Like everyone, you'll regularly encounter circumstances that can cause anxiety. The world around you may not change, but you can. If you respond to stressful circumstances in healthy ways, you can free yourself from anxiety's grip and live the abundant life Christ wants for you.

Here are 12 steps to take on your journey away from anxiety:

* 1. "Admit that anxiety can be known and managed." You can determine the source of your anxiety, then figure out how to combat it.

* 2. "Recognize that because of the presence of choices, fear does not have to result in emotional paralysis." In every situation, you do have choices. Those choices may not always be pleasant, but they exist nonetheless. You don't need to feel anxious about being powerless, because you do have the power to act according to how you decide is best. God has given you a mind that is capable of sound decisions, and He stands ready to help you make them if you pray for guidance.

* 3. "Learn to distinguish what you can and cannot control, then live accordingly." It can be good to control certain aspects of life, such as by organizing your activities to enable you to fulfill a certain purpose or resisting the temptation to act solely on raw emotions. However, certain aspects of life are beyond your control - and so are other people and how they choose to live their lives. If you seek to control another person or a situation over which you have no power, you'll experience anxiety. Anxiety will also result if another person tries to control you. You can respond to these situations by realizing that irresponsibility can and will happen, allowing others to experience the consequences of their own choices, recognizing the limits of what you can do and not pushing yourself or allowing others to push you beyond those limits.

* 4. "Recognize that you alone are ultimately responsible for defining your own guidelines for life." Trying to live up to the expectations of others can cause anxiety when those expectations don't match your own. Recognize that God has created you to be unique; you don't have to cave in to pressure to conform to others' ideas of how you should live. Give yourself permission to extricate yourself from others' demands and pursue the life God is calling you, uniquely, to live.

* 5. "Communicate your anger constructively rather than holding it inward to fester." Anger at unpleasant circumstances in your life may be lurking behind your anxiety. Learn how to express your anger in healthy ways, rather than suppressing it or using it aggressively against others. When you effectively channel energy from your anger, it won't cause anxiety in your life.

* 6. "Drop idealistic wishes that hinder you from accepting reality." The ideal scenarios that you imagine for your life may be possible, but they aren't guaranteed. Realize that you may never attain certain ideal circumstances, and accept the reality that life may not unfold exactly as you would like. Recognize that pain is an inevitable part of life in this fallen world, but you don't have to respond to pain with anxiety. Direct your energies toward living calmly and rationally, realizing that God is present with you and will give you all you truly need.

* 7. "Realize that your self-directed thoughts of insecurity are the result of wrong input, and that those thoughts can be corrected." You have been created in God's image, with great intrinsic worth. Acknowledge your value even if others don't recognize it. Realize that you are competent to make choices throughout your life and thus can proceed with peace and confidence in doing so.

* 8. "Learn to distinguish safe and unsafe people and choose only healthy patterns of relating." Unfortunately, relationships with some people can fuel your anxiety. Don't let the stubbornness, critical attitudes or moodiness of others influence your own behavior. Allow yourself to proceed with your healthy choices despite any negative reactions from others. Distance yourself from people who sabotage.

* 9. "Drop the requirement of keeping up a 'proper' front, and let the real you be known." Embrace the courage God can give you to be open with people about yourself. While you should disclose intensely personal information only to people whom you know you can trust, you can be candid in your conversations with others. Stop asking "what if?" questions before relating to people; just be yourself without worrying about how they will react to you.

* 10. "Release yourself from stringent performance requirements, accepting yourself as you are." People seem to judge you everywhere you go, but you don't need to be overly concerned about others' evaluations of you. Concern yourself far more with the quality of your character than with an achievement or performance. After all, who you are is more important to God than how you perform at a certain time with a certain task.

* 11. "Realize that you can experience self-inflicted anxiety because of poor priorities, then choose priorities that will serve you best." If you're not exercising good stewardship of your resources, you're probably creating an environment for yourself that perpetuates anxiety. Consider how you might set effective priorities for yourself in areas such as financial management, time management and moral choices.

* 12. "Know that each problem has some sort of resolution, and commit yourself to being an overcomer." Realize that change is a process, and it may take a while for you to shed your anxiety and grow as a person. The process may not be easy, either. But with determination and persistence, you can make positive changes.

Les Carter, Ph.D., is an expert in the field of conflict resolution, with more than 20 years in private practice. Frank Minirth, M.D., is president of The Minirth Clinic.
Adapted from The Worry Workbook: Twelve Steps to Anxiety-Free Living, by Dr. Les Carter and Dr. Frank Minirth, copyright 2000. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, thomasnelsonpublishers