Focus: Walking through the valley of anxiety and panic
Psalm 23:4 (NKJV) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
If you’ve ever had an anxiety or panic attack, you have walked through the valley of the shadow of death…and you probably have ‘feared evil’.
Anxiety and panic often lead to depression, so we should talk about that. If you haven’t had to fight anxiety and panic—you might know someone who has. One of the worst things about these conditions, is that the people who suffer with them, are often too ashamed to say so. They may struggle with some of the symptoms and not even know the actual problems at the bottom of it all—are worry and fear. Who wants to admit they’re filled with worry and fear? Almost no one. But, the reason why it’s especially hard for the people who battle with anxiety and panic to admit it—is that the root of the cause is having ‘control issues’. Ouch! That’s something those of us in the battle don’t want to hear or admit, either! But, it’s a known fact.
If you’ve ever been ‘stuck in a store’ you were too afraid to leave, but too scared to stay in—you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever felt the symptoms of being short of breath—or unable to breathe, you might be a victim, also. There are a whole list of possible signs that are often ‘treated’ while the real problem goes undiagnosed. Anxiety and panic attacks can cause real and painful physical ailments.
I am going to share some of the possible symptoms I found throughout the internet which were reported by people who have had anxiety and panic attacks. You may have suffered with some, or many of these. It’s a very interesting list: Joint pain, racing heart, slow heartbeat, palpitations, chest pain, lump in the throat and/or difficulty swallowing, skin problems, sweating, shaking or shivering, neck and shoulder pain, muscle cramps, numbness in face or head, indigestion, stomach trouble, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, symptoms of urinary tract infection, skin rashes, weakness in arms, tingling in hands or feet, nerve shock feelings in the body, dry mouth, symptoms like ‘flu’, distorted vision, hormone problems, headaches and feelings of tightness around the head, migraines, sore eyes, creeping or pins and needles sensations in the skin, increased sensitivity to light, sound, touch, and smell, hyperactivity, sexual addiction, pain in the face or jaw that resembles a toothache, dizziness, vertigo, nausea. Those are some of the real ‘physical’ signs that could be symptoms of anxiety and panic. There could be others.
(Read more below)
Some of the emotional symptoms could be overwhelming stress, outbursts of terror or concern, fear of going crazy, agoraphobia, hallucinations, personality change, insomnia, nightmares, fears of losing control or mental breakdown, increased depression and suicidal feelings, obsessive and compulsive thoughts, inappropriate thoughts, increased violence or aggression, feeling out of touch with reality, extreme fear of certain places or situations, a preoccupation of fear for loved ones, absentmindedness, distraction, paranoia, fear of sickness, fear of terminal illness, fear of being alone, many other kinds of fears, shyness, social phobias, feeling like you can’t cope, inability to trust others, flashbacks, tiredness, disinterest in life…to name a few.
An important step in recovering from anything—is to admit you have the problem, to some degree. People who are Christians sometimes have a hard time admitting any kind of condition that has its roots in ‘fear’ or ‘control’, because we’re not supposed to ‘fear’ or have ‘control issues’. Well, I’ll tell you straight up—I’ve had huge problems with anxiety and panic. I’m doing a lot better now, but a few years ago—the aftermath of an unpredictable encounter with a man in a women’s restroom sent me into a totally unexpected meltdown. Counseling, a lot of prayer, training my mind to trust God in a deeper way, and ‘time’, helped me get my feet back on the ground. It wasn’t a quick fix. When it happened, I was in a period of sleep deprivation and exhaustion, which made me extra vulnerable.
Writing about this is something I didn’t want to do, as you can imagine. But, some of the things that help people struggling with anxiety and panic to have less trouble—are being able to acknowledge their problem, forgive themselves for the weakness, and try to make positive changes that will create the possibility for improvement.
Anxiety and panic attacks intensify from dwelling on negative thoughts. These attacks get a firmer grip on you when they’re fed a steady diet of fear. You can start crippling the effects of anxiety and panic by intentionally spending time counting your blessings everyday. When you have any moment free, try to think of something wonderful as opposed to something fearful. Psalm 23:4 has been an amazing help to me. The words are so powerful for any person who has walked through this valley. Reminding yourself that the rod and staff (righteousness and justice) of the Lord are there for you—can be immensely comforting. Making the decision to get better and not worse—is pivotal.
Declaration: I will find new strength by recognizing that anxiety and panic are not going to continue to rule over me. The Lord is with me constantly. I am not alone. I will focus my thoughts away from things that produce more fear and deliberately fight back by counting my blessings. As I choose the ‘positive’—the ‘negative’ will lose its power.
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