In our Christmas special, Carrie talks about the Christmas story and how it can help with anxiety and OCD. By connecting Jesus’ experiences with our own struggles, Carrie offers insights and understanding for a more hopeful holiday season. 

  • Timeless lessons from Christmas to help you deal with anxiety and OCD.
  • How you can relate Jesus’ challenging times to your own struggles, especially those related to anxiety.
  • The role of Jesus as a counselor and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, especially during uncertain times.
  • The value of connection over absolute certainty in managing anxiety and OCD.
  • Tips on managing anxiety during the holidays (excerpt from Episode 55)
  • Exciting things coming up on the Hope for Anxiety and OCD podcast, with a variety of topics in upcoming episodes and the launch of mindfulness course in 2024.

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Hello and welcome to Hope for Anxiety and OCD, Episode 109. What does Christmas teach us about managing anxiety and OCD? Before I hop into our topic today, I want to share with you some really exciting things that are coming up on the podcast—things that we’re working on for January, covering a variety of topics, including mental health topics and our physical health. We have several people lined up to interview in January that will carry us through a good chunk of the year, and I’m excited to share these interviews with you.

I’m also excited because next year, I’m going to be launching a smaller course on mindfulness. This is going to be an excellent course for anyone who’s struggling with any type of mental health issue, whether that’s anxiety, depression, OCD, difficulty focusing, or difficulty sleeping. These are the types of things that people are telling me they’re having problems with all the time. They want to know, how can I get better? How do I deal with these anxious thoughts? Well, the long and the short answer is mindfulness. It is going to help you with all of these different areas. Mindfulness is really about training your mind to focus on what’s actually happening right now, what’s going on in this present moment.

Mindfulness lets me become aware of what’s going on and also embrace a level of acceptance—acceptance over the things that I can’t change, acceptance over my feelings, whether I like them or not, acceptance over this thought process that keeps running through my head. I don’t have to continue to feed it, I just have to say, “Yes, I’m aware that that’s there, and it’s unhealthy, and it’s anxiety-driven, or it’s OCD-driven, and I’m gonna let it pass by and not continue to give in to that rumination cycle.” So that’s what our mindfulness course is going to be about. 

I have some things that I’ve worked on over the years—different recordings, different things that I’ve written out. I’m excited to be able to share those with you. It’s going to be a lower-cost offering for folks, just as kind of a good entryway.

It’s going to help people who are just starting out their therapy journey to help them increase awareness. Lots of good things coming up in the new year. Every year for December, we kind of take a step back, only produce maybe one episode, sometimes two, really just so that myself and those that work behind the scenes on the podcast can get a break towards the end of the year, regroup, and gather up.

This will be a little bit of a shorter episode. We’ve done some things in the past as far as how to handle anxiety and OCD around the holidays. So really, I asked my assistant to compile some of that advice, and that comes from Episode 55. And so we’re going to include some snippets from Episode 55 at the end of this episode, if some of those things would help you in terms of going to holiday parties and all of that.

What does Christmas teach us about managing anxiety and OCD? Well, one of my favorite modern Christmas songs is a song by Chris Risen. It says, “This is such a strange way to save the world.” And truly, it absolutely was. If you’ve been a Christian a while, you know, we have a tendency to just gloss over the Christmas story.

We’ve heard it so many times. And I wanted to talk today about how can we apply the Christmas story really to managing anxiety and OCD. And I know this may seem like strange or weird. Like, what is Carrie even talking about right now? One, Jesus chose to come and enter our world in Matthew 1:22-23. “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophets. See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Emmanuel,” which is translated as “God with us.” God could have saved us from afar. He didn’t have to come out of heaven to save us. God can do anything he wants to, but he chose to enter our world full of hurt, pain, misunderstandings, and betrayal.

He experienced all of these things so that you could be in a relationship with him. And Jesus needed to eat, and sleep. He had a full range of emotional experiences. He cried, including anxiety. Luke tells us that prior to going to the cross, Jesus’ sweat was like drops of blood, which only happens when you are in a very intense state of distress.

Jesus was rejected, he was betrayed by a close friend. Can you imagine Judas was hanging with the rest of the twelve for these years of Jesus ministry, and then this guy sells him out at the end? I mean, that’s awful. Sometimes we feel like we have this idea God doesn’t get it, he doesn’t really understand.

What I’m going through but through Christ he does on the earth Jesus was fully God and fully man our ultimate example of how to live how to be in relationship with others and I would say be in a relationship with God and ourselves as well just trying to figure out what it looks like to take care of our Human body and the needs that it has.

Jesus is still Emmanuel. He’s still God with us today, even in the worst of times, even in the midst of your most anxious moment when you feel like you are on the verge of a panic attack through negative thought spirals. Jesus is still with you. He never, ever leaves and because we have a savior who is familiar with suffering, Scripture even calls him a man of sorrows in Isaiah.  We have someone who understands and the devil is going to try to tell you lies that Jesus doesn’t understand your struggle. He doesn’t really know what it’s like to have OCD. That simply isn’t true. God created our minds. Jesus understood what it was like to experience those lies from the devil, even if just trying to elevate himself or break his fast.

If you go back to the temptation of Jesus, Jesus knows what it’s like to struggle mentally.

Point number two, Jesus was the ultimate example of humility for us. Jesus came into the world as a baby. He could have come down as a fully adult man, riding on a white horse, or even born into a king’s palace. Instead, He was born in a manger as a commoner. People looked down on him because he was from Nazareth, so he wasn’t even from the right part of town, so to speak. We live in this very self-centered, social media-driven world where people elevate themselves however they can. We’re constantly trying to look better than we actually are.

We elevate the positive and hide the negative, but Jesus didn’t try to hide where he came from or whose parents were. During his years of ministry, he traveled around, he stayed with various people. He didn’t have a home to go back to. He wasn’t seeking to be in the most coveted neighborhood or around the most important people.

He ate with tax collectors and sinners. One thing that’s really changed for me in the past year is that I care about inviting people into my home more than making sure my house is spotless. I grew up in a home where we weren’t super neat, except for when someone was coming over and then we just pretended like we lived that way all the time, I guess.

It seemed very incongruent to me because I would ask my parents, why are we cleaning up so much before people are coming over? And they would always try to hide it and say, no, no, we’re not doing it because people are coming over. We’re doing it because the house needs to be clean. And just having a toddler at home and everything that you try to do, they undo.

I’ve realized that inviting people into my home, having that community and that connection is more important to me as a value than making sure my house is spotless. I don’t even apologize for it anymore because this is my value, and I don’t need to apologize for my value. That’s a sidebar, but maybe it helps somebody this year, but the point was Jesus was about connecting with all different kinds of people, about inviting them to places and sitting down and having that community and that connection.

In a world where everyone’s trying to elevate themselves and hide their flaws, sometimes it’s okay in a safe space to say, “Hey, I struggle with anxiety or I struggle with OCD.” And you may not even understand what that means or what that looks like, but I want you to know that I’m working through it day by day with God’s help.

I’m seeking out these self-help resources, or I’m going to therapy, and it hasn’t completely gone away. It’s still here. It’s something I’m wrestling with, and God is still loving, and God is still good towards me. That’s an incredibly powerful testimony. We don’t want to share our testimony a lot of times until our trial’s completely over.

We’re like, “Yes, I’ll talk about that after Jesus delivers me from it. No, no, no, no. We need to be able to tell our testimony in the middle with faith and say, “Hey, I don’t know how all of this is going to work out right now, but I am staying connected to God and I love him. I’m reading the word. I’m seeking him out in the waiting and I’m trusting him with the plan.”

That’s what we need to be able to share with others. 

Three, Jesus was sent as a counselor. I love this. It’s my favorite thing. He left the Holy Spirit as our counselor inside of us. If you are in Christ, you have the ultimate counselor in Jesus. Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born for us, a son will be given, the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” That doesn’t mean that you never need a human counselor. Obviously, I am a human counselor and we’re very pro-counseling on this show, but even after like years and years of training, all different kinds of clients, different scenarios, there are times in the moment where I’m like, “Okay, I’m just not really sure where to go here right now.”

It’s in those times where I’ve seen the Holy Spirit either guide me or guide the person that I’m working with, like, “Hey, maybe we need to go down this path. What do you think about that?” Or they’ll say, “Hey, I feel like this situation in my past is connected to what’s going on right now.”

I’m like, “Okay, great. God’s showing you that. Let’s go down that path.” The Holy Spirit has just guided the trauma processing many times when I’ve been working with people and talked to people and told them things in the midst of that. It’s incredible. Oftentimes we don’t know what we need. We don’t know how to meet the needs of others, such as even our spouse or our children.

I know for me, having a child has definitely increased my prayer life because I read the books and I listen to the podcasts, and I pray, and I read the Bible, but I’m like, “Okay, God, I do not know what to do with this child right now. Like, she is just outside the box, and I don’t know how to handle this.”

We don’t have all the answers, but the Holy Spirit does in anxiety and OCD. They want you to have an answer. They want you to have certainty right now, and sometimes that’s not actually what we need. It’s what we want. We want that certainty, but what we actually need is connection over direction. So if my daughter is hurting because she fell, or she’s hurting because she’s got new teeth coming in, it happens a lot. I’m not going into some kind of educational spiel about, “Let me tell you about teething and how your teeth are coming in right now. Let me explain the whole process to you,” because that’s not gonna benefit her. She needs a hug and she needs me to tell her, “Hey, I’m sorry that you’re hurting and it’s gonna be okay.”

We’re promised peace through prayer that surpasses all understanding and not certainty. God doesn’t say, “Pray to me and you’ll receive absolute certainty and never have any doubts.” That’s not what we’re promised in scripture. But our faith requires a certain level of faith. It requires a belief into the unknown.

You don’t have to understand everything about how the world was created to believe that God created it. You don’t have to fully understand grace to receive it. Thank God, because I don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense to me on a human level. God wants to have a personal relationship with you. And if you’re just happening upon this podcast, maybe you would say, “Yes. There’s a God, or I pray, or I’m a spiritual person”, but maybe you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as written in the Bible, just please contact us and send us a message through the website; we’d love to talk with you more about that. That’s what Christmas teaches us about, anxiety and OCD.

Jesus came to enter our world; Jesus was the ultimate example of humility for us, and Jesus was sent as a counselor and left the Holy Spirit as our counselor and our guide.

 I’m going to pause from this piece, and you’re going to hear some information from our episode 55 if any of you are struggling on how to manage the holidays with anxiety or OCD.

Before we get into celebrating these important holidays towards the end of the year, I wanted to talk with you about surviving the holidays when you have anxiety because there are specific challenges that people with anxiety face in regards to parties, gatherings, gift giving, and that it can really increase your stress this time of year.

First thing I wanted to talk with you about is when you have anxiety, sometimes these large gatherings, even if they are family gatherings, there may be extended family that you don’t see very often, or you may be gathering with say like your husband’s coworkers and you don’t know them because you don’t work with them every day.

Sometimes those types of environments can be a little bit more anxiety-provoking. Knowing your limits and knowing when it’s time to go is important. If you’re with a friend, or spouse, or you rode with somebody, definitely knowing how to communicate to that other person that you would like to leave is important.

Sometimes you may have a code word or phrase that you want to use with your spouse, like, “Hey, don’t we need to get by such and such store before it closes? Oh, we really got to get home and let the dog out.” I’m sure that you can come up with something where you and your spouse will be on the same page and kind of be in line with each other, like, “Yeah, we’re ready to go.”

I find when I go to large gatherings, sometimes just taking a moment to sit down, maybe away from where the big crowd of people is, that really seems to help me in particular. So that may be something that helps you. Just standing requires a little bit more energy. I know that that sounds silly in itself, but you may just need to kind of take a miniature time out from all the activity.

You could go to the bathroom. You could step outside if there’s an indoor-outdoor element to this gathering. My overall point is that it’s good to have a plan going into some of these social interactions to help make them less overwhelming for you. You may not want to plan too much before the gathering so that you have time to rest and relax a little bit versus rushing from this thing to that thing to that thing if you’re traveling for the holidays.

It’s helpful to have a half a day to a day before your trip and then definitely a day when you get back before you have to jump into your work or school routine. Try to give yourself a buffer on the edges of your trips to be able to get things in order. You know, there’s always these last-minute things that we end up having to do before a trip or after a trip. We have laundry and different things that we have to do. Give yourself a little bit of a buffer of time if you can. If you’re going to reduce your stress around Christmas, you want to prioritize the gatherings and parties that are most important for you to attend.

Let’s talk for a moment about challenging family relationships. I’m not going to assume that you get along well with everyone in your family. And so some of those relationships may cause you stress. It’s important to know just internally within yourself how much of certain people you can handle. What I mean by that is that if you know you can only handle a day or two at a time around a certain person, don’t plan to spend five days with them. That’s just a recipe for disaster. Understanding that you’re an adult and you have a choice. You do not have to go and do all the things that you normally go and do.

Letting go of the have-tos is important. So many times we convince ourselves that we just have to do things that we don’t have to do. Don’t be afraid to say no if you know that what someone is asking you to do is going to be too much for you. We all have different limitations at different times in our lives.

Sometimes we’re going through things and we can only do so much and it’s okay. It’s really okay to acknowledge that to ourselves. It’s okay to communicate that to other people as well. No is a complete sentence. You don’t have to give a lengthy explanation. You can just say no or no thank you. So when you’re prioritizing your gatherings and parties, it’s very easy to get overloaded on these.

You just need to put everything on the calendar evaluate it and say, “Okay. Are we really able to give our time and energy to these things? Maybe we really want to invest more time and energy into our kid’s function, and maybe just make an appearance at the work party.” You know how that is, just kind of, “Yes, we’re going to show up a little bit later, say hi to a few people, be a part of maybe a gift exchange, and then head out.” That’s okay. It’s okay that you don’t have to be 110 percent for all of these events. Decide what is most important to you that you’re putting on your calendar. Let go of expectations that it’s going to be a perfect Christmas. The last thing I want to encourage you with, which is also very important, is to have a budget and stick to it.

Oftentimes, people overextend themselves at Christmas and go into all kinds of debt. It’s just not healthy. It causes us a lot of financial stress and, in turn, emotional stress. We have to be diligent about setting aside some for savings every single month so that when we get towards the end of the year, we have some money to spend on Christmas presents for the family and so forth.

If you sit down and budget, how much you’re going to pay for Christmas gifts, who it’s actually important to buy a Christmas gift for. I think sometimes we have this perception that we have to go overboard and buy a gift for every single person that we interact with, and obviously that’s not the case.

That’s the important thing to remember. It shouldn’t be out of obligation, you know, some families to help with finances will maybe draw names and each person gets a different person in the immediate family or the extended family. And then. That way we’re reducing the amount of money that we’re spending around Christmas and we’re also able to get good gifts for each other.

I think sometimes when it comes to holiday spending, we way overthink things or we make them more complicated than they actually have to be. So have a budget, and stick to it, that’s going to reduce a lot of your stress. I know it’s a little late to be saying save money, you know, throughout the year.

Now you know, going into next year, save a little bit of money every month for Christmas. It will help you out tremendously. You can put that towards presents, towards travel, if you’re having to travel with family. It’ll be great. And finally, let’s take the opportunity this Christmas, to not forget what it’s all about, we can get so caught up in making the food, attending the gathering, and spending time with people that we miss the point that Christmas is an opportunity for us to celebrate Christ’s birth is an opportunity for us to reflect on the fact that he chose to come into the world in the humblest way possible as a baby.

Don’t get lost in the commercialization that you forget the simple and that you forget what’s most important. If you have children, talk with them regularly about why you’re celebrating these holidays. Read the Christmas story, focus on those things more than opening presents. Find opportunities to give to others who have less than you.

I think this is such an important part of the Christmas season. You may be in a really difficult situation this Christmas, and may not feel like you have a whole lot to give. But I’m sure that even in those situations, there’s something small that you can do for someone else just to let them know that you care and that you love them.

Christmas is about love, joy, and giving to others. Let’s not lose celebrating our Savior’s birth. Let’s not lose our focus in the midst of all the activity. 

Thank you everyone so much for listening today and just standing firm with this podcast. Some of you have been around for a long time. Some of you are new.

I just wanted to let you know that recently we hit our three-year mark of doing the podcast in November. It’s been an incredible journey. So much has happened in my personal life, as many of you know, through this process, butI’ve been just totally blown away by how God has used us to impact people positively, to give them a sense of hope and encouragement.

We just received news that we have had 50,000 downloads. In that three-year span overall, which is really exciting, and we just love that some of you have shared the podcast with others as well. If you want to find out more information about what’s going on. With the show, and what’s going on with the mindfulness course coming up in 2024, please definitely get on our email list. We’ve got some great free stuff on the website for you to download. It’s Thank you so much for listening today.

Hope for Anxiety and OCD is a production of By the Well Counseling. Our show is hosted by me, Carrie Bock, a licensed professional counselor in Tennessee. Opinions given by our guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of myself or By the Well Counseling. Our original music is by Brandon Maingrum. Until next time, may you be comforted by God’s great love for you.