The Anxiety Epidemic

9:03 AMHeather

Yesterday, I mentioned my theory about anxiety.  That it is an epidemic among our kids--from elementary age through the teen years.  And if I had to be perfectly honest, I'd say into adulthood, actually.  

But I am most alarmed by what has become a recurring theme.  I've had so many friends talk about the great anxiety that is overwhelming their children. And to be perfectly frank, we have faced it here in our home as well, albeit mild compared to what I know others have endured. 

I don't mean, "I'm afraid of the dark" kind of thing.  I mean, an anxiety that takes root and won't let go.  It makes daily function difficult and bedtime impossible.  I'm talking anxiety attacks with physical manifestations.  I'm talking crying jags, fainting spells, the inability to be separated from parents and the kind of anxiety that impedes social situations and even school attendance.

It's disturbing to me.  Because the hushed whispers from parent after parent keep coming my way, I am compelled to blog about it. When I consider the own "deer in the headlight" look from my own offspring, followed by rapid breathing and upset stomachs and a near panic in their voice, I know that this is something big and different than what I felt as a child.

Anxiety and fear are long time enemies for me personally.  I feared the teasing I received as a child due to a speech impediment.  I feared being a social outcast as the new girl, which came with the territory as an Army brat.  I feared dogs--I mean, deathly afraid of them--after being pinned to the ground at age 4 by a huge dog.  I feared the dark and slept with a nightlight or climbed in with my sister.  I think the huge scary clown picture hanging in my room contributed to that fear.  

Oh, I know anxiety.  I am Type A.  I fear failure and long for perfection.  I battle performing for acceptance and mistake task completion for worthy goals with my life.

But what I am seeing in our kids is something far more insidious. Just two weeks ago, two young girls admitted to me that they battle a fear of being kidnapped.  When I say our kids are battling anxiety, I mean that what I am seeing is an all out war. From my observations, the enemy is stealing our children's childhoods. 

Technology is good for so many things, but it is also becoming an avenue for fear mongering and conspiracy theories and making a horrific news story seem like the norm. 

And I'm sick to death of it.  I'm sick of knowing that the children that I know and love, not just my own, are being held tightly in the grip of fear.  So I'm calling it out.  

The Anxiety Epidemic.

We would do well to take inventory.  And to realize that it's not just your kid who needs to constantly be talked off the ledge.  

We do have an enemy who is alive and well.  And he is conniving in his ways, but not very inventive.  He's used fear since the dawn of time.  It's an effective weapon.  Just consider what many of us have come to fear the most in the world.  Terrorists.  Look at that word...they strike terror as their means to gain control and power. 

There is a spiritual battle going on.  And satan is the worst terrorist of all.  He is striking fear in the hearts of our children.

And I can tend to cower myself, struggling to consider what to do about it.  

Y'all, I just don't know.  I've prayed for my own children, with my own children, for my friends and their children. I've prayed Scripture, like 2 Timothy 1:7.  I've asked the Lord to free these children from the grips of anxiety.  I know parents who have sought counseling or made lifestyle changes or who repeatedly pray over their own children.  

If you have a child dealing with anxiety, then you know yourself it's a daily battle.  You try to eliminate the triggers, monitor what is feeding the fear, coach your child through it, and empower your child to fight it.

And it's so very hard.  It's taxing and you get weary and the irony is that if your child is battling anxiety, then you get dragged onto the battlefield and desperately try to fight the new battle of the anxieties that plague you about your child's anxiety.

Like I said, I don't have the answers.  I don't have a magic formula or magic wand to wave to make it all go away.  And I so wish that I did.

But here's what I do have for you.  Besides all of us becoming aware that this is a serious thing and a growing trend and our kids are on the front lines of this epidemic and you are not alone.

What else I have for you today is something I read last night.  

Tonight at my daughter's basketball game there was a passionate coach--pacing and shaking her hands and preaching the truth to her team, "You are LETTING the other team take the ball." Her words came tonight as I have seen God be so real--too real and yet I have fought weariness and defeat. Friends--WE ARE LETTING THE DEVIL TAKE OUR LIFE. The thoughts, the defeat, the complaining--you are letting him. I have LET him. OVER. DONE. STOP. We are free--be free. We are defined by our freedom--we are not slaves anymore--we get joy as a simple by-product of God within us.  We get peace, we get freedom and light and joy and peace--and we LET ourselves sink into dark places.  Take the ball back--get fiesty and take your thoughts and your life and your God given joy back.                     --Jennie Allen

Please hear me clearly as you read this.  I am not implying that you are at fault for the anxiety or that you are not fighting hard enough. I do not mean to sound as if I am pointing any finger at anyone. Although I am pointing the finger at myself.

I have shared this today, on this topic of the anxiety epidemic, to instead serve as a pep talk.  Because the anxiety cycle is a downward spiral and once you've begun to fight the battle, you are quickly exhausted.  Your reserves are depleted and you just feel under the weight of the world, as if you are climbing out of a hole.

But be encouraged.  Hear this insight from Jennie Allen as your pep talk.  

Take it as your battle cry.  

Let's raise our voices and gather our courage and quit letting the enemy take the ball.  Let's defend it!  Let's defend our joy, our peace, our belief in our bigger God, and in his word, and in the truest things about him.  Let's remember who wins this game.  And boldly remind the enemy, too.  GAME OVER.  HE LOSES.  He can try to fool us and terrorize us and belittle us and beat us down. 

But our God has the greater power.  Oh, yes.  Take that.  We know who wins the game.  And while the enemy might be ahead right now, he is going down.  Let's get defensive.  Let's throw up our shields of FAITH.  Let's remember our helmets of salvation, which cover our heads and protect our thoughts.  Let's wield the heavy Sword of his word and slash the enemy's deceit and attacks to smithereens. Let's stand firmly on God's promises and believe them in the innermost part of our being as the powerful offensive weapon they are.  Let's get back in the game here.  And let's play HARD. Let's quit letting the enemy score on us. Let's get mad.  And then, let's get even. 

He's dribbling the ball of anxiety and dunking it in our face.

But he is the big fat loser in the end.

If you are sitting on the bench, taking a water break from the absolute exhaustion of playing the anxiety game, then take a deep breath.  

Gather yourself.  And lean in to hear the words of your Coach.

You may not have what it takes, but HE DOES.  And HE WINS. 

So, tie those high tops tightly.  Jump back onto the court.  And show the enemy who's boss. 

Boldly, loudly and proudly declare it.  Get mad and keep fighting. 

And don't forget the benefits of being a child of the King.

He wins the war.  Even when we lose a battle here and there. Victory is his.

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