“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 ESV
Our thoughts can give us hope and renew our faith. In dealing with anxiety, depression, or fear those negative thoughts can destroy our well being. If you are stuck in that negative thought pattern, it becomes a habit to think the worst. We can defeat ourselves before we even try.
I understand that I must let go of things that are out of my control. However, I never knew how to do that. People say, “just let it go.” But we all know, it is not so easy.
I have embarked on the process of becoming a more healthy person, especially mentally. I have come to learn how to let things go. There are several things I have actively pursued in trying to let go. Thankfully, I am beginning to see a good outcome.
A Mini-Manifesto on How to Handle Anxiety
#1 Prayer and Meditation
A therapist suggested to me that I use meditation to ground myself and learn how to be more aware. As a Christian, I fought the practice of meditation because a lot of the experts in the field study other religions. But as the anxiety affected my daily life, I decided to try it.
My medical insurance offered on their website, meditation practices. There was a woman who narrated the practice. She didn’t sound weird, never used any religious tones. It was about breathing and grounding myself. Then, I researched and learned about apps that have guided meditation. I found Headspace, Calm, and Abide. Abide is a Christian app, while the other two are not. I cannot tell you, how much meditation has changed my life. It has helped me become more aware, to stop those racing thoughts, and even helped me to pray with focus.
Another thought I carry with me in times of despair is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did not suffer and die on the cross for us to live fearfully and in a constant state of panic! Jesus wants us free from that burden and bondage.
I usually wake up in the middle of the night and begin to think about all the bad stuff around me. I think of every possible scenario of how to attack anything wrong that could come my way. This thought pattern would keep me awake for hours. One night, I woke up and thought about something. About a minute into the negative thought, I realized, there is nothing I can do about this at 2:00 in the morning, so the best thing I can do for myself is fall back asleep. Honestly, I surprised myself with that thought. I knew that meditation was helping me.
#2 Being Kind and Gentle with Oneself
My inner voice can be a real jerk. I know this stems from fear of failure and perfectionism. Our perception becomes clouded from social media. We see friends/people’s good sides, fake and inflated, and we become dissatisfied with our life. Dissatisfaction is the purpose of advertising and marketing. Hate where you are at because something new is better and leave no room for contentment. I had a friend say to me, “if I spoke about myself the way you speak about yourself, you would be so mad at me.” We can be our own worst enemy. I realized that most of the things I am upset about, will not matter in weeks, months or years.
#3 Deepening Your Relationship with God
Relationships take work. We can pray to God like He is a genie fulfilling our every wish and command or we can learn about God through reading/studying The Bible, worship, and prayer. We fill our lives with other things that we think will help when God is waiting for us to turn back to Him. However, my faith increases when I remember all that God has done for me.
#4 Self-Care and Therapy
Self-care is different for everyone. It has been suggested to me to take a bubble bath and get a pedicure; I’d rather not. I would much rather be in nature alone or take a day to rest. Regularly, I see a therapist and a physical therapist to help my mind and body. There is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. If you take care of yourself, then you can take care of others. Remember in an emergency on an airplane, put your oxygen mask on first, then assist others. The same goes for taking care of yourself.
#5 Find a Creative Outlet
Hey, all you artists, singers, writers, and dancers, etc.! Find a hobby or dive deep into your talents. It feels cathartic to me to write. It helps to get it out into an art form. If you have trouble finding your inner artist, I highly recommend this book, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.
Unforgiveness will eat you alive if you don’t address it. Learning to forgive is difficult, but I found a way to do it. Forgive and forget isn’t plausible in every situation; there are different levels of forgiveness. 1.) A person can forgive and remain in contact with the person and move on past the issue together. 2.) A person can forgive but never speak or see the person ever again because they died or they are dangerous. And 3.) a person forgives, interacts with them but keeps a solid boundary. Jesus’ ministry is about reconciliation. When you drudge up the past, gossip about the person, or always think about the sin, it will not serve you well. Your body will feel like it is re-living the moment again. Take the time to work through it, and God will heal your heart.
#7 Help in the Moment of the Attack
An anxiety attack can feel like you are about to die. Your entire body goes into fight or flight mode. Your breath is shallow, your heart races, you sweat, and experience pain and loss of control. There are a couple of ways that I learned to calm down the anxiety attack: cover your left eye and breathe and the other is to ground yourself by engaging in your senses.
There is something about covering your left eye that stops your brain from engaging in the attack. Your left eye controls the right side of the brain as the right eye controls the left side of the brain. When the left eye is covered, the right side of your brain takes over, and your analytical side comes through and sees the situation for what it is. You are probably not in immediate danger. After a few slow cleansing breaths, the feeling should reside.
If you feel an attack coming on but still feel like you are in control, start to engage all of your senses. First, look at something around you that seems pleasant.
Take a moment to look at it and see the joy it brings. Find something to smell that is pleasant. Just note the scent, but don’t dwell on it. Listen to sounds you hear around you, people talking or laughing, a bird chirping, footsteps. If you have access to a taste, like mints in your pocket or a piece of gum, savor it. I have used, Bach’s Rescue Remedy Pastilles to chew on when I began to feel anxious. Lastly, touch something you have nearby. I have run my fingertips along the zipper of my purse. Others I have known have kept a smooth rock from the beach with them to touch when they feel anxious. Whatever you need to do to feel calm, do it!
You can do this!
Actively working through the anxiety will make your triggers feel less heightened. The good news is, with practice, it does get easier. I have found myself calm in situations now, that used to set off anxiety.
For some reason, I get triggered by standing in line at a busy grocery store. I have left a cart full of food in the store and ran out of a store because the anxiety was so hard. Movie theaters used to make me claustrophobic and panic-stricken and dental visits. Lord knows I would have a panic attack before, during, and after the appointment. Yesterday, I sat through a dental appointment that required two fillings. Every so often, I could feel the panic come up. But I told myself, I have not worked so hard to let this overtake me anymore. And thankfully, I made it through and enjoyed the rest of the day.
I hope that something listed speaks to you and can put you on the path of healing.
“Dear Heavenly Father, I put my faith and trust in you. Lord, it says in your word numerous times, to not worry and to meditate on what is true and noble. I entrust my life in your capable hands. Remind me all you have carried me through in my life. Give me grace with myself and remove this negative bias that things will not get better. I know that Jesus did not die and suffer on the cross for me to be in an anxious state. Thank you for this new life, in Jesus’ Name AMEN!”
*Disclaimer-I was not paid by any company for the products or apps I suggested in this post.