For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. Psalm 18:39 NKJV
The battle with anxiety is a very real one! Psalm 18:39 and many other verses like it, remind us we are equipped for the fight! If we are going to engage in the battle against anxiety, we have to know this truth. Anxiety challenges our belief system, chipping away at our truth until we are left standing on a very shaky foundation that has been infested with lies. Then, anxiety moves in for the kill. Not only do we live in bondage to our anxious thoughts, we then become afraid of anxiety itself. We become anxious about being anxious. It was bad enough I was living in the fear of a heart attack or the fear of an allergic reaction, but then I became afraid to go into a store because I was afraid of having a panic attack while I was in there. What if I was in the middle of the store and had trouble breathing? What if it got so bad I passed out? This began a whole new level of insanity for me! I became afraid to drive. I was afraid to go places. Yet, I was afraid to be home alone because what if I had a panic attack and there was no one there to help me. But, I was afraid to be with anyone because what if I had a panic attack and they saw how unstable I was. A CRAZY way to live! Something had to change!
That’s when I declared an all-out war on anxiety! I could not…would not…do this anymore!! That’s when I talked with my doctor, talked with several in the mental health field, read everything I could get my hands on, talked with others who had battled anxiety…whatever was suggested, I tried it! Within reason of course! But I was desperate! I will share a summary of some of the things that worked for me. Understand, everyone is different and everyone’s battle with anxiety has its own nuances. But there is a lot of common ground when it comes to fighting the good fight against the stronghold of anxiety.
Earlier, I shared that exercise was a very big key to overcoming anxiety. Exercise is a big release for the pent-up energy that builds with anxiety. Know your limits and any physical restrictions, but there is exercise of some sort to be found for everyone.
Diet is also important. Sugar and carbs tend to fuel anxiety, though they can give an initial illusion of a “fix.” Again, your overall health needs to be considered in making dietary changes, but eating healthy is a big weapon against anxiety.
I’m going to list caffeine separate from diet because I think it necessary to emphasize its impact on anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant and is like fuel to the fire of anxiety. For those who know me, you know this girl likes her coffee! My anxiety was so bad, I completely gave it up! Yep! (Thankfully, I can once again enjoy a good cup!) It also suggested to limit the intake of alcohol as it also has a negative affect on anxiety.
Make sure you are getting plenty of good sleep and rest each night. There are many means and methods to help accomplish this, including many of things listed here in the battle against anxiety.
Be open to medication to help get and keep your head above the waters of anxiety you find yourself drowning in. I’m not a pill-pusher but a conversation with your doctor or psychiatrist might be in order.
Counseling is an absolute aid in the battle against anxiety. It is so helpful to have someone to talk to who can understand anxiety and what you are going through and even offer solutions.
Relaxation is a huge help. Learning to relax and have down time was quite challenging for me, but I did it. Also, learning to relax my physical body, not just during an anxiety attack but at various points throughout my day. I would take a few minutes to consciously tense the various parts of my body and then to relax them several times a day. In doing this, I was shocked to learn just how tense my body was most of the time.
Breathing is another focal point in dealing with anxiety. When the anxiety hits, our breathing becomes more rapid and more shallow and causes lightheadedness and dizziness. When we feel like we can’t breathe, we become even more anxious and then the panic sets in. That’s when we are really in trouble. Practicing deep breathing across the day can be generally relaxing but also prepares us for what to do when anxiety rears its ugly head. We need to take long, deep breaths breathing in through the nose and then very slowly breathe out through the mouth. This is very helpful in the midst of a full-blown panic attack. Breathe in slow and deep through the nose…hold it for a bit…then breathe out slowly through the mouth, over and over until you begin to notice the anxiety subside.
As you are in battle mode, now is a time to be more aware of what you are exposing your self to in the way of what you are watching, listening to and reading. Exposure to certain types of negative or suspenseful or frightening types of input are only going to feed the monster of anxiety. Instead, choose things that are more peaceful and calming and uplifting.
For whatever reason, anxiety for many, including myself, seems to be worse at night. Someone suggested a night-light. We’ve always had some light on in the house at night for navigating to the bathroom and such. But yes, this grown woman added more night-lights. All I can say, it helped.
While battling with anxiety does require quite a bit of self-focus, you have to find outlets to reach out to others. Find a way to give back to the community, volunteer at local charities or organizations, serve at your local church, reach out to family and friends who need encouragement. The list is endless of ways and means to take the focus off yourself and see that there are plenty of others who could use a helping hand.
One of the most neglected items in the battle against anxiety is celebrating even small victories. We get so focused on the battle and very discouraged in setbacks, we often forget to take the time to reflect on our progress. I do suggest you avoid day-to-day comparisons but rather look at how far you have come in the course of a month, or two or three. Also, realize we can take three steps forward and two back but all things considered, we have gained one. Encourage yourself with your self-talk or with small rewards.
One final suggestion would be to find things in your life for which you are grateful. We get so focused on our anxiety and the havoc it is causing, we often allow it to overshadow the fact we have much to be thankful for and many blessings to count.
Again, these are simply suggestions, some weightier than others, but all of them played a part in my winning my battle against anxiety. I’m certain there are others. Do your own research, consult your doctor, talk with those who have successfully fought their own battle with anxiety. The point is don’t just sit there, do something! Be determined you will not give up or give in to your anxiety but fight the good fight. You might find, as I did, you are more armed for the battle than you might think!