who has ever provided long-term care (18 years worth) for a terminally-ill parent, I will say that after losing my mom three years ago, I endured two and a half years of daily nightmares, flashbacks, and being set-off by every trigger imaginable; from smells to season changes to songs, all of which reminded me of the most grueling leg of our family’s journey from October-November 2012.

Though the topic is embarrassing to share, I do so for the sake of those who feel trapped, stuck, and without hope.

I know what it is to inadvertently hear a song that transports me back to 2012 then soon-after begin shivering and shaking as cold, lonely tears drip down my cheeks from out of nowhere. I know what it’s like to not be able to cook in the kitchen—a former place of relaxation and creativity—for nearly six months. I know what it is to watch my little sister scream in panic as I accidentally drove down the street where the funeral home is located. I know what it’s like to not be able to drive past certain buildings for two years. I know what it’s like to decline dinner invitations with friends because the particular restaurant triggers painful memories and massive anxiety attacks. Point being, these experiences and emotions are precisely what anxiety does: lock you in your own invisible prison.

But after three years…

I also know what it’s like to find real, lasting freedom. And a large part of healing from anxiety begins with our thought life; at least it did for me. While it is true that circumstances are often out of our control, an unrestrained, fear-fueled thought life added to disappointment and hard times is like pouring gasoline on a match.

If you’ve experienced (or are experiencing) chronic anxiety in any way, take a few moments, shut down any distractions, and hear me out. Whatever you’re currently facing, there is hope. And it all starts here…

The Anxious Heart-Anxious Mind Connection

There is a physiological response to improperly managed stress and toxic thinking. “Toxic thinking” by no means has a reproach attached to it; everyone has areas in life that have been bolstered up by “lofty things” (untruths that become “truth” in our life) as Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5:

“For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

Did you catch that? He said, “inasmuch we refute all arguments, theories, and reasonings…” Understand that there are so many times we have reason to think and believe something, but it may not be true. However, the believed lie will become “true” for us by not renewing our mind by the truth of God’s Word and the aid of the Holy Spirit.

That’s precisely why every thought must be submitted to the truth of the finished work of Jesus. Pulling back the curtain even further, behind the stinking thinking is a root of fear; most often the fear of losing control. Fear, you see, creates “lofty things.” And if we don’t manage our internal world, it’ll eventually manage us and undermine our destiny. As such, you must question your reality on a regular basis. What I mean by that is if you live in a world where you’re dominated and controlled by toxic, hopeless, destructive thinking, you’ll become imprisoned like I was.

Hear me clearly: I’m not at all attempting to diminish the severity of clinical depression or anxiety disorder in any way; but I am shedding light on the fact that a renewed mind in Christ will allow us to process crisis, loss, and disappointment through the lens of being an “overcomer in all things.” (See Romans 8:37) Bringing my point to a head, my friend, Steve Backlund, says, “Your hopelessness about a problem is a bigger problem than the problem.”

But outside of crisis and loss based anxiety, what about “everyday” circumstantial anxiety? If you cannot relate to chronic stress and anxiety, I’m sure you can relate to “everyday” anxiety.

Anxious for…Nothing

Do you remember my recent blog post in which I said I was quitting? As I mentioned in the post, I was way overcommitted to too many projects. And so like a heavy lead blanket upon my chest, I felt trapped. And inside my racing mind, I felt frantic. Within a 15-minute window of time, self-defeating questions and speculations flew at me like a barrage of bullets from a fully loaded clip called circumstantial anxiety.

When Molehills Become Mountains

Like many of us do in a state of exhaustion and stress, we fail to take inventory of our thought life, and as a result, molehills become mountains and the rational becomes irrational. But that’s just what anxiety does. I’ve learned what Proverbs 12:25 articulates so well, and that is, “Anxiety in a man’s heart causes depression, but an encouraging word makes it glad.”

It’s no wonder that I locked myself in my own handcrafted panic room! Ironically, we’re taught to be anxious for nothing (See Phil. 4:6-7), but as for me, I was simply anxious for nothing (for no good reason at all)!

If you’re wondering how to beat anxiety, even normal life stress, I’ve found that freedom is possible, specifically through the following keys:

Freedom from Situational Anxiety

  1. Think about what you’re thinking about. As I mentioned earlier, no thought should go unchecked.
  2. Settle the truth about every thought before it escapes your conscious mind and barrel into your subconscious mind. Once it lands into your subconscious, you’re likely to be motivated by that truth (or untruth).
  3. Take stock in your emotional state by measuring your joy meter. When your joy is down, so is your strength. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances, but true joy resides in hope, and hope is the confident expectation of good.
  4. Give yourself a break. Seriously. Have fun, go out to eat, laugh with friends, and decompress.
  5. Commit to finishing strong. The battle over anxiety is rarely won in a day, but it is won daily.

Like me, you can get untangled and find freedom from anxiety.

  • Dennis Marshall

    This was my journey as well Chris from the time my wife died in 2004 till 2011. At the moment my mother died, I , though, had a peace come over me and was able to start moving realizing that my thought processes were going unchecked and I had to do something about it. The end result is I am able to laugh at things again and even have a lady in my life as my new best friend

  • Kristine heslip

    Your writings are encouraging, & transparent. I can relate to the two I read. I said to myself as I read them , that’s exactly what the Lord is dealing with me on, training me by, and speaking to me. In the process. P.s.s Chris I like your new hair cut.

  • Emily Croitori

    Great new post…thanks for your honesty. I found that through my journey with anxiety, being honest w people about where I was at really opened the door to some great conversation and others feeling free to share their struggles. Im also glad you shared because people need to realize it’s not always a “lack of faith” problem but it’s a multifaceted issue that needs a multifaceted approach: physical, emotional and spiritual. I’m grateful to God for all the healing he’s done but, as I’m sure you can relate to, it was a moment by moment day by day process.

    • Thank you! Such truth in what you said. Multifaceted issues need a multifaceted approach. The good news: healing is possible!