Let me share something that may surprise you. I suffered with anxiety and panic attacks for 25 years. They would ebb and flow with whatever was going on in my life. They started when I was 14, (I traced them back to a bad ear infection, by the way). I was healed when I was 39. If someone tells me they are experiencing debilitating anxiety or panic attacks, the first thing I tell them is to pick up Dr. Neil Anderson’s book Freedom from Fear: Overcoming Worry and Anxiety. I have read quite a bit on the subject in those 25 years, trying desperately to find a solution. That book is, hands down, the best information on the subject that I have come across. Dr. Anderson has another great book that is helpful for anybody’s personal and spiritual growth,
|Victory over the Darkness: Abridged Audiobook on CD|
By Neil Anderson
I would like to share a few of the things I learned through the long, difficult journey. If you are struggling with anxiety, I hope these are helpful.
You are not alone
If someone you care about is suffering, please share this with them. You won’t offend them. It may be embarrassing at first for others to know they struggle. But it is truly a relief to know that you are not alone, crazy, or hopeless. To know that someone has come out whole and healed on the other side is a gift. Anxiety is a natural result of our fast paced living. It may even be exacerbated by our GMO food or EMFs from all of our wi-fi devices, who knows? They are just beginning to study the effects of all our modern craziness and the initial reports are not encouraging. But it’s not going away anytime soon, so we have to learn how to calm ourselves and protect ourselves. And knowing you are in an exponentially increasing group of anxiety sufferers helps you feel more normal.
Overcoming anxiety is hard work
It is the hard work of learning a new language – the language your body speaks. When you first experience panic attacks, your body is telling you something – often that you have not learned to handle stress. As you learn to handle stress and change the negative messages you may not realize you are telling yourself, you will become aware of the little signs and signals that your body and mind need a break. But beware agoraphobia! If you find yourself avoiding more and more places because you have experienced panic there, you will need to arm yourself with good coping strategies and an understanding friend to reconquer those places. If you do not, you find your world getting very small. That can lead to depression. Something about the lighting in Costco was a panic trigger for me, but I look forward to shopping there now. Do not let anxiety tell you where to go!
Learn your limitations
I have had to accept the fact that I cannot do as much as other people. The stress of being an introvert in a big, noisy family requires me to take a quiet run in the mornings, to turn off the car radio and be quiet, or to take a 20 minute vitamin D break in the sun in the afternoon, so I can cope with everything and everyone. It does not mean I love my family less or that I do not want to be with them, it simply means that I have worn out my ability to filter through chaos and noise and I need quiet to charge those batteries. I really wish I could do all of those amazing things I see other women doing: classically homeschool while running a successful business, write books and articles, practice law, volunteer, and. . . wait! Now that I see that on paper, I am doing most of those things. Maybe not at the pace others are doing them, but nowadays I do them carefully and thoughtfully. Saying “no” was the best skill I ever learned. There is no place you cannot go or nothing you cannot do – it will just be for a shorter time, or require a break for walking outside and deep breathing. Note to self: practice saying “no”.
Supplement for your adrenal glands
There is a lot out there that can help. I recommend seeing an Integrative Medicine doctor. I take Holy Basil whenever I am entering a situation that is going to stress me out – driving someplace new, crowds, the courtroom, meetings, confrontations, even the fun sort of busy like a big shopping trip or a noisy party. Alternate herbal supplements every two months, or they lose effectiveness. I alternate Holy Basil with Ashwaganda. Everything you have ever wanted to know about your adrenal glands can be found on DrLam.com. I also tell about my own adrenal health journey here.
Find coping strategies
As you work on the physical and spiritual aspects of anxiety, you will need help to maintain a normal life. Coping strategies are those things that get you through panic, that keep you from running out of the room, from breaking down, or from a fruitless visit to the ER. When I was a music major, in college, I performed in the concert choir. I enjoyed it, but it was also a condition of my scholarship. In a hot, formal dress and heels, standing under hot lights, on stage, it was a panic attack factory if there ever was one. I started to pinch my own arm at the first sign of panic. A bit of pain brought me back and made me remember to breathe deeply. Once I saw I was making marks all over my arm I stopped. I started squeezing my toes or tapping them to the music, in my shoes instead. I learned later that these were all coping strategies. Some strategies are obviously better than others. Later, when I was married, I would tell my husband I was panicking. He would make me look him in the eye and make me repeat that I was fine, that our bodies do funny things sometimes and it is nothing to worry about. Other times he would hug me tightly. This is not a guy given to anxious thoughts and that helps. Sometimes just someone who loves you and speaks truth to you is the help you need to get through a panic attack. Occasionally he asked me what was the worst that could happen? I know where I am going when I die. And anxiety attacks are not deadly. They are just annoying. So treat it as a nuisance. Tell yourself, “Oh, this annoying thing again! I don’t have time for it! If I ignore it, it will go away.” I have even told the anxiety to go away out loud!
DO NOT google your symptoms! So many days of my life were wasted in anxiety because I typed a weird symptom into a search bar. The results are hardly ever accurate and usually indicate a dramatic, slow, painful death. You do not need that stress! This was a hard lesson for me to learn – especially after I had kids. I needed someone to bounce nerve-wracking ideas off of: my sisters, my midwife, my friends. And if it was worrisome enough that my husband agreed, my nurse practitioner sister-in-law in another country. I rotated them so no one person could know how crazy I actually was!
This list is not exhaustive. It is personal. There is lots of information out there that I do not need to repeat. There is lots of analysis on causes and symptoms. The last thing I will mention is this book:
|Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God|
By Brennan Manning / HarperOne (affiliate link)
This deals with the spiritual root of anxiety. When you have done all of the above, you will want to explore this. Worry is the opposite of trusting God. For me, the psychological and physical parts of anxiety were inseparably intertwined with my need to be in control and know everything in advance. I had to learn to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” I know, that sounds extreme. But, it was the most freeing thing I had ever experienced. This is my prayer for you. May you learn to trust God so deeply that nothing else ultimately matters but your relationship with Him. That, beloved, is where peace is found.
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