“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Continuing with the series of invisible prisons, this blog will address anxiety. If you did not read my last blog, I talked about a video I watched with Dr. Dharius Daniels, Senior Pastor of Change Church, Ewing Township, New Jersey, where he defined an invisible prison as an “unidentified, unaddressed, invisible, emotional issue that you erroneously assume would be straightened out by your spirituality.” I believe anxiety can also be unidentified, unaddressed and invisible. Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. In his book, “Anxious for Nothing,” Max Lucado describes anxiety as “a meteor shower of what-ifs.”
So, what does anxiety look like? According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety can manifest itself by way of feeling nervous, restless or tense; having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom; increased heart rate; rapid breathing (hyperventilation); sweating; trembling; feeling week or tired; trouble concentrating; trouble sleeping; and can also contribute to gastrointestinal problems.
For those who know me, they know that I have a “Type A” personality–I am organized and plan everything. In my personal and professional life, I tend to set lofty goals with self-imposed deadlines. Let me provide you with an illustration. Approximately 18 years ago, I decided to pursue my graduate degree. At that time, I was married with two children–a toddler and an 11-year old with a full schedule of school and sports activities. One thing I knew for sure was I did not want my family to be inconvenienced because of my recent pursuit. I wanted to be the good wife, supermom, and an awesome student all at the same time. After dinner and the kids were settled for the evening, I would go into my office and start writing papers (usually around 10:00 pm until 2:00 am the next morning). I thought I was juggling things quite well until I would lay down to go to sleep. When I laid down, as though I was running a marathon, my heart seemingly was beating a mile per minute. I could not turn my mind off–I remember lying in bed busy planning the next day–what would I wear for the next workday, what activities did my son have, had I packed the baby’s bag for daycare, what meetings did I have for work, what would we have for dinner, what was my next assignment for class, and about 100 other things were going through my mind. After many sleepless nights, heart and mind racing, and nervousness, I decided to seek professional help. I consulted a doctor who performed an electrocardiogram (EKG). The EKG results proved negative for heart issues; however, the doctor informed me that I was more than likely experiencing anxiety. All of my family obligations, work responsibilities, school assignments, and self-imposed deadlines had taken a toll. I was prescribed medication, but was encouraged to relax more and exercise. Over the years, I have incorporated prayer and meditation–mindfulness, listening to music, exercising, reading, writing, coloring in my adult books, and my latest hobby of making birthday cards as a natural treatment for my anxiety.
In article titled, “10 Tips for Managing Anxiety,” Graham C. L. Davey, Ph.D provides the following basic tips for managing anxiety:
- Accept that anxiety is a normal emotion and can be helpful. Anxiety isn’t unnatural–it’s a normal emotion that has evolved to help you deal with anticipated threats and challenges.
- Understand that anxiety can’t harm you. Perspiring, increased heart rate, and trembling are not harmful, nor are they signs of impending illness.
- Avoid avoidance. Avoiding the things that make you anxious never allows you to find out the reality of the threat–it may not be a threat at all.
- Check that your anxiety is justified. Is what you are anxious about really a significant threat or challenge.
- Consider being adventurous rather than avoiding risk and uncertainty. Try seeking out new adventures.
- No one is perfect–take a break from the rigid rule that make you anxious. Replace the rigid rules that you place on yourself with more realistic expectations.
- Refuse to let anxiety hold you back. Undertake some challenges that initially make you feel anxious.
- Recruit help to change. Enlist the assistance of family or friends to try to achieve these changes.
- Be aware of the bigger picture. Encourage yourself to embrace healthy living–regular exercise and a healthy diet.
- Seek professional help if you feel you need it. If needed, seek more structured support such as a psychotherapist or counselor.
For years, I lived in the invisible prison of anxiety–never wanting to give my nervousness, my increased heart rate, or sleepless nights a name; however, I have been released from its confines and imprisonment. I use this blog to call out anxiety and to free myself and others from its incarceration. I hope my transparency will help someone who may be experiencing the same to be set free. Nothing or no one can imprison you when you confront it.
For additional information on anxiety, view Mayo Clinic’s article on Anxiety Disorders at (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961).
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