Almost 40 million American adults will experience anxiety at some point in their lives.

 

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My helpful iPhone gave the definition for anxiety in two parts:

 

  1. Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
  2. A strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen.

 

Everyone feels anxious—it’s a normal emotion! This is NOT the same thing as someone struggling with an anxiety disorder. Having feelings of anxiety about a specific event, for a short period of time, or during a time of transition are normal and part of the life experience. An anxiety disorder is how your mind is wired—this is not something that will pass. If you are hard-wired for anxiety, you will need to learn skills to help you.

 

Anxiety disorder is a real struggle. As a mother of a child with both severe social anxiety and overall general anxiety—I have had to explain to countless adults that she IS doing her very best and will still need their continued patience, love, and adaptability.

 

I appreciate the openness of recent discussions at Church around depression and anxiety; they are much overdue. Too often, I have had primary teachers and youth leaders treat me like an over-protective parent because I have needed to ask for special accommodations for my daughter. I have been gossiped about and judged because Church members do not simply love and nurture. It is far easier to stand in judgement than to set aside negativity and embrace with love … yet we have covenanted to do the latter … haven’t we?

 

One example: My husband was out of town on business and I took our daughter to her therapy appointment. She was dealing with self-harming behaviors and self-hatred. This therapy appointment was brutal. I left feeling defeated and overwhelmed. That same evening, there was a Relief Society activity for both mothers and daughters. I went directly from the therapy session—raw, heartsore, and desperately needing outreach and love.

 

As we sat during the presentation, my daughter was playing quietly with a fidget spinner—we use these to help deter her self-harming tendencies when she feels anxious. After such a brutal therapy session, I wasn’t surprised that she was staring intently at the spinner, simply spinning it over and over again. My heart hurt for my daughter and my heart hurt for me … how was I supposed to help my darling girl overcome yet another hurdle?

 

As I sat there, half-listening to the presentation and half-praying, I overheard one of the young women leaders loudly say to the woman seated beside her, “You know, those fidget spinners are so obnoxious! Really, some parents should teach their children better manners!” Their conversation continued with a few more pointed comments directed toward myself and my daughter, where we both sat within easy listening distance.

 

It hurt. But it was not the first time I’ve experienced judgmental and hurtful behavior by other members of my congregation and it likely won’t be the last.

 

sad anxiousI am grateful for the discussions around anxiety and depression. These conversations help us to behave better in how we reach out. Elder Holland admonished us to “be merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind” when he openly shared his own season of struggle with depression. These conversations need to be on-going.

 

However, I do not like how everyone who has ever felt a feeling of depression or anxiety is jumping on the bandwagon of claiming to have these disorders. It’s important to recognize that normal feelings of anxiety during stressful situations are not the same as having an anxiety disorder.

 

You do NOT have anxiety just because you get nervous before taking a test. You are feeling anxious because you are taking a test. You do not have an anxiety disorder.

 

You do NOT have anxiety because you get nervous before giving a talk or teaching a lesson. You are feeling anxious because of these experiences. You do not have an anxiety disorder.

 

  1. Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.

 

Anxious feelings in any capacity are not fun. However, feeling discomfort is not the same as having an anxiety disorder. Feeling uncomfortable for a season is NOT having a disorder. It is a normal part of this life’s experiences.

 

Elder Mormon MissionariesOur missionary went through a period of anxiety at the beginning of his mission. It was a season of growth and change. It was difficult and uncomfortable. It took several months for him to work through these feelings.

 

But he did so. He did not have an anxiety disorder.

 

He worked through them. He focused on the work before him, he focused on learning all he could and doing everything asked of him.

 

  1. A strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen.

 

He had a strong desire to be a good missionary.

 

Verily I say men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

       Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

 

These feelings of uncertainty about how you are doing on a mission are normal. They are part of the experience. Turn that weakness of fear into faith by trusting the Lord to help you through this. When your thoughts turn to fears of failure or inadequacy, re-focus them on service.

 

My daughter has had years of cognitive behavior therapy. One of the fundamentals, we return to again and again as she works on re-wiring her natural thinking patterns is:

 

  1. STOP the negative thought.
  2. Clear your mind of the thought.
  3. Actively choose to think about something positive.
  4. Calm your body. Take deep breathes. Relax your muscles.

 

I have used this same pattern myself when I feel stressed! By changing the focus of my thoughts when they are going in a negative direction, I free myself to later think more clearly about whatever I was feeling. Those earlier feelings of negativity and inadequacy are short-lived and if handled appropriately, don’t take over.

 

To read more of Emlee Taylor’s Missionary Mom moments, click here.

Please don’t short-change yourself by too quickly assuming that a period of anxiety or depression is the end of your mission. It may be simply a season of growth. Turn to the Lord. Trust Him. Focus on anxiously serving and giving your best. Re-direct your negative thoughts.

 

It IS hard. But you are stronger than you realize. It is uncomfortable. But you came to be stretched and changed. You are enough and you can do this! Stay strong and stay engaged!

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About Emlee Taylor
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years. 

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