A few years ago I had, unbeknownst to me, severe anxiety. I discovered that a good friend of mine was struggling with an eating disorder and self-harm. Although this situation did not directly affect me, I began to worry about so many different things: if I addressed things with her, would she still want to be my friend? Will she think I am being nosy? I believed a lie that said that she didn’t tell me because she secretly disliked me and couldn’t trust me, even though we had been friends for years. This lie evolved to a point where I began to distance myself in her time of need because I thought I was unwanted and helpless.
Ever since I was in high school, I have experienced symptoms of anxiety. Occasional fast heartbeat, shakiness, and, a lot of the time, a general sense of fear, usually regarding those I know and their opinions of me. I always just thought these things were normal, so I never did anything about it until I went to college and learned more about my mental health. During my freshman year, I came to realize that what I was experiencing was in fact anxiety.
The Spiritual Side of Anxiety
Being at a Catholic university, the mental health professionals and psychology professors tend to add a Catholic touch to their counseling and teaching. Students are often educated on the connection between spirituality and our minds and the strong positive correlation between the two: the more connected one feels to a higher power, the more at peace we feel. But as we know, due to our brains and the way we think, this is not always the case. I personally begin to feel most anxious at times when all is right in my life, which to most doesn’t make sense. There are many causes for anxiety, ranging from the physical to the psychological. But sometimes anxiety stems from spiritual attack.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with spiritual attack, it could be described as any methods the enemy may take to keep us away from God. Pope Francis says that “we…are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ.” Those times when I am overcome with debilitating anxiety, it’s the devil trickling into my thoughts.
Now you may wonder, wouldn’t Satan want to bring me down even more at times when I’m not at my best? Sure, that is what it seems like he would do, but the main reason he wants to give me worry is to bring me away from the Lord. The devil hates those times when I feel most connected to God and will do anything he can to stop it. As a good friend once told me, any thoughts that are not of love are from Satan. The enemy bombards the mind with various thoughts and ongoing temptation in order to rob our peace. The mind becomes irritated and exhausted. The enemy does all that he can to bring mental fatigue. If you think that these attacks may be a cause of anxiety for you, here are some tips to help combat this.
Tips for Combatting Anxiety
The first and most obvious way to ward off the devil in your life is to pray, especially to Saint Michael. This may, at first, make things more difficult if Satan sees that you are dealing with your anxieties healthily because he will try even harder to sever you from the Lord. But persevere, and ask God to give you whatever tools are needed to fight evil.
Talk to a priest about what you are experiencing. Confessing your sins gives you practice in victory over temptation and oppressing the demons that may be tormenting your thoughts.
3) Be Patient
Be patient with yourself! Anxiety is a mental illness, and we are not perfect beings. The devil tempts us to be impatient so that we turn against ourselves and away from God. You will sin, and you will not always be able to turn off those anxious thoughts in your mind. Patience allows us to keep some peace in times we feel helpless.
4) Give Up Gossip!
This may seem farfetched, but gossip is a sure-fire way to allow Satan into your mind and heart because he is a liar who loves to stirs up false accusations.
5) Use Discretion
Use discretion in revealing what you are going through to others. It can be extremely helpful to talk about your anxieties to close friends and relatives. However, in a reflection by Father James Nadeau on the diary of St Faustina, he elaborated on of some things Jesus revealed to her that would help protect herself from spiritual attack. He wrote that “a talkative soul will more easily be attacked by the devil,” so keep the number of people you tell limited to those you really trust (2).
6) Practice Self-Care
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but self-care is so important! Getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercise can give you more energy to cope with difficult feelings. Prayerful meditation and journaling are healthy ways of letting go of what you are feeling.
7) Find a Therapist
Even though anxiety can come from spiritual attack, it can also derive from other sources (the brain, faulty cognition, etc). If you have been experiencing anxiety for a prolonged period but are unable to identify why, talk to a psychiatrist who can diagnose you or a therapist who can give you effective methods of quelling your anxiety.
Now that you have a better idea of the ways spiritual attack can present itself, you should be able to identify this as a possible cause of anxiety in your life. Keeping this in mind, we must persevere and fight the good fight of faith!