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
“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.