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BISsisterhood blog

Prayer for the Anxious Woman

About a year ago I was diagnosed with chronic PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) resulting from some childhood trauma. Looking back, I did suffer from severe anxiety my senior year of high school and freshman year of college, but it subsided when I transferred out of state for college my sophomore year. My prayer life during those three college years of reprieve was awesome. I went to daily Mass, prayed a daily holy hour, prayed the Rosary, regularly attended praise and worship nights, and went on retreats. During the time my struggle with mental illness subsided and prayer was doable. I struggled some times more than others, but it was a constant in my life.

However, three years ago, when I moved back to Atlanta the PTSD struck me hard. I stopped sleeping and eating and praying; it was all that I could do to go to work each day.  In these three years, I’m still struggling with this severe anxiety. If you have suffered from anxiety, then you know the power it can take over your entire life; I specifically have struggled with the change it caused in my prayer life.  Moments that I used to spend in quiet adoration with my Lord, often now produce flashbacks, anxiety, or complete disassociation, which has not encouraged me in my prayer life. Through spiritual direction, therapy, and advice from friends, I have developed some practices in prayer that work better for me in times of severe anxiety.

Music.

Sometimes I just don’t have it in me to sit in silence, but I love being in front of my Lord in Adoration. Playing some praise and worship directs my mind into a specific prayer so that it doesn’t wander. Here is my playlist of praise music that helps me to not feel anxious. I also play spiritual music around the house or on walks in times when I really don’t want my mind to wander.

Reading.

Spiritual reading is one of the practices that helps me the most when I’m anxious. However, it doesn’t always work because it can be impossible to concentrate on anything when you hit a wall. But if you can, it can really help your mind not to wander and instead direct your thoughts towards God. If you’re looking for a Catholic book on spiritual healing within psychological wounds, Be Healed by Bob Schuchts, is helpful.  I’ve found that doing the daily readings can really help center my thoughts as well.

Nature.

Mindfulness is a psychological technique where you focus on the stimuli around you rather than what’s going on in your head. It was first introduced to me by a Catholic therapist. While I personally am horrible at it, I know that it works for many people. Nature helps me to be mindful when I’m trying to have quiet prayer time. Because there are more things going on outside and I’m not just sitting in a quiet chapel, my mind is less likely to drift and more likely to stay in the present moment. Sitting outside to pray on a nice day, or taking a long walk or hike, can actually make a world’s difference for my prayer life.

Shortened Rosaries.

Some people find the Rosary calming, but during times of anxiety, it does not calm me.  If you want to pray the Rosary, but don’t but get distracted by negative or anxious thoughts by the third decade, I suggest breaking it up by decade and praying over the time span of a day. Praying a decade on my way to work, one during my lunch break, one on my way home, one when I’m cooking dinner, and one as I put the baby down, helps my mind to not get flooded with other thoughts. It may not be the most mystical experience, but I know that I am doing homage to the Lord and to His mother. On bad days, I’ll pray a “shortened rosary,” meaning that every two Hail Mary’s, I’ll start a new decade meditation so that I can fit all the meditations within one decade.

Prayer/Mass Buddies.

Sometimes when I’m in Mass I start to feel like I can’t breathe, I think it’s the quiet time that does me in. I’ve noticed that with both prayer and Mass, I’m able to concentrate better when I am with someone. I think having a friend beside me helps me remember where I am and feel safe. The man fidgeting in the pew behind you wouldn’t distract most people, but to someone with PTSD or severe anxiety, it might be enough to induce panic. Having someone I love beside me usually helps me to pray.

Pick your Best Time of Day to Pray.

If you have anxiety, then you probably have one point in the day that’s a little bit better than others. For me, I’m definitely worse at night, and I tend to be best and pray best in the middle of the day. Give God some of the time when you’re feeling well so that He can work healing in your heart.

Offer it Up.

This sounds very cliché, but when I’m very anxious, it helps if I can offer it up for somebody. Offering it up gives some sort of meaning to what seems like unnecessary suffering. If I know that one of my friends has recently lost a baby or has lost a job or is struggling with their own sources of anxiety, then it really helps me to offer my suffering for the sanctification of their souls and peace in their lives.

If you are suffering from severe anxiety, depression, or PTSD, you are not alone. I have met so many wonderful people who suffer from these mental illnesses. Praying through these ailments is a hard fight to fight, but God relishes in our successes and blesses our efforts. I’m praying for you sisters, pray for me.

Any tips that help you through anxiety? We love to hear your comments.

Written by Katherine T. Find out more about her here.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    EMILY REITER
    April 10, 2017 at 9:05 am

    John Jonaro’s book ‘Never Give Up: My Life & God’s Mercy” was a phenominal read for me as i emerged from post partum anxiety in 2012. He is a Catholic theologian, steeped in St JPII wisdom, and suffers from lyme disease and depression. I love every inch of that book, but one of the gems is his insistence at the beginning that we are mind, body, and soul. In that, he means that lots of people cannot pray away their mental illness. If we need medical assistance, that’s ok. Sometimes we need medicine & therapy & prayer. I strongly recommend his book to everyone with mental illness. Another gem was his comparison of complaining and lamenting. He said lamentations can be just like a complaint, BUT the big difference is trust in God. It is ok to say, “this stinks!!” If it is followed by “but Jesus, I trust in you” or similar reliance on God’s will. This has changed my life. In the midst of pregnancy pain, or fever from the flu, or sore back post partum, it truly changes your attitude to be able to say, “Ow! This seriously. Hurts, but if it is your will, Lord, i can do it.”

    • Reply
      Katherine Mitchell
      April 17, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Emily,
      Thank you for the book recommendation! Your trust in the Lord is beautiful and helpful for anyone who is in a time of suffering.

  • Reply
    Leslie Albizzatti
    April 10, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. Through your openness, many will be touched and hopefully be brought healing. Although I dont’ struggle with PTSD or anxiety, I work in the inner healing prayer ministry, therapy with Jesus as I like to say. This type of prayer can really heal the source of the initial trauma or traumas from our early childhood. Inner healing prayer can make a difference. Praying for you.

    • Reply
      Katherine Mitchell
      April 17, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      What a beautiful ministry. I know many people who have benefitted greatly from healing prayers. Thank you so much for the prayers.

  • Reply
    Rosalyn
    April 10, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    I have severe anxiety and panic attacks and depression. I take medication and do regular therapy and I am currently taking a mindfulness based stress reduction class. The biggest healer for me has been prayer and learning to trust God in every moment. When I feel myself getting anxious I redirect my thoughts to Him. I trust He can heal me and I know He will never let anything become so big that it will swallow me up. I know because I’ve been to the bottom and He was all that kept me safe. When I came back from the worst panic attack I had ever had I knew i could survive it and I knew I never had to go to that place again. If one ounce of my suffering gives hope or strength to someone else than I will take it. If my short life on this earth requires me to carry this cross than I know I’ll be ok. He has so much more for me in eternity that I no longer ask “Why?” Or “What’s the reason behind it all?” because I know that one I’ll see Him face to face and I’ll get it. Keep your eyes on the eternal and it helps. We only get this short life to glorify God and He will equip us to fulfill our purpose even if we have to do it a little scared. My therapist always tells me that maybe we can’t cure you but we can put your anxiety in remission. That’s how I look at it now. It keeps me vigilant to the signs when I feel it building up. God bless!

    • Reply
      Katherine Mitchell
      April 17, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      Rosalyn,
      Your trust in the Lord is beautiful. I know how hard it can be to have conic anxiety and it seems like you are really fighting hard for the Lord. You are so right, the Lord will give us the strength to keep our faith.

  • Reply
    Ann
    April 10, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing something so personal. I don’t have PTSD, but have suffered with anxiety/panic since childhood. The last 5 months have been particularly tough for me, and doing lots of reading on CBT, and lots more prayer, has been helping so much. I make a point, first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed, to praise God for the anxiety, to thank Him for the anxiety, to make it a way of unearthing wounds in me that need to be healed. I offer my suffering for the good of others. Then I ask Him to heal me – because I know that He wants me to be free. The anxiety has taught me more about surrendering to Him, relying on Him, and allowing myself to be loved by Him than my theology studies or anything anyone could have tried to tell me.
    God bless you for blessing me and others with your story. Prayers for you!

    • Reply
      Katherine Mitchell
      April 17, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      So true, when we allow ourselves to be loved by God, it really can bring about such peace.

  • Reply
    Christina
    April 11, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    I highly recommend EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) treatment for anxiety–especially PTSD-related anxiety. It has been a total game-changer for me and has set me free from many of the traumatic memories that used to haunt me daily. More and more therapists are becoming certified in EMDR, so it’s easier now to find one than it has ever been. If you’re interested in learning more, read the book “Getting Past Your Past”, written by the woman who discovered EMDR. Also, don’t be afraid to get on medication if you need to–it can really help as you try to process through the trauma in therapy. My prayer life improved DRAMATICALLY once I started taking meds.

    • Reply
      Katherine Mitchell
      April 17, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Christina!
      I actually just started EMDR in therapy; I’m hoping that I will experience the wonders that so many have told me about. Thanks for the advice on the meds as well. (I’ve tried meds a few times, but non worked out.)

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    April 11, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Personally, I find a lot of consolation in doing Liturgy of the Hours. There is something so calming about hearing scripture recited and having a place to speak and a place to listen, much more fruitful for me than just mass readings. I agree with that silence in adoration can aggravate things. Meditating on scripture, especially the Psalms, Song of Songs and passages of John really help me because they are so lyrical. Recently, in spiritual direction, I was told that God can speak to us more in some forms of prayer than others depending on where we are at in our lives. This makes total sense to me. Prayers to St. Dymphna are extremely consoling as she is the patroness of those afflicted with mental illness. Meditating on art or images help. I try to have a beautiful sacred image saved on my desktop and on my phone screen.

    • Reply
      Katherine Mitchell
      April 17, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      I do love St. Dymphna and the liturgy of the hours, both are such a gift. Way to fight the good fight!

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