Disclaimer: These tips and tricks should not take the place of a doctor/ psychiatrist/ psychologist/ counselor’s direction or prescription. They are simply a few helpful techniques I’ve found to minimize the grip of anxiety.
Dealing with anxiety and depression can be compared to fighting a battle, except that it’s all in the mind. Anxiety comes in many different forms, though all of them can reek havoc. There are multiple techniques for dealing with anxiety, but for this post I’ll be explaining how I’ve learned to deal with a specific type of anxiety I call an anxiety attack.
My first semester of college, I experienced constant anxiety which peaked in panic attacks fairly regularly. During that time, I trusted the fear. Since then, I’ve learned to address the anxiety as my sworn enemy instead. What I call an anxiety attack usually comes over me when I’m isolated, and includes debilitating lies ruminating in my head. Sometimes it’s all I can do to walk out into a public place, where at least I’m not trapped. Even in public it doesn’t go away, though, and it can require the bravest acting to appear normal and not run away to hide.
So here are seven steps I integrate to take back control of my mind:
1. Address the anxiety as my enemy. It wants to ruin my life- isolate me from people and prevent me from living the life I want to live.
2. Take deep, slow breaths. This helps reset the body and mind and counting how long I breath in, hold, and breath out gives me something else to think about.
3. Focus on the surroundings. The goal is to bring myself out of my head and away from the negative thoughts. It can help to study the texture, color, and shapes around me (especially because of my background in drawing).
4. Pray for truth and freedom to win. Because that is what this fight is about. Without God fighting for me, I know I’ll be defeated.
5. Quote scripture. Whether it be, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6), or a verse that specifically applies to the root of the anxiety.
6. Tell myself out loud, “It’s all going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay…” If there is anyone within earshot, this one gets skipped. The truth is that life will go on, if not here on earth than in the presence of God. There is a seal of salvation on me, whether or not I’m struggling with anxiety.
7. Engage with a person or project. This helps to pull thoughts away from the anxiety and toward something productive.
Something to remember is that any time anxiety takes hold of your mind, your body responds. That means that hormones and sugar are released into your bloodstream to help you either fight, or run away from, the “danger.” While taking away the power and control of the anxiety is my goal in implementing the above actions, the symptoms from the anxiety attack will not magically disappear. Despite this fact, there are a few things you can do to help your body return to a resting environment. Deep breathing helps the body turn off the emergency response, eating a snack can give your body energy to replenish what it just used up, and exercising gives an outlet for all the pent-up “fight.”
I believe that God is ultimately the one who can control and prevent anxiety. Next week I’ll look into some of the guardrails God has set up to help us be a people without anxiety.