Beyond medical advice,
what other ways are there to heal anxiety
or help the anxiety go away?
So, you’re dealing with anxiety to the point where a brief moment of peace has become priceless beyond measure? Sound familiar? Well, join the club. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety increased by 25% according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO). To put that into perspective, it’s like four friends get in a car for a road trip to Vegas and at the last minute end up with a fifth to ride along with. The point is that there has been a very large increase in anxiety and it doesn’t appear to be relenting. Left unchecked, this is going to continue to grow and eventually really become a problem, so it’s in your best interest to deal with it now. There are a couple other articles you want to check out about you being indispensable and how to use faith to unlock your potential you may find helpful also.
Before we talk about how to deal with anxiety, how anxiety makes you feel, what to do when anxiety takes over, whether or not anxiety can cause physical issues or even kill you, I need to clarify that this is NOT medical advice. There are clearly physical issues that accompany anxiety, which are only sufficiently treated by a qualified physician which I am not. This blog is purely my opinion with some Biblical scripture to back me up. What I am, though, is someone who one day woke up in my bed crying profusely with a self loathing voice in my head telling me how horrible I am and that I should harm myself. That was almost six years ago to the day and I am extremely proud to say that I was able to effectively heal myself through changing my environment, dietary changes, morning rituals, prayer, meditation, and faith in God. And to be extremely transparent, this does not make me a doctor. My hope is that this makes me a streetlamp here to illuminate your path, inspiring you to, hopefully in the future, do the same for others. Like Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” so it is time for us to become the laborers.
Now that we got that out of the way, it’s extremely difficult to target something if you have no idea what exactly you are targeting, therefore, let’s define anxiety.
What is anxiety?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.”
According to MedlinePlus, “anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress.”
From both of these definitions anxiety is an emotion or a feeling. Well, what is the difference between an emotion and a feeling? I don’t know and I am not even going to tackle that here. What I am going to tackle is the fact that I have never, ever in my life or known anyone in the history of humanity who has ever had an emotion that was permanent. If I am wrong, please put it in the comments below. But that means that emotions are fleeting. They come and they go. Just like the weather, they are not rooted in anything substantial other than the limited experiences we may have previously had in our lives all the way from our childhood. But whoa, those emotions and feelings can be extremely powerful, overtaking every conscious thought and requiring all of our physical, emotional and mental capacity just to maintain some sanity over worries about things that aren’t even clear. Yeah, that was a mouthful that I hope reflected the sensation of anxiety I get sometimes. Anyway, you’re not alone, I’ve been there. And every time I have been there I was disobeying Jesus’s command in Matthew 6:25, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” So, what do we do with these fleeting emotions and feelings that come and go with overwhelming force that seem so real and terrifying at the same time?
Well, before doing anything else, seek help. As a believer in God and student of the Word, there is nowhere in the Bible where it says you have to do this on your own. There are many places to get help. One powerful form of help is therapy. Therapy is a real thing that really helps. That is why we have partnered with BetterHelp to help you find the help you need to be a ‘high performer with higher values operating in your highest nature.’ You can even request a Christian counselor to help guide you along your path to fulfilling your calling. Remember though, not all therapists are created equal for all people so do NOT try only one therapist and say, “well, therapy didn’t work” if that first therapist didn’t help. Just like buying a new car or pair of shoes, you have to try a few out to find the one that will best help you to get where you want to go.
Alright, we’ve defined anxiety, but what does anxiety actually feel like?
Have you ever wondered if your anxiety could possibly be the cause of various physical symptoms like chest pain, nausea, dizziness, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, or just plain feeling sick? Well, the simple answer is yes. Anxiety is NOT just ‘all in your head.’ But WHY would anxiety cause physical symptoms? According to Harvard, “Blame your autonomic nervous system. This is a system in your body that you don't consciously control, but that regulates things like your heart rate, breathing, urination, and sexual function. It's also the system that reacts when you are under a physical threat. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) produces your fight-or-flight response, which is designed to help you defend yourself or run away from danger.” Healthline adds, “In general, when your ANS is stimulated, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone.”
Wait, that might not have been very Biblical. Let me explain it this way. Considering when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden (Genesis 3), Noah was preparing the ark for the flood (Genesis 6), Moses and the Children of Israel were fleeing from Pharaoh (Exodus 14), King David was fleeing from Saul (1 Samuel 21), Elijah was fleeing from Jezebel (1 Kings 19), or Baby Jesus was fleeing from Herod (Matthew 2), whenever Biblical figures’ fight-or-flight response was triggered, it was documented in the Bible.
However, there is an opposite to the fight-or-flight response and that is called the rest-and-digest response. There are not too many times in the Bible where it highlights when the rest-and-digest response was triggered. But I found one and it was when Elijah was fleeing from Jezebel.
“Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.”
(1 Kings 19:5)
I don’t know if you have ever looked at it this way, but Elijah had been incredibly exhausted and drained not to mention famished to the extent that just before the angel came he had prayed for God to take his life:
“And Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself traveled on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
(1 Kings 19:3-4)
Just from this brief Biblical example, the effects of Elijah’s exhausted fight-or-flight response was depression and suicidal ideations. After just a couple days from receiving word from Jezebel’s messenger that she would kill him, Elijah was exhausted from fleeing to the point of wanting God to take his life. Now, that’s a little drastic, I know, but that’s where his mental state was at the time. It was like his mental state was at a heightened state of alert because tons of hormones were being released that were high-jacking his normal brain functions. And that was only after a couple days of fleeing from Jezebel. Imagine if it had been years of being on the defensive. What would his mental state have looked like then?
My point in sharing this with you is because when Adam and Eve, Moses, King David, or Elijah were not in a state of flee, their bodies were also not in a heightened state of alert. For example, before Moses was called to return to Egypt on God’s orders, he was shepherding sheep in the wilderness. Although the duties of a shepherd were burdensome and strenuous, while tending to the sheep the shepherd does not live in a constant state of alert. The only times the shepherd would be on alert are the times similar to when King David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a sheep from the flock, I went out after it and attacked it, and rescued the sheep from its mouth.”(1 Samuel 17:34-35)
What do you think was happening when David wasn’t running to rescue sheep from the mouths of lions? Yeah, I don’t know either, but what I can guarantee with 100% certainty is that he wasn’t being bombarded by a constant barrage of predators, salesmen and neighbors with gossip or updates about current events. I can strongly hypothesize that at most other times the shepherd’s nervous system was in a state of rest and stillness in nature.
What does this have to do with what anxiety feels like?
That’s a good question and I am glad you asked. The amount of time people in the Bible needed to deal with emergencies was extremely limited. A large portion of their time was spent working, socializing, and enjoying family, not dealing with emergencies. There were no alarms, bells or sirens going off multiple times daily. There weren’t numerous stimuli bombarding them. There weren’t constant sales-people knocking on their doors, always asking for something from them. The reality is that then was such a different world than now.
Nowadays our attention is prey to different types of predators with multiple angles of entry into our personal lives. I hope that last sentence was clear and maybe you should read it again because from social media to instant messages, news to television, radio to Spotify, billboards to constant notifications on our smartphones, it’s almost impossible to get a moment of peace. Literally, as you’re reading this, think of the last time you had a moment of peace without intentionally creating space for it? I’ll wait.
Exactly. Maybe the chest pains, the nausea, the dizziness, the panic attacks are anxiety symptoms coming from your body because it is being overloaded with stimuli that your mind knows you must be protected from! Because of this, your body is in a constant state of fight-or-flight when it could be possible that all you need is to spend more intentional time with Creator and bring your body to a state of rest-and-digest. There are so many options for bringing your body to a state of rest-and-digest. Here is one option for a course called “Meditation for Christians: A Biblical Approach” with some really high reviews.
Why is Rest-and-Digest so important?
That is another really good question and probably even better than the last one. The reason why this is such a good question is because setting time aside for rest is actually a Biblical principle. Actually, it’s more than a principle, it’s a commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…” (Exodus 20:8-10) I’ll get even deeper into how rest connects you with your Creator in an intimate way with a later blog. For now, it’s important to be aware that you are constantly being attacked with stimuli which is a relatively new experience for your body as a product of your ancestry. Therefore, take some time away to rest, recharge and repair..
Where do we go from here?
For now I would like to conclude this blog post with hope. From my own story and experience, I truly believe that all of us can be free of the clutches that come along with living a life of anxiety. It requires work and effort but what doesn’t? This journey requires that in each and every moment we must remember Ephesians 6:12: ”For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Those thoughts are probably spiritual forces and you require spiritual backup. It is incredibly important for you to remember that you are not alone. You are supported by a loving, graceful, listening God that cares for you and loves you.