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

———————————

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.

20160729_210609

Getting Through the Crazy

I should have seen the warning signs. The increased headaches, sleepless nights, and loss of appetite were all classic signs. But for some reason I ignored the signs and continued on, without thought, with my crazy life. 

It wasn’t until I was sitting in my van yesterday, trying to breathe through severe heart palpitations, that I realized ignoring those signs was a bad choice. That realization came too late, however. 

The palpitations turned into a panic attack, and I just sat there in my van, breathing deeply, fighting the urge to get out and run. Adrenaline rushed through my body, making me feel weak and shaky. 

Oh brother, who has time for this? 

To say that I was feeling overwhelmed this week would be an understatement. I have woken up everyday feeling as though a truck ran over me during the night. Monday I began wondering if it was Friday yet. I even looked at my calendar for the following two months and begin to cry.
Being as this is something I am working through still today, I thought I would open myself up completely to you, dear readers. I can’t give advice on how to ignore stress, or reveal three new steps to avoiding panic attacks. If I had the wisdom to do so, there wouldn’t be a need for me to share these very personal details of my life with you. 

I do know one thing, however. I know where to go when my body betrays me and I am in the midst of fighting anxiety. I know where I can run to find peace again. I don’t need to stop and analyze why I had a panic attack yesterday. I don’t even need to try and change this crazy life of mine. I just need to slow down enough to remember God is there, waiting for me to turn to Him.

“When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path.” – Psalms 142:3a

Even in the midst of a panic attack, I can feel peace, because God knows the path I’m on, and He knows what is ahead. 

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.   Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:30‭-‬31

I know in the midst of a panic attack, God knows exactly what is going on in my body, and He cares. 

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” – Psalms 139:7‭-‬10

In the midst of a panic attack, I know that God is with me. No matter how awful it feels, or how alone I may feel, God is there. 

“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” – Psalm 91:4

I know that I can always run to God. There is always peace to be found, no matter what circumstance we are in. I may not be able to change my circumstances that are causing the stress and anxiety. I can, however, find peace in just knowing I’m not alone. God promised to be my shield in my crazy life. 

So, although I felt pretty terrible yesterday for a few moments, these verses brought comfort to my very being. I was able to breathe normally again, and walk into my kids school. I even smiled, and chatted with teachers, hugged my boys, and laughed with other moms. This morning, I am thanking the Lord for the panic attack I had yesterday. It put my mind where it needed to be, in order to get through the crazy!