Anxiety and Panic Attacks|
affects everyone at some level. We get stressed and we
rush around. In spite of our technological
advances that make our life "easier," we don't seem to
be free from the stress factor. Stress and anxiety can really move in a
direction than can be quite scary. We may not even know that we are
experiencing anxiety. A
third of everyone will suffer from some kind of anxiety
disorder. How do we know we have an
The Symptoms of Anxiety
Thinking and over-analyzing too much
Body sensations of rapid heart-beat, difficulty breathing,
sweating, breaking out in cold sweat and shakiness
- Predicting the worst and "future tripping" (what if?. . .)
- Intrusive and obsessional thoughts, usually about safety
issues, or horribly embarrassing thoughts
- Worrying and not being able to think positively
- Feelings of "out of control" and that one is going lose one's
- Self doubt
You may experience some of these symptoms or possibility all
of them. Feelings of embarrassment and shame come up for
people as they talk about their thinking and episodes.
Sometimes we can have bizarre or irrational thoughts. This
sometimes compounds the issue making it a private problem and
keeping us from reaching out for help and support.
There is a Solution to Anxiety
If you are suffering from panic
attacks and anxiety, you need to know you can and will get better if you take
certain steps. When we are spinning in the vortex of self-doubt and losing
control, it is important to know there is something you can do. Recovery
comes with time. Before we look at the steps from recovery, let us look at
the mental, emotional and physiological sides of anxiety.
side of Anxiety
Fear is a good thing. It is a God-given emotion that tells us something is
dangerous in our environment. It can be used to help keep from poor
choices. It is when our lives are ruled by fear that is when it becomes a
problem. With Generalized Anxiety Disorder we started to have fear about
everything. We have a nervousness that is always with us.
The Physiology of Anxiety
While anxiety has a lot to do with one's thinking and
spirituality, it also has to do with our bodies.
physical aspect of anxiety involves centers in the brain called basal ganglia.
These centers deal with fear and fine motor skills. When
we experience panic or extreme anxiety, these centers become
over-active. We may predict the worst, become shaky and
become too sensitive to body functions. We feel and
experience too much. We feel our heart beating. We are too aware.
This is useful if we were in a situation where we need to escape from a real
danger. People who have had a
panic attack will do everything they can not to experience
another one. It feels like certain death and loss of
control. It is the over-control that can actually make
the condition worse.
Anxiety can also be triggered by obsessive thinking. These thoughts
usually are repetitive and difficult to redirect. In brain imaging we see
that when this happens, we see overactivity in the cingulate gyrus. We
might worry about our health, germs, or disease. What people think of us
might start to rule our actions. We might experience
intrusive thoughts about hurting someone or ourselves. We then worry
about, "why am I thinking these thoughts? Am I going to lose my mind?" Fear of what people
are going to think about us and worry about losing control are also classic
symptoms of anxiety.
It is important to know that people do recover from anxiety. The
first step is to find someone "safe" to share your feelings and what has
happened. Sharing with a trust friend can bring some relief. Sharing
with a counselor can bring some good information and tools to develop a recovery
plan. Talking with someone can help us gain perspective and realize this
will pass. It is kind of like a ground wire in electricity--it stops us
from short circuiting.
Deep Breathing and Meditation
Believe it or not, deep breathing and relaxation are very
beneficial to recovering from panic disorder and anxiety.
It is very difficult for the person who already experiences
anxiety to "calm themselves down" by themselves.
Sometimes, unintentionally, they breath too fast, which causes a
hyperventilation when then cause more anxiety and tingling
throughout the body which causes more fear. It usually takes a
counselor or someone who knows the process of progressive
relaxation. Just by giving yourself something else to
think about, can be the beginning steps to walking out of a
panic attack. How many people feel the relief in just
knowing they have Xanax (an anti-anxiety medication) to take.
It is knowing what to do that helps. Progressive
relaxation can involve counting, breathing and tightening/relaxing
certain muscle groups. For Christians having a certain
prayer or passage from the psalms to meditate is not only
connecting with God Who can help, but also gets out mind off of
the panicky thoughts.
The Illusion of
Another element that people with anxiety
struggle with is the need to feel in control. The irony is
that the more they think that they control, the more out of
control they are. We try to control people, places, and
The irony is that we often try to control the things we don't
have control over, which are "people, places and things" and yet
we have learned to control what we can. We can change how
we respond to live, rather than "re-act." Many who have
been traumatized in their past, have structural differences to
overcome in their brains. Brain scans demonstrate this.
We can train ourselves to think differently and more
In recovery from
anxiety, we work on "letting go," and changing irrational belief
systems. The process of counseling can be helpful to help
the client let go of negative beliefs and to think more healthy
thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which involves
changing negative beliefs or irrational beliefs into more
healthier beliefs. This is a process and once the thinking
has changed, the panic usually doesn't come back. One can
learn about themselves in this process. The whole crisis
once it is over can become a real blessing which has developed
muscles to handle life better by letting go more.
Medication can be
useful for debilitating anxiety to help a person begin to feel
better so that they can work on their thinking and lifestyle
patterns that are causing the anxiety. It is important for
the person to go beyond just wanting to "feel" better, but to
"get" better. Pain can motivate us to work on our
salvation process. (Hebrews 2:12) Unfortunately, once the
pain is gone, sometimes so is the motivation to "get" better,
that is to really have a change of heart.
One may need to
prioritize and not do too many things. One may need to
look also at what is happening in their spiritual life. It
was St. Anthony the Great (250-356 AD), the father of
monasticism, said that he "know longer feared God, but loves
him." By this, he is not saying that he didn't have a
healthy or reverential "fear of God." The fear of God is
the beginning of wisdom. But we are talking about freedom
from fear that was brought on by sin brings and how perfect love
can cast out fear. As we progress in our healing from sin
through love, we gain freedom from fear.
1 John 4:17-19
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that
we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is,
so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love;
but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.
But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19We
love Him because He first loved us.
Most of us cannot say that we have been made perfect in love,
and thus we struggle with some form of anxiety because of our
sin. But we an actually use our anxiety to help us get
closer to God. So it is not something to be eradicated,
but to be channeled. We should fear our own mortality so
that we can make every opportunity to repent today, right this
moment. God can then transform our minds and help us
change our thinking.
We often get anxious over the wrong things. We often
worry about temporal things, clothing, shelter, food, and
provision. We worry what people think of us. Yet we
don't worry about sinning. If we have a healthy fear of
God and a healthy fear of sinning, we would be fearful of saying
judgmental things or criticizing our brother. If we could
only have a phobia of pornography or a fear of offending our
spouse and children.
We need to remember that God loves us and has everything we
need for salvation and freedom from anxiety. May God grant
this to us by His Grace.
Contact us for more information or help.
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