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Anxiety, control… and learning to let go of “perfect”

Anxiety, control, and letting go...

In the last few months, as I’ve had space in my life to breathe (thanks to The Year of Rest), I’ve come face to face with how much anxiety I’ve struggled with since the time I was a young girl.

I’m discovering that a lot of this anxiety is related to my intense and unhealthy desire to be in control of all the things in my life.

I want to have all my ducks in a row, I want to always have a really good plan in place, I don’t want there to be unknowns, and I don’t like to feel like things aren’t orderly and neat and well prepared.

In an effort to break free from some of these lifelong control issues, I’ve not only been doing a lot of praying and soul-searching, but I’ve also been challenging myself to stop trying to live life in such a safe, controlled, orderly, and risk-free manner.

One area I’m doing this is with my handlettering. I’m working on trying new handlettering styles and not obsessing over getting things perfect.

My nature is to want to re-do things over and over again until I get it exactly how I want it, but I’m challenging myself to just write it out once and be okay with it not being anywhere near “perfect.”

Going forward, I want to live all of my life in the freedom and joy that comes from knowing that, ultimately, I’m not in control of anything. Instead of trying to micromanage my life and stressing out that it’s not working, I want to rest in the God of the Universe… the One Who knows the end from the beginning, Who loves me with an everlasting love, and Whose plans for my life are far better than any I could ever dream up or imagine.

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  • Amanda L says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I have battled anxiety as well. Its a constant choice to not let it creep back in. Good for you knowing that its an area you need to work on and pushing yourself to overcome it!!

  • Danielle says:

    Yes. Me too.
    I have been reading Ann Voskamp’s devotional (not her original book, but the One Thousand Gifts ‘Devotional’). It has been amazing! A few of the devotionals even focus on anxiety & control (which is what made me think of it here), although it’s all inter-related with the main theme of gratitude habits and having peace in Christ. I highly recommend checking it out (if you guys haven’t already 😉

  • Beth says:

    I dealt with mild panic attacks my senior year of high school and then occasionally off and on since then. I learned that the “attacks” or an intense feeling of anxiety actually often hit AFTER the stress was over. It’s like my body gets into high performance mode (read, plenty of adrenaline) and then can’t figure out immediately how to pull back once the need for the stress response is gone. I’ve also learned that when I go through this “withdrawal” period that I’m much more sensitive to caffeine. Some of your coming to grips with anxiety issues (and I definitely can relate to the perfectionist tendencies!!) might be a bit of (or exacerbated by?) a physical response as your body gets used to this year of rest. You also went on a pretty stressful trip that probably kicked your stress coping mechanisms into high gear again. When I find myself in one of those “the stress is gone but my body hasn’t figured it out yet” times I have to give myself the grace to ride it out. Avoid caffeine or other stimulants (intense movies), listen to calming music, deep breathe, pray, etc. Often when I start to try to calm down I feel more anxious for a while but eventually my system calms down. At least until the next life-stressor comes up :).

  • Lorrie Alessi says:

    For years I struggled with needing to be in control of my environment. My family. My work. My kids especially. It made me crazy and them crazy also and caused lots of hurt and anger in all our lives. About eight years ago I began to deal with it fully. I thought my kids would only remember me as the angry controlling mom. Oh I loved them and told them often but there was little joy in my life. That has changed. God changed me. I now let God control my life and theirs. My kids are adults now and I know the only thing I have control over in their lives is my praying for them. I have seen God work immeasurably better in their lives and mine than I could ever imagine or do. When I sit back and let Him take control (really as if I was in control in the first place!) things go smoother and so much better. Oh by the way. My kids don’t really remember that old controlling mom. They remember me and know me as the loving kind and joyful mom. He has redeemed that time. Praise God for His mercy and grace.

    You will get there Crystal. It’s a journey and bumpy at times but it’s worth it. Praying for you.

    • This comment blessed me so much! Thank you for taking the time to share!

      • Monica says:

        I love this comment. I feel that I parented my oldest children through fear and am working hard to parent my youngest through faith. As a mom to both littles and young adults, I am so encouraged that God has redeemed that time for you. I am praying that He does the same for me with my oldest children, as I have learned a lot and been changed through the years.

    • Paula says:

      I am there now. Thank you for sharing as it gives hope in God’s plan for my family and me.

  • Sophie Piper says:

    Thanks, Crystal! This is absolutely my battle. So thankful we have a loving God who ordained our days and we can trust him. I reading through Calm My Anxious Heart right now. It’s SO helpful. For me, the think about anxiety is that I can’t fix it on my own. I can’t just say I won’t be anxious. I need His help! Choosing joy ( just like what you’ve spoken about) and thanking him for all the many blessings in my life helps me see he’s in control and rest in that.

    Thankful for you!

  • Lisa says:

    It wasn’t until my older son started displaying signs of anxiety at the end of first grade that I realized it was something I struggle with as well. A huge light bulb moment for me. It made me understand anxiety was the root of my food issues and I was finally able to get down to a “normal” weight for the first time in my entire life. This struggle will never go away but it’s been incredibly helpful to understand what’s going on. Looking back on my late teens and early twenties I see how anxiety clouded so many of the decisions I made and ended up limiting my life in some not so good ways. While I can’t do anything about that now I’m grateful to have the insight so I can look out for similar behaviors in my kids.

    Thank you for posting this.

  • One of my go-to Scripture passages: ” Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7

  • Mrs S says:

    Thank you for sharing!
    I with a spouse and child who have significant issues from trauma and autism, and I spent most of my life trying control our lives so that there are no unexpected events. It didn’t work very well for any of us! I have since realized we are much better at coping than I gave us credit for, and if things “fall apart” we can put them back together… Just like every time we have done it in the past. God has never left us hanging! :o)

  • I love to see you grow my friend. Thank God for His all powerful greatness and the way He works in our lives. He is taking such a small habit for you and using it as a way to shape and mold you into the woman He desires.

  • Rosanna says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I relate to this most definitely. I have also dealt with anxiety in the form of mild panic attacks. They started happening much more often after I had my third child. I’m sure that some of it was hormonal, but I think it was also that child number three was the tipping point for me. I could no longer keep everything just so anymore because there wasn’t enough time in the day. I have gotten a lot better since then because I have learned to let a lot go, but there are still times that it can come up. I am learning to “Cast all my cares on the Lord.” Definitely not there all the way, yet, but on my way.

  • I needed this right now. We’ve had a lot of stress with our recent move and house hunting. Plus my husband is a 1st year assistant professor which keeps him really busy. I wrote this post a couple of years ago after a less than perfect afternoon with the kids and it still a good reminder to let it go and leave some room for grace in your life.

  • Tracey says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I struggle with anxiety and reading this is such an encouragement for me and many others. God is using you and your experiences! Keep shining His light! ♡

  • Jennifer Brown says:

    Thank you so much for the courage and taking the time to write this! If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought you had wrote this for me! Thank you for letting us know we are not alone with this struggle!

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