How do you relax when you feel anxiety? This is the most common question I get whenever I speak with women about wellness and detoxing from stress.
When I first started experiencing my body tighten with tension and my heart flutter with rapid palpitations, I had no idea what to do. I just told myself what I’d always did, “I’m fine.” But it wasn’t true. I wasn’t fine.
Then, I started noticing I was having trouble falling asleep, even though I’d read my Bible and journaled my prayers before bed. “Please God, you know how tired I am. Help me!” I whispered as the minutes ticked away hour by hour. I felt so exhausted. But what bothered me the most was that I felt alone and afraid. Why wasn’t God answering my prayers? I wondered.
Have you ever felt your body tell you that you aren’t okay even though you tell yourself you’re fine? You’re not alone, friend.
Sometimes, we are such strong thinkers, pushing through to take care of others, getting work done, and juggling our responsibilities. In our constant hypervigilance, we can get stuck in a state of heightened alertness that we don’t realize we are actually very stressed.
Like diagnostic lights on a car’s dashboard, God designed our bodies to be the last line of defense, to tell us to slow down and that we need care, nourishment, and attention.
Nurturing myself and prioritizing my wellbeing used to be like speaking a foreign language. I had no idea what that meant in a practical way. I understood it as head knowledge, but I never experienced or practiced what it meant to rest or do what brought me peace and joy.
So, I began a new prayer. Instead of praying, Help me sleep or Take away my anxiety, which are more of what I call light-switch prayers, I started to ask God, “What does it mean to rest? Teach me how to relax. I don’t know what that means.”
And with this new prayer, God began to put a curiosity in me to learn about soul care — the practice of nourishing our bodies and emotions by tending to our inner person with God.
One of the first Scripture passages that I asked God to help me understand better was a verse we often hear quoted:
Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10 (ASV)
Although well intended, a lot of people would share this verse to tell me to stop worrying or being anxious. But even when I did still myself, I felt no relief from my anxiety.
Then, I did a word study to learn the actual meaning behind this verse, and it changed how I responded to anxiety. In Hebrew, the word for “be still” is raphah, which means to loosen your grip and to relax. “Know” in Hebrew is yada, which means to personally experience. “Be still and know” doesn’t mean to do nothing! It’s actually the opposite! Being still means doing whatever helps you personally experience God, loosen your grip, and relax and refresh your soul.
So I began to do two things to help me relax whenever I feel anxious:
1. I take action to explore what brings me peace and joy — practical things, like trying different herbal teas (peppermint turned out to be my favorite) and taking a walk out in nature.
2. I pause to hear Jesus tenderly and lovingly calm my heart with a breath prayer to relax.
You can do it too! Here’s how:
Put aside your work and worries for just a moment, wherever you are. Rest in God’s presence. Whisper this simple breath prayer to yourself: Relax. Yep, “be still” literally means relax, loosen your grip.
Sometime today, do something that helps you experience what peace and joy feels like for you (It’s very unique to your personality and the way God made you.). If it’s an especially hard day, rest in the thought of Jesus holding you close in His arms. He is with you this very moment, whispering, “I will help you. I love you.” Even when we feel weak, God still say yes to loving you and me.
God has given us everything we need . . .
2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)
What helps you relax when you feel anxious? How do you feel in your body when you whisper the simple breath prayer, Relax?
For more tips to relax and stress less, download Bonnie Gray’s FREE Stress Less devotional here! Also, listen to Bonnie’s popular wellness podcast, BREATHE: The Stress Less Podcast. Listen and subscribe anywhere you listen to podcasts.