Overcoming Anxiety Series #1 – What Is Anxiety?

Article disclaimer: I am not a medical or psychiatric professional, nor am I qualified to give medical advice. This series on anxiety is based solely on my own experience and research. These articles are not intended to replace professional medical advice or diagnose or treat medical conditions. Please seek council from your doctor before making any changes to your prescription health regime.

If you were to poll several random people on what the definition of anxiety is,  you would receive several different answers.

Some would define anxiety as the feeling they get when they have lost their car keys, or have an exam to study for. While these feelings can certainly be described as “anxious”, they are not the kind of anxiety I will be talking about in this series.

Anxiety physically affects people in many different ways.  It is usually not the same from one person to the next.  Symptoms of anxiety can range from very mild (headaches or nervousness) to very extreme (panic attacks or inability to function in society).

What is the Definition of Anxiety?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anxiety as this: “painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill; fearful concern or interest; an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

WebMed (http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/understanding-anxiety-symptoms) describes multiple symptoms of generalized anxiety as the following: “persistent fear, sometimes without any obvious cause, that is present everyday; inability to concentrate; muscle tension; muscle aches; diarrhea; eating too little or too much; insomnia.”

What Causes Anxiety?

When trying to determine the cause of anxiety, one must consider several different factors.

The Spiritual Factor

The spiritual factor is the most common answer for anxiety sufferers among Christians today. It is often assumed that the individual is backslidden or not trusting God with their problems. While this may at times be the case, I have personally known spiritual Christian women and men, who suffer from anxiety. In fact, the weakness that anxiety caused in their lives eventually became their strengths, because they had completely given them over to the Lord.

I have heard of instances where a lost individual struggling with anxiety, trusted Christ as their Savior and found they had not only gained Heaven, but they gained victory over their anxiety! The worry they had over their eternal future had given them such turmoil, it was causing them great anxiety in other areas of their lives. Solely trusting in Christ gave them power to break the chains of fear and anxiety! If you are not sure of your own eternal destiny, please read this article that tells how there is HOPE for you!

For the Christian, there is always a spiritual factor related to anxiety. God may be using anxiety as a tool to draw you closer to Himself. He could be using anxiety to prove His precious promises to you! Do not brush aside the spiritual aspect to your anxiety problems.

The Physical Factor

At times, anxiety can be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as a malfunctioning thyroid or adrenal gland. Once you realize that you have anxiety, it is important to go to your doctor to make sure your symptoms are not the result of something medical.

I have read of many anxiety sufferers finding relief from their symptoms by making simple dietary changes. Some popular trends are ketogenic and whole food diets. Removing processed foods and drinks from their diets had helped improve how they felt and the frequency of panic attacks.

While I cannot say that lack of exercise contributes to symptoms of anxiety, exercise has been found to help reduce its symptoms, and therefore is worth mentioning.

When our bodies begin to lack the minerals and vitamins it needs to properly function, our bodies can react with symptoms of anxiety. I will not go into detail in this series on what supplements can be used to help relieve anxiety. However I strongly encourage you to do your own research, and to not rule out natural remedies in aiding your treatment for anxiety symptoms.

The Mental Factor

Every-day stress can contribute to the mental factor of anxiety. The burden of finances, children, caring for elderly parents, your own health, and even your ministry can weigh you down and cause mental anguish.

On a daily basis we are filling our minds with something. Talk radio, the 11 o’clock news, Netflix, and even gossip are just a few things we allow into our minds.

As Christians, we need to recognize our need to limit the negativity we allow into our minds. Turn off your radio and TV! Turn off your phone!  Walk away from gossip!

Philippians 4:8 – “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Filling your mind with Scripture, worship, and positivity is a HUGE healing step towards overcoming anxiety.

Recognizing Anxiety

Some people with severe anxiety question their diagnosis and believe their symptoms are some kind of medical issue. The doctors must have missed something! They will spend excess amounts of time and money, going from doctor to doctor, requesting test after test, before finally accepting their diagnosis. Once they have come to terms with the reality that what they have is truly anxiety, they will finally begin the healing process.

Conclusion

Once you have accepted the fact that you have anxiety, and you have recognized the three factors that could be causing your anxiety, you need to determine your path of healing. 

Natural healing is one option that is not widely known. While this healing path is a longer road, it has much less unpleasant side effects, both short and long-term. Finding the right balance of minerals and vitamins for your body is a journey that will require much patience, but I believe in the end, is very rewarding. 

Prescription medication is a more known option for anxiety sufferers. While the effects are immediate, most anxiety medication is not meant for long-term use. Antidepressant medications can be taken long term, but over time, doses will need to be adjusted. Like anxiety medication, antidepressants can also have unpleasant side effects both short-term and long-term.

So how do you know what is right for you? The best way to determine what healing process best suits your own personal situation, is to seek council. A pastor, herbalist, physician, or a psychologist are all ways for gaining knowledge of what your options are. Have your spouse or a close family member help you in your decision process. Lastly, don’t forget to pray. Ask God to direct your decision, and to lead you on the correct path. 

Remember, every person is different. Not only will each person’s cause for anxiety be different, their level of anxiety and reaction to anxiety are going to be different, as well. It is only logical to assume, that each person will heal differently. So don’t get discouraged if your healing process is longer, or different from someone else’s! God has promised to give us wisdom if we ask. Once you have prayed and soght council, be confident in the direction God has guided you.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:5 KJV

http://bible.com/1/jas.1.5.KJV

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If this article was helpful to you, please be sure to like it! If you know of someone who suffers from anxiety and is searching for answers, please be sure to direct them to Claiming the Promise!

Stay tuned for next week’s Overcoming Anxiety Series #2 – Six Helps for Christians With Anxiety.


My Story with Anxiety

Hello, my name is Carrie.  I’m a mother of 4 crazy kids between the ages of 7 and 15.  I’m also married to a wonderful man who has battled a stroke, thyroid cancer, and now stage 3 colorectal cancer, in just the last two years. The last couple years have been very stressful to be sure.  God has been with me each step of each day.  The times I want to fall apart and throw a huge temper tantrum, God’s overwhelming peace floods over me.

I never would have been able to get through these difficult times without God’s precious promise of peace.  And I never would have claimed God’s promise of peace without the journey through anxiety He brought me through several years ago.  I want to share my story with you, because I want you to know that I understand what you may be going through.

One beautiful spring morning I woke up feeling as though I had the stomach flu.  Adrenaline rushes knocked me off my feet. My heart was palpitating, and I thought I was going to vomit.  I felt better in bed, so I went back to bed.  My husband stayed home to help with our kids getting to school and to take care of our toddler boys. For several days I struggled.  I would get up each day, try to eat, then wind up back in bed.  Finally, after five days of this, I went to the doctor, thinking maybe it was my gallbladder or something.

“It sounds like you might have anxiety.”

“No, I’m a stay-at-home mom.  I don’t have that much stress in my life.  Besides, I’m a Christian.  I don’t believe in anxiety.”

“Even stay-at-home moms can have stress in their lives.  Even if you don’t believe in anxiety, I really believe this is what you have.”

Later that day, my husband took the kids to the park.  I came along, even though I felt as though I was in a fog.  I felt like I wasn’t even really there.  Watching my kids play, I called my sister and sobbed on the phone.  My sisters are my rock.  Not only do they listen well, but I often glean from their wisdom. I was surprised when she confided something to me that I had never known.  She too, had struggled with anxiety.

The next day, I got out of bed.  I got dressed.  I did my hair. I dry-heaved.  I took my kids to school. I cried.  I had panic attacks.  I cried some more.  I prayed and begged God to take this feeling of anxiety away.

Over the next year, I literally fought a battle with anxiety. I was stubborn.  I wouldn’t take medication.  Instead, I went to a local herbal and vitamin store and talked to the owner who guided me to many supplements and vitamins.   I started exercising, and changed the way I was eating.  I began drinking healthy green smoothies and eliminated caffeine.  I had to take care of myself physically, so I could take care of my family. I realized, though, that healing from anxiety was not all physical.

Taking care of myself mentally was not something I even realized I was doing at the time.  I had a friend who knew what I was going through, who remained in contact with me through it all.  She didn’t judge me, she only encouraged me and gave helpful advice.  She told me I was strong enough to get through this, and reminded me of God’s promises of peace. Looking back, I could not have gotten through that time in my life without my friend. 

I also began to realize I had to stop focusing on what I was feeling and the only way I knew to do that was to focus on other people.  I began to write cards for sick church members, bake bread for neighbors.  I made it a goal to do at least one thing for someone else every day.

The most important and effective change I made in my life during this time was to strengthen my relationship with the Lord.  Being a second-generation Christian, I grew up memorizing the scripture and hearing it preached and taught from the pulpit.  All those precious promises spread throughout the Word of God were only words to me.  I had never had reason to claim these promises.  Promises of unconditional love, bountiful peace, and endless joy.

Most mornings I woke very early, and very suddenly, with my heart pounding a million miles a minute.  Reading my Bible was the only thing that could calm my heart, and it took on a different meaning in my life.  I LIVED to read my Bible, and the peace that would flood through me as I read.  In the beginning, I only read through Psalms.  I read them over and over.  I kept a notebook with my Bible and wrote out the verses that I felt God was giving me.

I would also take very early walks. This was my prayer time with God.  Before the sun was up, I would begin my walk around my neighborhood, talking to Him.  Usually crying and begging Him to heal me, or at least help me get through the day.

Physically, I was dealing with some serious symptoms of anxiety.  Heart palpitations, shaky legs, dry mouth, headaches, severe nausea.  I had lost 40 lbs in just a few months. I had separation anxiety issues.  I would cry and throw myself into my husbands arms when he would come home from work. (My poor husband!!)

One day, I reached a pivotal moment.  It had been 9 months, and I was still struggling.  I was on my morning walk, and had ended my walk by going to my back porch.  Our back yard is beautiful.  The city made a sanctuary out of a piece of land behind our house that has a large pond on it.  I can see it very clearly from my back porch, along with lots of tall grasses and beautiful trees.  As the sun came up, it’s rays filtering through the tree branches, tears streamed down my face.

“Lord, if You want me to have anxiety the rest of my life, I accept it.  Please just be with me to help me bear it.  You are Good, You are God, and You are Holy and Just.  I praise Your Name.  Thank You for giving me this anxiety.”

After that day, I slowly began to get better. Then, one morning I woke up and realized it had been a few days since I had felt the anxiety. Soon the days turned into months. 

I would like to say that my anxiety has never returned, but the truth is, there are still days it rears its ugly head head in my life. It’s different now, though.  Now I know that it’s going to be OK.  That God is on my side.  That there is HOPE.  I have PEACE.  JOY is always within reach.

I have a new life verse.

Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

It is special to me because I learned through experience that God can and will “keep our minds” if we seek Him and trust Him.

The picture below was taken two summers ago when our family went camping at Lake Huron.  I am in no way a photographer, but this sunset was so gorgeous and so beautiful.  It is just an example to me of the great things God has done in my life, and how He has blessed my journey through anxiety.

The purpose of this blog is to help encourage other Christians who struggle with anxiety.  God can bring you through to the other side, and you too can have peace.

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The End of Summer and a New Beginning

This week marks the end of summer for our family. Monday beings the craziness of school, sports, and music lessons. While I’m sad to see lazy summer days go, I’m looking forward to getting back to a routine.

This summer was more laid back than usual for our family. Because Gabe needed to be close to the cancer center, and because the treatments were making him feel sick, any overnight trips were difficult to plan.

We did manage to get away for one night at Port Crescent State Park in Michigan! Their cabin that sleeps six had an opening at the last minute, and since Gabe had just finished his radiation treatments, we decided to go. It was wonderful! We had our own private beach right outside the cabin. I’m so thankful we were able to go!

Our beach scene from the front door of our cabin at Port Crescent State Park.

I also was able to make it to Lexington, Kentucky for a quick weekend to meet my brand new, great-niece! Kennedy Diane Calhoun is so precious, and I can’t wait to see her again soon!

Welcome to the world, Kennedy Diane!

Finally, I was able to take the kids to the Toledo Zoo. If you have never been there, you should go. The Toledo Zoo has been voted one of the top ten zoos in the United States. It had been a few years since we were there last , so it was fun to get to spend that time with the kids.

Six more weeks and Gabe’s treatments will be over! Gabe will get a final scan to confirm the cancer is gone, and then declared NED (no evidence detected). After five years of being NED, he will officially be in remission! 

As I look forward to life returning to normal for our family, I also feel a little timid in leaving this valley behind. You see, God has been here with us. 

We’ve seen Him work miracles. He has provided every single need, and blessed us above what we ever imagined He would! The close fellowship I have had with Him, and the peace that I have experienced while walking through this valley with Him, has been life-changing. I’m thankful for how He led me through the most difficult time of my life! 

For me, this is not just the end of another summer. It is a beginning of a new normal. I don’t know what our new normal will look like. I do know I don’t need to worry. If I can trust God to get us through a difficult year-and-a-half, I can most definitely trust Him with normal!

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” – Psalms 34:19

Our Special Summer

Swaying with the swings smooth motion, I welcome the gentle breeze on my warm face. The setting sun spreads it’s glorious color across the sky, putting on a show of God’s amazing handiwork. My mind drifts to last summer and our family trip to Michigan’s thumb area.

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July, 2016 View of Lake Huron from our tent door.

How I longed to be on the beach at Port Crescent, chasing the waves with my bare feet. The sunsets at Port Crescent were amazing every night. The nightly bonfires represented family closeness and spiritual bonding. Sleeping in a tent meant scary stories and midnight bathroom trips. Coffee tasted best when slowly made over an open flame. I could hear my kids laughter as I invisioned them playing in the sand, and feel my husband’s embrace as we sat and watched the sunset together.

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July 2016, Port Crescent State Park, after a storm.

 

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July, 2016 Sunset over Lake Huron after a storm.

But no, we will not be visiting our favorite place this year. This summer has had fewer library trips and park visits. No lazy days spent picnicking at a local beach, or even day trips to the zoo. There will be no days set aside for America’s most loved roller coaster park, no out-of-state visits to see family, and no, there will be no camping.

This summer has been one of struggle in watching my husband suffer through radiation. It has been a summer of loneliness (your friends can’t walk each mile of your valley with you). It has been a summer of crazy schedules, a messy house, and many carry-out dinners and family movie nights.

As I sway in the cooling breeze, watching the last rays of sunlight dip below the horizon, I realize I no longer want to think back to last summer, or of this summers disappointments.

Instead, I begin to think of our church family’s generosity that has allowed us to get carry-out from restaurants we never would consider with four kids. The Clear Play DVD player a friend gave us has allowed family movie nights to include all the Avenger movies. Friends have helped pick up our kids from practices when we have schedule conflicts, and neighbors and family have come over to fix our falling-apart yard.

Lazy days at home have included slip-n-slide fun, gardening, trampoline wars, front-yard ninja battles, and Star Wars recipe cooking. Let’s not forget homemade popsicles, ice cream, smores, and popcorn balls. Reading aloud of adventures found in books written decades ago, have helped take us some place else, where we can explore caves or ride a rocket to Mars, right from our very own living room. Everyone has had a chance to improve in their guitar and ukulele playing skills. And endless rounds of Battleship and Zingo have kept all our competitive spirits alive.

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Playing a game of Battleship with my son, Bryce.

This summer has not been one we would have purposely planned, and it has for sure been filled with emotional struggle. However, it has also been a summer of opportunity as we grow closer as a family, and of continual thankfulness. Thankfulness that Gabe is alive, that there is hope for healing, and of God’s grace through this all.

As the stars (and mosquitos) begin to come out, lightening bugs begin to flicker above the grass. Bullfrogs begin their territorial calls while crickets start to chirp in unison, creating a chorus of nightly music. My heart joins in with their melody, praising God for giving our family this special summer.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Summer of 2015, watching the sunset with Gabe, before his stroke and before thyroid and colon cancer.

He Overwhelms My Days with Good

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Peeking down through the old, grated ceiling vent, I could see my dad sitting in his recliner. He was watching the eleven o’clock news, his cigarette sending puffs of smoke into the air. He yelled to my mother, who responded in turn with a heated tone. Realizing that a fight was brewing, I got up from the floor and tip-toed back to my bed. 

In my young, seven-year-old mind, I remember life before Jesus as a life filled with uncertainty. My parents were fighting a lot. I had a school friend whose parents had recently divorced, and I feared that would become my story.

One day, someone knocked on our front door and told my mom about Jesus. I remember she cried, then bowed her head to pray. A few weeks later, those same people came back and told my dad about Jesus. He cried, and bowed his head and prayed, too. Our family would never be the same!

Shortly after getting saved, my parents were invited to Hope Baptist Church. My dad never heard anyone speak with authority as he had that morning. When Pastor Sowell lifted his King James Bible into the air and declared, “don’t take my word for it”, my dad knew we were in the right place.

No longer were my days filled with fear over my parents fighting. Our family’s days now revolved around the changes we were making for God.

We went to a Christian book store and bought King James Bibles. We packed away our imodest clothing and worldly music.  My dad even gave up smoking and drinking. I didn’t hear swearing in the house anymore, and yes, my parents were filled with such zeal in their new-found faith, they no longer fought as they used to.

My family threw themselves into ministry wherever there was an opportunity. If the church doors were open, we were there. I remember cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming between pews. I worked in the nursery and helped wash dishes during Bible Conference. Once, I even did the worst job ever- scraping gum from the bottom of the pews! We sang in nursing homes, and even helped out in a ministry that focused on inner-city kids. As I got older, I had the opportunity to be involved in our tiny orchestra, and girls ensemble.

Life was good, and we were too busy to think about it! We were growing in the Lord as a family, and it was an amazing journey! Soon, I was in the singles group at church, where I met my husband. It wasn’t long before we were married and started our own family, beginning our own journey with the Lord. We have continued to throw ourselves into ministry, trying to raise our own children to have a deep love and desire for the Lord.

Life hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had our bumps along the way, just like any other normal family. We’ve had heart-breaks and sicknesses, frustrations and fears. Yet, each step of our bumpy journey, we have seen our days overwhelmed by Gods goodness!

We have watched other families, who don’t know Jesus, struggle with a diagnosis they’ve just recieved. They find themselves desperate, crying out for some kind of hope. They post on social media of their depression and despair, searching for answers that will help them cope with their grief.

And then, there’s my husband and I, sitting in treatment rooms, surgery waiting rooms, and appointment rooms, smiling, and sometimes laughing! How? Why? Even if our worst fears come to pass, there is joy at the end of our journey, and God’s grace for along the way. Because, He has overwhelmed our days with good!

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” – Psalms 34:8

“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:19‭-‬21

 

The Shepherd’s Voice

Tugging my mother’s sleeve, I whispered, “what are those people doing?” I pointed to the many weeping adults who were flooding the isle, making their way to the alter.

“They heard God’s voice. He wants them to come and talk with Him”.

I pondered that a few minutes. How did they hear God’s voice? Did they actually hear Him talk?

I listened as the evangelist played the piano with soothing confidence, his deep voice booming through the auditorium. My tummy felt funny. My heart was racing. The palms of my hands were sweaty. I could hear sobbing, as people continued to flood the alter. The preacher paced the platform, waving his hanky every now and then, shouting, “glory!”

Tugging my mom’s sleeve again, I asked, “how do you know when God is talking to you?”

My Mom smiled at me. “It’s different for everyone. Some people feel it in their hearts. Some people get nervous. You will know if He’s talking to you.”

At eight years of age, I realized that God was speaking to me, urging me to come talk to Him. I shakily left the pew and joined the dozens of others at the alter.


“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” – John 10:27

Listening to the Shepherd’s voice that day is something I will never forget. It is also something I will never regret. I have told this story to each of my kids, and they each have asked me the same question:

“What does the Shepherd tell you?”

There are times when He speaks conviction to me, and points out my pride or lack of self-control. It is hard for me to obey His voice sometimes, like when He tells me to witness to someone, or take a stand when I’m the only Christian around. When I confess my sin to Him, God is right there, extending forgiveness.

On the day’s I feel like I can’t keep going, that this path He has asked me to walk is too hard, He encourages me and offers reassurance. I feel my strength begin to come back, and I’m able to keep going.

Sometimes, I have to ask God the same question over and over again. He has always been patient with me, and proves His love for me over and over again!

When life gets tough, and I don’t know how things will turn out and I become fearful, the Shepherd whispers words of comfort and peace. He knows exactly what to say to me, to chase away my fears and replace them with hope. 

Then, there are days when I don’t need encouragement or chastisement. I don’t need comfort or peace. The Shepherd just fellowships with me! He reveals Himself to me through the beauty of a sunset or in a rainbow after a storm. When I watch birds flittering about, moving from tree to tree, I marvel at His Creation. It is in these moments I hear my Shepherd’s voice whisper His love to me, and I feel His hand on my shoulder. Worship wells inside of me, and I have to sing praises to my Father or I will burst!

If you have never heard The Shepherd’s voice, I strongly urge you to carefully listen for it. If you ask him to speak to you, and you take the time to stop and listen, He WILL reveal Himself to you, and you will never be the same!

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalms 46:10

Abundant Little Blessings

Summer is here! And despite a few minor setbacks due to my reaction to stress (anyone else allergic to stress?) and Gabe’s port failing, our family has been able to enjoy the first official week of no school. This week marks the end of phase 1 in Gabe’s treatment. Radiation and chemo begins on Monday.

Although it was hard to deal with the setbacks, I am very grateful that we experienced them.

For it was through the difficult moments that God decided to show Himself to me in abundant little ways.

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think….” – Ephesians 3:20a

From gifts handed to us at church on Sunday, packages sent in the mail stuffed with gift cards on Tuesday, texts and email messages from friends near and far all week long, and the extraordinary kindness of neighbors, God was pretty busy this week.  Not to mention bumping into friends at parks, and hour-long phone conversations with family and friends offering hope and prayers. All of these little blessings added up to be one extraordinary message from God. He was thinking of us.

We kicked off the summer last night with the family getting ice cream after church. Since Gabe is not having any of the side effects of his chemo right now, he thought it would be a good idea to get a taste of ice cream before the chemo starts again. (I don’t know why he’s making this face, but he did it on all five pictures we took!)

Don’t underestimate God’s thoughts of you. When life gets stressful, He’s thinking of you, and He really wants you to know it!

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” – Psalms 139:17‭-‬18