Devotions, Sisterhood Summer

Freedom From Anxiety

This week’s Sisterhood Summer devotion is going to be a little different than normal. We are going to talk about some practical ways to fight anxiety in our lives. If you know someone struggling with anxiety please share today’s thoughts with them.

Hi everyone! I am a mental health counselor in training and the topic of anxiety is one I strongly advocate about.

We have all experienced some sort of anxiety in our daily lives and to a certain extent, a healthy level of anxiety can be good. It can help motivate us, plan for the future, problem solve, and protect us from dangerous situations. However, for some people anxiety can build up to the point where it becomes crippling, consuming their every thought and taking over their body’s reactions.

Some of the symptoms of anxiety may include prominent tension, worry, and feelings of apprehension, about everyday events and problems, heart palpitations, trembling, difficulty breathing, muscle tensions, nausea, difficulty sleeping, inability to relax, etc. just to name a few.

The reason I mention all these symptoms is because when anxiety is ignored these symptoms can escalate to the point of an anxiety attack which is an EXTREMELY FRIGHTENING sensation to experience and if not managed properly can lead to other dangerous physical complications.

I recently had a very personal experience with this involving my mom. During a recent anxiety triggering event, my mom’s blood pressure skyrocketed, she experienced strong and rapid heart palpitations, chest pain, shivering all over her body, sweats, and a painful pulsating sensation in her head. She had not slept in 6 days and she felt like she was going to die.

Her final experience with it was that she began to experience stroke-like symptoms, her vision blurred, she had slurred speech, could not recognize those around her, and became unbalanced and could not hold herself up.

When we took her to the hospital her blood pressure was 180/131. The doctors immediately medicated her and checked for a stroke and found out that her symptoms were actually produced by an anxiety attack and if left untreated could have caused her a stroke. With all this said, anxiety is not a joke and it is important to take seriously those suffering from anxiety.

Jesus knew anxiety is a serious thing.

He experienced it himself to the point when the day drew near for Him to be crucified on the cross the Bible says that his sweat was like blood.

“And in His anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44, NIV).

Jesus, in this moment, may have been actually sweating blood. Sweating blood is known today as Hematidrosis, and although rare, it happens to those experiencing extreme measures of stress and anxiety, especially those who are about to face death. And when anxiety and stress levels are so intense the blood capillaries located in sweat glands can burst.  This goes to demonstrate how anxiety has serious physical symptoms that can be very detrimental to the body. This also demonstrates that Jesus truly understood what anxiety and stress feel like.

He understood anxiety so well that he said:

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34 (NLT)

Anxiety and worries for just one day are all our body is able to handle. Anything more than that deteriorates our mind and body, thus today’s trouble is truly enough for today.

It is important to know how to handle anxiety, therefore, I want to leave you with clinically proven ways to handle anxiety and anxiety attacks.

1. If your anxiety is related to a problem that can be solved now, immediately, begin problem-solving.

2. If your anxiety is related to a problem you cannot solve now and you are worried about it, practice mindfulness. Worry is your mind’s way to escape a painful emotion. DO NOT suppress your emotions or enlarge them. Pay more attention to the physical symptoms than the thoughts or nerve-wracking images in your mind. Based on Dialectical Behavioral Techniques focusing on your thoughts during an episode of anxiety only increases them. You must manage the physical symptoms first before you can begin to reframe your thoughts. By not focusing on the emotion the sensations will begin to decrease.

3. If the emotional intensity is too high and/or you are experiencing an ANXIETY ATTACK try the following Crisis Survival Skills:

a. Submerge your face under cold water for 30 seconds. This will induce the divers reflex which begins to send oxygen and blood to your brain, reducing your heart rate and calming the anxiety.

b. Tense and relax your muscles one group at a time. (eg. neck & shoulders, then arms, then hands, etc. all the way from head to toes)

c. Soothe yourself through the 5 senses: Look at something pleasant, listen to soothing music, touch something soft, smell something pleasant, eat or drink something that taste good.

d. Find something meaningful to focus on in the present moment. (e.g Sing a worship song)

e. Focus your entire mind on one thing in the moment. (Meditate on a bible verse that brings comfort)

f. Pray and meditate (Remember the Lord is your STRENGTH!)

*If the symptoms persist see a medical doctor and ask about psychotropic medications or herbal remedies—such as lavender tea, chamomile tea, etc.—that can help calm the anxiety. Once the anxiety has been controlled practice the Crisis Survival Skills.

Nevertheless, and most importantly,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Ask the Lord to bring peace and calmness in the midst of your anxiety. Tell him to take full control over your mind and body and to not let the enemy captivate any part of you. Tell the Lord to take captive every anxious thought and begin to focus your eyes on Him. The Lord is your strength and he will care for you. However, also never be afraid to seek help from a doctor, therapist or other mental health professional. God has instilled his wisdom on all of us and has equipped others to help you navigate this complicated emotion. Never be afraid to ask for support. You don’t have to manage your anxiety alone.

God bless you! I hope this information allows to experience some freedom from anxiety.

Reference: LINEHAN, M. M. (2017). DBT SKILLS TRAINING MANUAL. S.l.: GUILFORD.

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