How I Cope With Anxiety Attacks
“I Had an Anxiety Attack”
In fact, I have had more than one anxiety attack in my life. This struggle with anxiety attacks started thirty years ago. I did not know what it was at first. When anxiety came on me, I felt like I could not breathe. My heart would race and it felt like I was going to die. It would happen usually when I was alone in the car driving. The idea of getting in a car and driving a few miles bothered me. The idea of driving through heavy traffic in the Houston area terrified me because I knew I could have another anxiety attack. The idea of flying bothered me even though I had grown up riding in many airplanes.
My initial approach was to fight against this terrible feeling of anxiety. The more I fought it, the more I struggled with it. I went to the doctor and was given medication, but one of my prescriptions made me feel unlike myself. All I wanted to do was stare out the window and meditate on the leaves of the trees. Although I did not continue the medication, I know that it can be a great help for many who are struggling with anxiety.
One of the worst episodes was a Sunday morning when I was preaching and that feeling of anxiety came over me. I did not know if I was going to be able to finish. I could feel it coming on. Somehow, I kept my composure and finished the message.
My struggle with anxiety attacks lasted for about a year, and I had a short reoccurrence of this struggle with anxiety in 2014. As I look back, here are some observations regarding my struggle with anxiety:
Anxiety involves the physical body
I could not instantly remove the physical feelings of anxiety by my own efforts. I wish it was as easy as saying, “Go away anxiety.” I prayed and read God’s word every day. I talked to others for help. However, I continued to struggle with it.
I came to understand over time how physical activities could help me in this struggle. I began to focus more on walking, jogging and playing golf. One day I came to the realization that I had never experienced an anxiety attack on the golf course. However, I did have many anger attacks but that was due to my unhealthy expectations concerning my golf game.
It is good for our body and soul to have a physical outlet. We need exercise to deal with our stress. I found that walking a long distance was a great way to counteract the feelings of anxiety. One day when I was really struggling with anxiety, I heard these words in my mind- “Walk through it.” This activity of walking which eventually turned into jogging for many years was a great help to me.
Anxiety impacts the mind, heart and soul
Our thoughts and emotions can easily drift toward the dark side of considering the worst rather than trusting God’s Sovereignty and faithfulness. If we allow them to, our feelings of anxiety can move us away from God’s peace and hope.
Jesus had a lot to say about this topic of anxiety. He used the example of food, clothing, birds, wildflowers and the grass of the field to remind us, how much more will your Father in heaven take care of you. This struggle can challenge our faith. Our faith and confidence wane when we are consumed by anxious thoughts.
The more we study God’s word will greatly benefit our ability to respond in faith rather than in fear. I’ve heard the saying, “Whatever we feed grows and whatever we starve dies.” The more we feed our faith with God’s word, the greater our freedom to respond well when anxiety comes our way.
Anxiety will not last
This is a struggle, but it is a temporary struggle. It may seem like anxiety will never go away, but it will over time as you trust God, feed on his word and keep active in your life. We can face anxiety without the fear and dread of what might happen. God is greater than our fears and anxiety. We can walk through it and find relief.
Our Lord Jesus overcame and His victory is our victory. I look back on the experiences of my anxiety. A part of that struggle involved a fear of flying and travel. God has worked in my life in setting me free to trust Him. Here are the Mission trips I have taken overseas since I dealt with this struggle:
Five trips to the Middle East (Muslim countries)
Four trips to West Africa
Three trips to Russia
Two trips to Israel
One trip to the Philippians
One trip to Nepal
When I was going through the worst part of my struggle, I never dreamed I would be able to visit so many places around the world. God set me free. I pray God will give you freedom, peace and power in dealing with anxiety.
Anxiety is one of the issues we deal during our retreats. We have four retreats this year and would love to have you come and join us. Click here to sign up today.