How to Handle an Anxiety Attack

lightning-bolt-768801_1280

Thunderstorms are breaking out all over Houston and it seems like my anxiety has come back right along with them. Sometimes anxieties aren’t exactly triggered by anything. Sometimes, like how I was this morning, a small worry would escalate into a panic-induced meltdown. The anxiety attacks I endure aren’t as frequent as they used to be, but they still happen. So for anyone out there suffering with anxiety issues, know that I am right there with you.

First of all, it’s important to ground yourself. I found a post that has these wonderful tips:

1) Look around you

2) Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.

 

This morning, when I had my anxiety attack, I focused on the room I was in. I saw the dining room table, the placemat, the bowl of cereal (gluten-free Cheerios), the spoon in the cereal bowl, and the tablet in my hand. I could touch the chair I was sitting in. I could hold the spoon and my tablet. I could grab a bottle of water cooling in the fridge. I could hear the distant thunder, the rain falling, and the praise and worship music I was playing on my tablet. I could smell the rain and the cereal. I could taste the cereal as I ate it.

Once you’ve grounded yourself, you need to take a step back and remember that the problem in your mind isn’t as big as you think it is. Anxiety is like walking through a dark tunnel with just a magnifying glass, making you think that the tunnel is longer and darker than it really is. The worst part is that sometimes, the negative thoughts will lead you into doing something completely irrational if you let them. 

There are a lot of crisis hotlines out there. If your anxiety spirals you into thoughts of suicide, call  1-800-273-TALK (8255) or your local suicide hotline. 

Prayer also helps in anxiety. Send a text or a social media message to your friends and ask them for prayers. If you don’t want them to know about your anxiety, just ask them to pray for a special intention. If you have a small group of friends that you trust to understand, send them some kind of message. They will come to you as soon as they can. 

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (whose feast day is today) said:

Does one of us feel sad? Let the name of Jesus come into his heart, from there let it spring to his mouth, so that shining like the dawn it may dispel all darkness and make a cloudless sky.

There’s also a great prayer to Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help:

Mary, dear Mother of Perpetual Help, I ask that you would walk beside me at all times leading me toward the goal of Heaven. In times of doubt, bring comfort and restore my soul. Help me to make good decisions that reflect my love for your Son. I ask that you would intercede on my behalf for the intentions that I hold in my heart. I desire that I would come to know you better as the Mother of Perpetual Help. Amen.

And if you want some comfort from the Word of God, there are a lot of Bible verses to give you some comfort. I’ll list 10 of them here.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. – Matthew 2:25-34

Psalm 6 could be interpreted as a prayer about anxiety.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”- Jeremiah 29:11

Read the story of Jesus calming the storm from the Gospel of Matthew and let him calm the storms of your heart.

But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:6-10

Romans 8:28-39

Isaiah 43:1-8

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” – 1 John 4:18

Seek out help through counseling or with a spiritual director who specializes in anxiety. Listen to a lot of good encouraging music and find people who will talk you through it even if they’re not professional counselors. And once you’ve calmed down, find something to be grateful for. It doesn’t have to be anything big like a gold medal or a promotion at your job. Sometimes, happiness can be found just by finding gluten-free Cheerios at your grocery store or from a hug from your best friend or knowing it’s the birthday of someone you love.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope. Magnify the God who is bigger than your fear and He will carry you out of it.

 

Fear Not! : Things I Learned at Cafe Catholica

Art for the Heart courtesy of the Heart of Mary Women's Fellowship. Feel free to make this your PC wallpaper.

Art for the Heart courtesy of the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship. Feel free to make this your PC wallpaper.

I have a tendency to worry too much. I overthink and overanalyze pretty much everything. I tend to think the worst of myself. When I went to Cafe Catholica yesterday, I was nervous because Cardinal DiNardo was going to celebrate Mass and give the talk for the week. He draws in a huge crowd and I was going to lead the opening hymn. I should also mention that I had to get there earlier than usual for a last-minute rehearsal. So yeah, I was more nervous than a college student during finals week.

I brought a Mass journal with me and one verse from the first reading particularly stood out to me:

“The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” – Exodus 14:14

The image you see in the header is from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship’s “Art for the Heart,” free wallpaper/phone backgrounds that the site shares every Sunday. The verse comes from 1st Peter, relating to the Bible study that I am writing:

“Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1st Peter 5:7

When I led the opening hymn, I didn’t use the mic because I tend to project (which is theatre talk for “I can be seriously loud.”). It was a good thing I did because I messed up the last chorus a bit, but my voice blended with the choir’s so my mistake went unnoticed.

I didn’t socialize much that night because I was too worried about things that ultimately didn’t matter in the long run. I confided my worries to a few close friends and tried to distract myself with getting stuff instead. (From the desire of spending my entire allowance on Catholic merchandise, deliver me Lord!)

The lecture centered on service, but what resonated with me was the idea of letting Jesus be with me and that it was okay for me to be distracted in prayer.

It wasn’t until I got home and did some major prayer time that I was able to settle my thoughts. Distractions will always be in my life, but spending time with the Lord last night and this morning is helping me to relax.

I also learned recently that I need to value myself more. I’m still learning how to love myself, to be completely honest. To see myself as a child of the one true King and not the girl who didn’t feel good enough. Instead, my hopes for the future rests in two Bible verses.

The first one is 1st John 4:18

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

The second one is Jeremiah 29:11

 For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.

Til then, I will keep on casting my anxieties onto the Lord and ask him to always abide with me.

Praising God In the Storm

It started with a minor kitchen accident. I was cooking lunch: pork chops marinated with orange juice. Unfortunately, I accidentally spilled some of the marinade over the stove range, causing the pilot light to go out. The constant clicks made me think that my kitchen was going to explode. (That’s what I get for binge-watching Burn Notice.) Thankfully, my mom and my brother were able to handle the situation.

What did I do? I panicked. I never had to deal with a broken pilot light before. I hid out in my mom’s bathroom, wishing I had someone who’d hold me. As I said before, I hate dealing with unfamiliar situations and when situations are outside of my control, my first instinct is to cry and panic.

My brother turned off the power in the kitchen and we waited for my dad to come back from work to fix it. It took a long time, but thankfully, the pilot light was dried out and the stove range was cleaned. However, we had to leave the kitchen off until it was safe. Which meant that for several hours, I was left with the uncertainty of whether or not I would cook. I worried about what I would eat the next morning.

I didn’t have any time to whine about it, though, because given that my mom had a day off from work and her idea of “relaxing” is spring cleaning, I was put in charge of cleaning my bathroom.

But the story doesn’t end there. As the day drew to a close, a major thunderstorm broke out. The power went out for a while. Since I didn’t have the safety blanket of my internet, I curled up in bed with my crucifix, my stake, and my Buffy Funko pop dolls. I know. What am I, twelve?

I prayed the Rosary during stormy situations before, both literal and metaphorical, and last night was no different. I was about halfway through the second joyful mystery when the power came back on. But I kept praying the Rosary even after the power came back because I was still scared of tomorrow.

I didn’t get much sleep, given the constant thunder, lightning, and the clicks from the pilot light, but in the morning, they were all gone. The kitchen was silent and functioning normally again. The sun came out. The streets of my city are sadly flooded, but God kept me and my family safe.

I know that I have to figure out a way to deal with being anxious about uncertainties that don’t involve panicking, but I feel like I’m doing a lot better right now.

One of the lies my so-called best friend from a few years ago told me was that I wouldn’t be able to handle myself on my own if something bad happened to my family. They, of course, said this because they wanted me completely dependent on them. At the time, I believed them. Looking back now, I realized that I faced a lot of situations that were outside of my control like getting my purse stolen and dealing with a broken heart during a retreat. But I was never alone and I didn’t have to deal with those situations by myself.

The great blessing that came out of each of the storms in my life was that I always had my family and my friends and my God. I always had someone to talk to or some task that would keep my mind away from the situation. When my purse got stolen, I ran straight to the church (since it took place in my parish’s parking lot) and told my friends and my pastor about what happened. When I was dealing with a broken heart, I had someone to talk to and made some new friends. And when my pilot light broke, my family was there to fix it and eventually listen.

Most of all, I could pray and offer my anxieties and fears. I can get shaken a lot, but I am never ever stirred to give into my fears. Like the Casting Crowns song goes, in spite of how I feel, I praise God in the storm.

So I guess the question is “Why does God allow me to experience unfamiliar situations or experiences that put me through the emotional wringer?”

The answer is because I learn something from each experience. Whenever I encounter someone who’s hurt, my first instinct is to protect and defend them because I was once in their shoes. Maybe someday, I’ll help someone else who felt betrayed by a friend, lost something important to them, or got their heart broken and I can help them because I understand their suffering.

Firefly Month: The Fear and The Silence

Bushwhacked doesn’t really raise any moral issues aside from “What is the measure of a non-human” and how the crew of Serenity chose to deal with the dead bodies they found on an abandoned ship. Said dead bodies were of families that were attacked by Reavers.

The main theme of this episode is fear. Simon is afraid of getting in the spacesuits and being out in space in general. Jayne is afraid of the dead bodies. River, burdened with the power of mind reading, feels the residual fear of the families that got attacked by Reavers. And the sole survivor of the ship turns out to have a lot of psychological trauma, so much so that he becomes like the monsters that attacked him. The episode plays out like a thriller or creature feature, with the same air of suspense that makes your skin crawl. 

Later on, the crew runs into the Alliance, who are on the lookout for Simon and River. As the Alliance men search the ship, we find out that Simon and River are hiding on the outside of the ship in space suits. Someone pointed out on the Firefly TVTropes page that while Simon was completely terrified of being out in space, River was staring out in wonder and awe because out in space, there are so few minds for her to read. She is actually more stable staying on Serenity with its small crew than if she stayed on a planet with millions of people because in the emptiness of space, her mind finds peace. It reminded me of something I read in high school about how silent rooms and empty spaces are great places for meditation.

But this idea of contemplative, silent prayer isn’t just something from New Age or Buddhism. Silence is valued very much in Catholicism. A homily from Catholic Online goes into more detail about it.

And while we’re in a Flashback Friday kind of mood, here’s a clip of one of what Father Benedict had to say about silence:

Mother Teresa, of course, is the most famous advocate of silence:

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

I hope that today, you’ll find an hour for silent prayer. You can spend it in Adoration or out in a quiet place. See how the silence affects you.

Screenshots belong to Fox and Mutant Enemy and are for editorial purposes only.

 

Lent Day 4: Joy and Fear

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lent Reflection focuses on an extraordinary woman named Mother Teresa, who lived out the joy of her mission of caring for the poorest of the poor. Fr. Barron says in his reflection that we all want joy. According to Aristotle, mankind’s ultimate end is to find happiness. However, we make the mistake of trying to fill up that missing part of ourselves.

My friend Joseph makes a case for this on his Lent reflection.

With the popularization of things like Facebook, Snapchat, and vlogging, one could make the case that today’s generation has become one of the most self-absorbed and self-centered generations of all time.

But I don’t think that’s really the point. And I would argue that my generation doesn’t exactly deserve that kind of criticism. I think the point is that we seem to be living in a culture that constantly promotes the fear of being forgotten.

Here comes the paradox of Mother Teresa’s lifestyle. The reason she is remembered is not because she actively sought attention for herself, but because she focused on giving her time and effort towards helping others. The joy of her calling is easy to see if you’ve ever seen pictures of her. Even when she was in a period of total darkness, nobody could tell because she made the best of that horrible situation by emptying herself more.

My photo today is of a gift my brother got me at SXSW. It’s a Companion Cube! In the end of Portal 2, it was GLADOS’s sign of good faith to Chell that (unless Portal 3 is created) GLADOS won’t try and get Chell ever again after Chell finally gets out of the Aperture Science labs. This has nothing to do with what I posted earlier, but I did promise that I would show what I picked for my 365grateful project and I’m gonna hold myself to it.

Image