Monday, August 18, 2014

One more thing

In addition to my last post, I was going to put this as the last tip and trick, but felt like it needed a post of it's own. Here's that post.

These last couple of things have probably been thee most helpful with my anxiety in terms of an all-around mindset and perspective change. There are three different books that help me immensely when I feel like I just can't deal with it anymore.

The first one is Victor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning. Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist that spent three years in four different concentration camps and dealt with the loss of his parents, brother and pregnant wife.  While the book covers some of his experiences in the camps, it is more about his observations of people's behaviors (both prisoners and guards) while in the camps and how people survived the unthinkable. He argues that we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose how we cope with it. He noticed that the people who typically survived the atrocities of the camps all had something in common: purpose. He went on to practice his own type of therapy: logotherapy, which in Greek means "meaning". Simply put: if people feel they have meaning and a purpose, they tend to be able to bear burdens. He quotes Nietzsche, "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."
This book does not show you how to make your problems go away, but helps you look at it from a different perspective. Suffering is inevitable, it's in the giving it a purpose that makes it worth going through.

The second book, by far, is the most important. The Bible. I was raised a Christian, but if I can be completely honest, I didn't touch a bible until I was 18. I avoided it more out of fear than anything else. But when my anxiety took hold of me right out of high school, I picked it up out of pure desperation. I told myself that there was nothing I could read in it that could possibly make me feel worse than I was already feeling every day. For the first time, I felt like I wasn't alone, that someone (and not just anyone but the creator of the universe) was looking out for me, cared for me, and wanted to help me. From then on, it became a life source of comfort and assurance (and not at all as scary as my childhood self imagined it). Admittedly, there are times when I slack, but this past year, I held onto it for dear life. I learned the importance of a quiet time with God, with journaling my prayers to look back on and see how He was working in my life and how He answered things, looking for His winks throughout my day and learning scripture and God's promises that I could repeat to myself when I got overwhelmed with life. Here are some of my favorite verses to recite:

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."Isaiah 41:10 
 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 
 "The Lord will continually lead you; he will feed you even in parched regions. He will give you renewed strength, and you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring that continually produces water." Isaiah 58:11
"I will walk in the strength of the Lord." Psalm 71: 16
"There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" 2 Corinthians 12: 8

There are obviously a plethora of verses to choose from, but these are the ones that I use the most to give me strength. I've used the last verse, Paul's plead with God, and ultimate embrace of his weakness for the purpose of showing God's grace and power, to reconcile and embrace my anxiety in the terms of Frankl's logotherapy. Meaning, I've chosen for that to be the purpose of my anxiety, and that in itself has made a huge difference.

And the third book that I cannot recommend enough is Sarah Young's Jesus Calling. It's a daily devotional written as if Jesus himself is speaking to you. They are about a paragraph long, but they're like personal pep talks from Jesus to get you through the day. These help me just to get out the door. These ones in particular completely changed me:

"Trust me and don't be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song. Do not let fear dissipate your energy. Instead, invest your energy in trusting Me and singing My Song. The battle for control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Therefore, you need to be vigilant in guarding your thoughts. Do no despise this weakness in yourself since I am using it to draw you closer to Me. Your constant need for Me creates an intimacy that is well worth all the effort. You are not alone in this struggle for your mind. My Spirit living within you is ever ready to help in this striving. Ask Him to control your mind; He will bless you with Life and Peace."
How amazing, right? The first time I read it, tears ran down my face, just from sheer relief. You are not alone in this struggle for your mind, I am using this to draw you closer to Me.  And this one:
"Walk by faith, not by sight. As you take steps of faith, depending on Me, I will show you how much I can do for you. If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you. When I gave you My Spirit, I empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength. That's why it is so wrong to measure your energy level against the challenges ahead of you. The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless. By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength."
The thing with anxiety is that it just makes you tired all the time. The amount of adrenaline my body produces leaves me completely exhausted when I finally calm down. It makes even little things feel like too much work. I would always think, how am I ever going to do anything? But when I read this, it changed everything. I don't have the strength or energy, but that doesn't matter because God does. After reading this, every time I thought to myself, I can't do this, I would immediately remind myself, you're right, you can't, but God can. And He does. Every time I walk out to my car from a hair appointment or from a shift at work (normal things that most people don't think twice about doing but require enormous effort for me), I think, I don't know how I just did that. And then I remember, I didn't.

There's this peace and relief that comes with surrendering the idea of having to be enough. Or having to do everything on your own. Or having to figure everything out. You don't. It's so nice to be able to rest in the realization that someone out there is bigger than this, and they're with you, they're fighting for you, they're helping you, they're rooting for you. But this realization doesn't come easily. Your human mind and body are constantly trying to drag you back to this place where it tells you you're the only one that can help yourself and you'll never be able to do it. That's why I have to constantly be in the Word, reminding myself of His promises and His plans. I can tell when I've gone too long without it. Anxious thoughts start creeping back in, I go back to my old ways of thinking. I'm restless, cynical and easily unsettled. In order to get a hold of your anxiety, you have to change your thought process, and this is the best way I know how. Read it, repeat it, remind yourself of it.

 I hope this helps, even if just a little. And if it doesn't, know that I love you and am rooting for you. :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tips and Tricks on Dealing with Anxiety 2

This is a long time coming, but I thought I would do another post on dealing with anxiety. You can find the first post I did here.

The past year has been such a breeding ground for anxiety with me, and I thought I would share a few things that have been helping me get through it. The best way to combat anxiety is to stop it as soon as you start to feel it come on; do not let it reach the point of panic, if possible. Have an arsenal of techniques you can pull from to fight back with. Here are some of mine.

1. This passage by Daniell Koepke is taped above my bed:
Breathe. You’re going to be okay. Breathe and remember that you’ve been in this place before. You’ve been this uncomfortable and anxious and scared, and you’ve survived. Breathe and know that you can survive this too. These feelings can’t break you. They’re painful and debilitating, but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass. Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon, they are going to fade and when they do, you’ll look back at this moment and laugh for having doubted your resilience. I know it feels unbearable right now, but keep breathing, again and again. This will pass. I promise it will pass.
Whenever I start to feel anxious, I sit on my bed and just read this over and over. I like it because it sounds like something I would write during a good day when I'm feeling calm and confident to remind my future anxious self that we've been here before, and we have always gotten through it.

2. Get up and go outside. I know this is boring and repetitive, but it helps immensely. Exercising and sunlight are both two things that are known to help improve mood and lower stress. And just keeping busy keeps your mind off things. A couple months ago I started to take my dog on walks first thing when I woke up to fight off any urge to lay in bed for two hours. It usually helped. Once you're up and moving, it starts the momentum to be more productive throughout the day.
My job used to allow me to go outside and walk around a lot. Anytime I started to feel anxious at work I would go outside, get some fresh air and try to walk off any nervous tension that was building up. Unfortunately, I recently got moved to a more sedentary position and it's definitely a challenge to not feel completely overwhelmed and claustrophobic. I'm still trying to figure out ways to deal with the anxiety without just running out the door. It definitely goes to show how much moving around actually helps.

3. The first thing you hear about calming anxiety is to breathe. Which is simpler said than done when you have the sense of impending doom crushing your chest. Your breathing is the first thing that starts to go haywire. You tend to either speed up your breathing and hyperventilate, or you start to unknowingly hold your breath. This will usually cause you to get lightheaded and dizzy and make you spin even more into a panic. I read recently that when you start to panic, to breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds. This causes an autonomic nervous system shift from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic state that calms you down. Sometimes I forget how many seconds goes with which action, and I'm not sure if the amount of seconds is crucial, but when I start to feel lightheaded I start doing each for 5 seconds and it tends to work. I really think the difference between doing this type of breathing and just slowly breathing in and out is the holding your breath in between the inhale and exhale. It seems so simple but it really does seem to nip anxiety attacks in the bud. Just try it.

Like always, there is more I want to add but this is getting to be long-winded so I will save it for another post. I just want to leave you with one more thing:

If you've never had a panic attack before, here is a pretty good reenactment of what one feels like. She even explains what you can do if you're with someone having one (not much really) and what not to do (repeatedly ask questions, tell them to calm down, etc.). My personal advice: just be there for them, if they want that. If they want to be alone, let them. Don't ask a bunch of questions or make them try to explain anything. Just sit with them quietly and let them tell you what they need. Distraction sometimes helps, but when you're in the middle of a panic attack, you are so inside your own head, all you want to do is concentrate on riding it out, not listen to someone talk, or at least that's how it is in my experience. If you feel completely helpless, you can reassure them once or twice in a calm (not dominant or patronizing) voice that this will pass and they will get through it. But very little needs to be said. A quiet presence does more than you think.

Hopefully this helps somewhat. If you have any tips of your own, I would love to hear them. I am always open to try anything that may ease the plight of anxiety.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Albums of the Summer

I know it's only August, and all except for one of these albums didn't even come out this year, but Night Beats' Sonic Bloom, Tame Impala's Lonerism, Portugal. The Man's Evil Friends, and Temples' Sun Structures are on my short list of most-played records this summer. If you haven't heard them, do yourself a favor and go do that right now.

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