Life has a way of changing when you least expect it. Most people struggle with anxiety at some point in their life. Whether it is now, in the past, or yet future for you, here are some tips to help navigate the swirling waters of anxiety. When my daughter was still young, our home was invaded - Find out what happens...
God beckoned me into the boat and so I climbed aboard.
I trusted we, smooth sailing be, and smiled about the chord.
But soon the waves and winds were rough, the weather was a gale.
I looked around but God was gone and so began to bail.
In due time the water rose, my ankles then my knees.
There was no time to raise a prayer or think about the breeze.
Then suddenly upon the waves a figure walked and came.
He stopped and watched my flailing arms and then he called my name.
“Step out of that sinking boat and walk a bit towards me.”
I did, I sank, he grabbed my hand, and suddenly the sea
was like glass and so I stood upon the sandy beach.
I wondered at his hand in mine, God within my reach.
Life has a way of changing when you least expect it. I think of the many times this has been so just within my own lifetime. Most recently in 2001 when the New York twin towers fell, and the skies were devoid of any aircraft. In 2008 the great real estate and banking crash. In 2020 the Covid19 across the entire earth. On a more personal note ♫, there are many times I have suffered through anxiety and the symptoms of it.
When my daughter was still young, our home was invaded which was an unsettling experience for many months after. I came home from work one day, unlocked the door and stepped inside the kitchen and stopped; stunned. The entire area was total bedlam. Cabinets stood open, drawers pulled out, and all the contents of everything was on the floor and counters all over the place. Unfortunately, my first thought was, “How did my daughter do all this?” Especially since she wasn’t home from school yet.
As I walked through the house in shock, it still didn’t occur to me. Every room was a wreck, the house had been totally trashed. It wasn’t until I walked down to our basement that it began to dawn upon me. There, by the basement door, was a neat stack of electronic equipment and other valuables just waiting to be carted out.
“Oh my God! Someone broke into our home and did this. Not only that… but they’re coming back – I need to get out of here!”
I jogged up the stairs, grabbed the phone, dialed the police and walked out the door; my heart thudding from the realization we had been robbed and that someone was not finished here. But where were they? It didn’t take long to figure it out.
As I walked out the door and down the steps, still on the phone with the police, a car pulled halfway into the driveway and stopped as they saw me standing in the driveway with the phone. There were 3 guys in the front seat. I looked at them, they looked at me, and the car screeches into reverse and tears down the road before I can get the license plate. There were no mobile phone cameras back then.
I tell this story because it brings the feeling of a loss of control and fear into your life. You think you can clean up the mess, go on, and live like you did before; but it doesn’t work like that. You can’t reason yourself into peace or calm and sometimes you can’t pray yourself there either.
For many months afterwards I would walk in the house and become afraid someone was there; hands sweating, heart pounding, a light-headed dizzy feeling. I had trouble falling asleep. I would wake up and feel scared that someone was in the house. Even today, 30 years later, I suddenly become afraid, with all of fear’s affects, to be in our house alone and feel better when my German Shepherd is lounging around nearby. I know I’m ok, I know there’s no one else around, but I get this flashback of terror.
I had it when I was in the military service overseas and was close to shipping back to the states. I had this unreasonable fear I wasn’t going to make it back to see my family.
Sometimes, I just have it for no apparent good reason. My heart begins to pound, I’m dizzy, my arms ache, and I’m rushed with adrenaline. Other times I guess I’ve had it while sleeping and I wake up exhausted with hangover-like effects; but no alcohol or drugs involved. It’s probably the adrenaline and cortisol effects wearing off I suppose.
Probably like you, I don’t enjoy these effects and I like to sleep at night and not lie away and toss and turn. So, there are some tricks that I have used successfully, and you might benefit from them as well.
Can’t Sleep? Feeling Anxious?
There are a couple of techniques I use to fall asleep when I cannot.
When I was taking my degree in college, I took a Movement class which involved learning how to meditate and relax. It consisted of lying on the floor, but you can do it anywhere. Starting with your feet, you are going to focus on muscle groups; tighten the muscles for 5 seconds, then relax them. It goes like this:
Focus on your toes. Tighten your toes tight… very tight… tight… (5 seconds) Relaxing now, relaxing now, feeling all the tension leaving your body and falling into the floor.
Focus on your feet. Tighten your feet tight… very tight… tight… (5 seconds) Relaxing now, relaxing now, feeling all the tension leaving your body and falling into the floor.
Focus on your calves. Tighten your calves tight… very tight… tight… (5 seconds) Relaxing now, relaxing now, feeling all the tension leaving your body and falling into the floor.
You just continue up your torso with each muscle group. Thighs, waist, back, fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, neck head and face. Usually, before you’re ever done, you will fall asleep.
The other thing I have used successfully are verses of scripture. For some reason, nothing seems to put me to sleep faster than reading the Bible. There are a few I like in particular. It’s not hard to memorize them and I just repeat it over and over every time an unreasonable fear grips me.
I will both lay down and sleep because you, alone, oh God, make me safe. (Psalm 4.8)
The (name of the) Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe. (Proverbs 18.10)
The Lord is my shepherd, I will not fear. He makes me like down in green pastures, he leads me besides still waters, he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because you are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me… (Psalm 23)
Getting Through the Day
The silence of meditation can be helpful. I don’t know about you, but my life is pretty full and busy on a constant basis. After a while, you start to attune to that and it becomes habitual but it’s really not good for your mental, emotional, or physical health. I try to take some time each day or at least a few hours a week to be quiet and clear my mind of all the clutter. It’s more difficult than you think.
This morning, I just went outside and sat on a brick wall by our fishpond, closed my eyes and listened to the sounds around me. The waterfall, the wind, a car passing by, a still voice. Every time I realize my mind starts to wander and imagine and think, I simply refocus on what I hear.
What happens to your breathing when you are stressed? Do you hyperventilate? Tend to take very shallow breaths? Either one can contribute to further anxiety by reducing the oxygen we need or flooding the system. Try this type of rotational breathing:
Use a 3 second count
Breathe in for 3
Hold for 3
Breathe out for 3
Relax for 3
Those are a few things I do to help ease anxiety and fear. I know we shouldn’t let fear and anxiety overtake our life. My fears and anxiety are often unfounded or based on past traumatic experiences. I can know very well that my anxiety and fear is irrational, but, as it’s been said, there is often a wide distance between the mind and the heart. Sometimes the heart and emotions don’t listen to what the mind knows.
The very best I can offer experientially is to take time to be quiet and seek God. You may not believe there is a God or that he cares. But there’s no harm is a little quiet time to ask the question. Who knows… you may hear an answer!
© copyright 2021 h mark taylor