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Q. I read your column last month about the connection between physical and mental health. I know there is definitely a connection between (lack of) faith and anxiety. But is it actually possible to get rid of anxiety completely by working on one’s bitachon?

A. I think this is a question better asked to a Rav; however, I will try to give a therapist’s perspective.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear that can be mild or severe. Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. Some have it more intensely than others. Some have it strong enough that they need medication to help themselves function. Some cope on their own or with therapy, or by joining a support group. There are many things one can do to help rid themselves of anxiety. For the sake of this article, we will not be referring to anxiety disorders, but rather everyday anxieties and stress.
{As an FYI, it would be helpful to go for help when anxiety/depression or fear impairs your ability to function. This would depend on how upset you feel about what you are experiencing, and how much the anxiety/depression/fear is getting in the way of things you want to do (such as hobbies or spending time with others) or need to do (such as school or work).}

Many people turn to their faith to help deal with anxiety. Through emunah you can help yourself by having a deep conviction that cannot be swayed; you know that Hashem is there with you and for you. For us Yidden, it is a gift we were given thousands of years ago that has carried us through the worst of times until today. Remembering this reaffirms your own inner conviction that says, “It doesn’t matter how things appear and how hard everything seems to me. I understand that there is G-d who is holding my hand, who knows me and what is best for me even if I am not sure. I may not have the slightest understanding of how what’s happening in my life is good, I do not need to always understand. I only need to remember that Hashem knows and wants what’s best for me, and my job is to keep moving forward and take one thing at a time and be the best that I can be.”

What drives anxiety is the idea that you must deal on your own with whatever hardship you are facing. You can get stuck believing that the universe is out to get you and you are the lonely and innocent victim getting the raw end of the deal constantly. You have negative thoughts and nowhere to turn. So now it really becomes all about your attitude. If you know and trust that Hashem runs the world, then you know the good is hidden and your struggles can become opportunities. Because you know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Hashem is with you every step of the way.

But none of this is easy. That’s why we are so blessed to have sefarim, books, and shiurim to help us. I am a huge fan of the Sefer Shaare Habitachon (from Chovos Halevavos). TorahAnytime.com features a lot of Rabbis who speak about this topic.
Those who work on their trust, or bitachon, in Hashem, are in essence helping themselves by becoming “mentally immune” to anxiety and other related issues.

As soon as you remember that you may be in the driver’s seat but that Hashem is creating the roads for you, you have a Partner. And when the panic jumps out at you, smile back and say, “This too shall pass” — and it will. And then you keep tackling each day as it comes, one day at a time.

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