Anxiety is nothing to be ashamed about. We all feel anxiety at some point in some way.
Anxiety is such a tough thing to talk about; sometimes I don’t even know how to start talking about anxiety. So I’ll start with talking about what happened this week.
I felt anxiety creeping in through the week, and I never really knew why. I tried to address it here and there, but it was happening with such subtlety that I wasn’t even able to hit the nail on the head, as is often so tough to do with something like anxiety. I felt happy and joyful through any one day, but still had anxiety gnawing at me and poking itself into my head now and then.
So let’s get to Saturday. It was a bit of a lonely day, most of the day, pretty much all of my friends were out doing something. The whole day of Saturday, I had four face-to-face interactions with people – three of which lasted five minutes or less. Sometimes, I need time like that to decompress; the silence can be soothing.
Unfortunately, Satan clearly saw it as an opportunity to use my anxiety against me. I could feel it starting to happen, so I forced myself to get outside in the beautiful weather and hammock and read. It felt good for a little bit, but the enjoyment soon faded and the anxiety was back. It eventually culminated in being up past 2am and me having two panic attacks.
Anxiety sucks. Especially if it’s unchecked. Severe anxiety attacks can be dangerous and even hospitalizing. It’s scary to feel like something in your head has that much control over your body. It can even be tough to believe.
My biggest struggle is that everything can be good, then anxiety can get into my head for just a moment and make me doubt everything. It’s so overwhelming.
Over the years that I’ve dealt with anxiety, I’ve learned some things about it. I should clarify, I’ve learned some things that work for me. I won’t guarantee that any advice I give would work for anyone or everyone, but it helps me. So, if you struggle with anxiety, maybe some of this can help you.
One of the main things I’ve learned, is that it’s helpful for me to not try too hard to find the reasons for my anxiety in the moment I am feeling it. It sounds a little counter-intuitive. After all, we live in a society that wants all the answers right now. I’ve learned that if I try too hard to figure it out in the moment, that I can’t find answers – or at least the right ones – and it usually only makes it worse. I’m not saying to ignore it and just assume it will get better, but make sure that you are in a calm state when you try to deeply address it.
It’s also important to not over-analyze. This one is so much easier said than done. The problem is, we continually over-analyze and come up with catastrophic what-ifs, to the point that it removes us from reality. A sort of derealization happens, in which we no longer feel connected to ourselves or our surroundings. So if you’re struggling with anxiety, try your very best to be fully present in whatever moment you are in. If the moment you are in is only making things worse, step away from that moment and create a new one as best you can.
I think it’s also important to address the issue of panic attacks and some ways I’ve found helpful to cope with them. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, it’s really tough… but you’re not alone. So, three ways I’ve learned to combat panic attacks.
- Breathing. Let me unpack this – I don’t want it to just sound cliche. Panic attacks often drive you to the point that it’s next to impossible to draw in a full breath. One of the ways I’ve been able to calm this a little bit is by repeatedly telling myself that my anxiety cannot and will not take away my ability to breathe. It may change how I breathe, but my anxiety is incapable of taking away my ability to breathe altogether. Once your breathing begins to calm, take the deepest breaths you can, and actually watch your stomach rise and fall with each inhale and exhale, constantly reminding yourself that you are in control of that.
- Rebuke it. If you aren’t a Christian, this one may look a little different. But last night, during my panic attack, I felt under attack. I recalled the reality of spiritual warfare and simply called on God. Attributing the anxiety to Satan, I simply stated, possibly even out loud, “Satan, in the name of God, get yourself and this anxiety out of my head.” Almost instantly, I felt a peace. After all, Satan flees from the name of God. If you aren’t a Christian, perhaps you can simply rebuke the emotion of anxiety and demand that it has no place in your head.
- Let it happen. This is where I go if it’s already too late and I’m in the midst of a panic attack. Trying to take some sort of action may make it really tough to break out of it. I’ve learned that if I just take time to recognize what is happening and embrace those emotions instead of running, it helps. I let myself feel and let the anxiety release through crying. Not just gentle little tears, I’m talking ugly crying, snot everywhere. There is no shame in crying and no shame in letting it out. If you let it happen, you can know that it will end. It’s been helpful to me to accept what is happening and let the process happen.
The rapper, Logic, released an album that had to do a lot with mental illness. One of his most popular songs from the album is simply called “1-800-273-8255” – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. He also has a song on the same album called “Anziety”, in which he reveals to the listener his struggles with anxiety. Now, if you choose to listen to these songs at all, I will give a language warning, but his music is very raw and real. Near the end of “Anziety”, he has this profound message:
“This feeling, this anxiety is nothing. I have anxiety. Just like you, the person I wrote this for. And together we will overcome this feeling. We will remember despite the attacks and constant feeling of our mind and body being on the edge that we are alive. And any moments we have free of this feeling, we will not take for granted. We will rejoice in this gift that is life. We will rejoice in this day that we have been given. We will accept our anxiety and strive for the betterment of ourselves, starting with mental health. We will accept ourselves as we are, and we will be happy with the person we see in the mirror. We will accept ourselves and live with anxiety.”
– Logic (Anziety, 2017)
Don’t be afraid or ashamed of your anxiety. Don’t feel like you can’t talk about it. Likewise, don’t back away from that talk. To defeat these things, we must not let them occur solely in the dark. We must bring these things to light and fight together to overcome.
To God be the Glory.