FACING FEAR, ANXIETY and WORRY
What seem to be the natural traveling companions of grief and loss, are fear, worry, anxiety and negative thoughts and emotions. When we lose things like our jobs, our spouse (to divorce or death), or our health, we may find ourselves being fearful or anxious about our future. We may be filled with fear and worry about how we are going to survive financially. We can fear or be anxious about change, loss of our health, loss of our children, loss of stability, loss of friends or being judged...The list of things is practically endless. Did you know the most frequent Biblical command is "Do not fear?" God designed us to know fear so we would be able to detect and deal with a dangerous threat. But exaggerated, irrational or excessive fear or anxiety can interfere with our lives... it zaps our spiritual strength... it alters our perceptions of things and far too often steals the joy we might experience in life.
Nervousness and anxiety have various causes. They can be caused by physiological, genetic, or spiritual issues... they can be the result of personal experiences/traumas... and/or, as a result of the way we were raised. Anxiety can stem from subconscious feelings, but worry, is usually a result of choosing a bad way of coping with uncertainties and things we have no control over in life. Worry implies that we don't trust God or take Him at His word. Worry dwells on things in the past and worries about things that have yet to happen ...worry keeps us from living in the moment. God clearly tells us in the Bible to not worry and as with everything God tells us and commands of us, it is for good...for our protection...for our well-being.
There are many resources on this page, but I would highly recommend, this article in particular. There is a wealth of knowledge in it for those who suffer with anxiety issues, as well as for those who love someone who deals with nervousness or anxiety.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH FEAR AND FINDING THE PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING
When my husband left, I suddenly found myself starting over in middle age. I hadn't worked in almost twenty years and had chronic health issues. I feared how I was going to provide for my son and myself. My health took a turn for the worse and I had to have multiple surgeries. I suddenly had mountains of medical bills, on top of an already pretty much hand to mouth existence. We were in dire straights and I had a choice to make. I could give into my fears for our future, or I could put into practice the things I said I believed as a Christian. I call it "free falling into the arms of God". I needed to, as the old saying goes, "Let Go and Let God." Was this easy? No. Did it make sense from a human standpoint? No. Did I find peace...Yes!! Nothing in my circumstances had changed but my attitude, but I suddenly had peace in the midst of one of the worst "storms" of my life. The Bible talks about having a peace that passes all understanding. Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. That is what it is like to have no fear and to trust God. We have a loving Father in heaven that will take care of our needs. He promises in His word. I believe it, because I have found that to be a truth in my life. What a gift to have peace in the midst of calamity and uncertainty!! I have seen money come in from strangers and friends. I received money anonymously in the mail. I have had a doctor call and tell me, "that the Lord put it on her heart to not charge me."( This literally happened five minutes after I prayed for God's help with a certain situation). God has a way of working and providing so there is no doubt that He is the one that is in control and working on our behalf!
God doesn't always choose to answer all of our prayers the way we would like. Sometimes there is something greater that He wants to accomplish and that's where trust in God comes in. Through experience, I've learned to trust in God... to trust in His character. If He doesn't answer a prayer, if He doesn't bail me out of a situation, if He doesn't heal me or a loved one, it doesn't mean He doesn't hear my prayers. It means He has a greater plan, a greater good that He wants to accomplish. I trust and believe in His character and His promises that He is working all things together for my good... that He has a good plan for my life and that He will redeem what the enemy meant for my harm. God sees around the corners and bends of my future that I do not yet see. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, He allowed us to encounter financial hardships, so I could learn to trust like I never had before. I believe He wanted me to share my story with others, so I could encourage those who are facing the same ordeals and trials.
It goes against our nature to release our fears and not worry. It means having that child like faith in our Father that the Bible talks about. Mark 10: 15 says, "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." If you're a parent, you understand what that means. When children are small, they just automatically trust their parents will meet their every need. (unless they've been given a reason not to). Typically, most children do not worry about things like where their food is going to come from, etc. They learn that their parents will take care of them and they trust in that. That is how we are supposed to be with our Heavenly Father. He loves us. He will take care of us. Matthew 7: 9-11 Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he ask s for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! This doesn't mean we won't have struggles, trials, loss or suffering. It does mean though, that He will be right beside us walking with us as we face those storms and trials of life. He will take care of us, with our greater good in mind.
Sometimes people can have what are known as anxiety disorders. As much as they would like to not be afraid or worry, their brain will just not let them release their fears. I have multiple people in my life who suffer from panic attacks, phobias and anxiety disorders. Some are able to manage the symptoms with homeopathic remedies, and behavior modification therapy. Some require prescription medication. On brain scans (PET SCANS), regions of the brain that control fear and the "fight/flight" response, can actually be seen to be overly activated on the scan. It's a very real, physical problem in the body.
If you have tried to re-train your brain to not worry, or be anxious with positive re-enforcement (such as repeating scriptures, praying, etc.) and your anxieties or fears are not getting any better, then perhaps you should seek out professional/medical help. Sometimes, there are medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, a blood sugar problem, heart conditions and hormone imbalances to name just a few, that can cause symptoms like a racing heart or anxiety. As a parent, it is a good thing to know that there are many conditions such as Autism and other disorders/syndromes, where anxiety is a symptom or a co-morbid condition. It is always wise to see your doctor to rule out a medical condition that could be contributing to what you are dealing with.
If there is not a medical condition involved, then you may be dealing with an anxiety/panic disorder. This is nothing to be ashamed of, or afraid of. It doesn't mean you lack faith. Millions of people deal with these issues. They can be caused by genetics, as these conditions can run in families. Often, with the right treatment, the quality of life can be drastically improved with a little medical intervention in this area.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE AN ANXIETY DISORDER?
If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won't go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
- Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
- Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
- Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can't shake?
- Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren't done a certain way?
- Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they make you anxious?
- Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
- Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Because the anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, they can look very different from person to person. One individual may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, while another gets panicky at the thought of mingling in social situations. Someone else may struggle with a disabling fear of driving or uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts. Still another may live in a constant state of tension, worrying about anything and everything.
Despite the different ways they can manifest, all anxiety disorders share one major symptom: persistent, or severe fear or worry, in situations where most people wouldn't feel threatened.
Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety
In addition to the symptoms of irrational or excessive fear and worry, other common symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling tense and jumpy
- Anticipating the worst
- Feeling like your mind's gone blank
- Watching for signs of danger
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the body's fight-or-flight response, anxiety involves a wide range of physical symptoms. Because of the numerous physical symptoms, anxiety sufferers often mistake their disorder for a medical illness. They may visit many doctors and make numerous trips to the hospital before their anxiety disorder is discovered.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- Pounding heart
- Stomach upset or dizziness
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension
- Tremors and twitches
Anxiety Attacks and their Symptoms
Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. Anxiety attacks usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes there's an obvious trigger— getting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you're giving in a few hours—but in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.
Anxiety attacks usually peak within ten minutes, and they rarely last more than a half hour. But during that short time, the terror can be so severe that you feel as if you're about to die, or totally lose control. The physical symptoms are themselves so frightening that many people believe they're having a heart attack. After an anxiety attack is over, you may be worried about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isn't available or you can't easily escape.
Symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
- Surge of overwhelming panic
- Feeling of losing control or going crazy
- Heart palpitations or chest pain
- Feeling like you're going to pass out
- Trouble breathing or choking sensation
- Feeling detached or unreal
- Nausea or stomach cramps
- Trembling or shaking
- Hot flashes or chills
If you are suffering from any of the above then you should probably seek out medical attention.
NATURAL TREATMENTS AND SELF-HELP FOR FEAR/ANXIETY
Here are a few helpful tips from Chuck Swindoll..."Stop reading only the grim sections of the newspaper. Watch less television and start reading more books that bring a smile instead of frown. Locate a few acquaintances who will help you laugh more at life. Ideally, find Christian friends who see life through Christ's eyes, which is in itself more encouraging. Have fun together. Affirm one another."
"People of faith often feel guilty for being anxious. They wonder if perhaps they are not praying hard enough or not trusting God enough. The truth is, Christians get anxiety disorders at roughly the same rate as everyone else. This should not be a surprise. After all, Christians catch cold as often as everyone else and get cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure at the same rates as everyone else. No one thinks of these things as spiritual failings. Anxiety disorders are what happen to a person when the brain’s fire-alarm center—the amygdala—gets a “chemical burn” from bathing too long in stress chemicals, making it hypersensitive and over-reactive to new problems. Anxiety Disorders are not a failure of character or spiritual maturity. They are what happen when the brain’s stress-warning systems become overwhelmed and hyper-activated"- From pathos.com Be Not Afraid: A Christian Response To Anxiety
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WHO DEALS WITH AN ANXIETY/PANIC DISORDER
It should be noted that everyone is different and what works, or is preferred for one person, may not be the same for another person but these are general, helpful suggestions.