Life can be unpredictable and filled with uncertainties. We don’t know what is coming our way, how certain decisions we have made will turn out, and we sometimes find ourselves in stressful situations that engage our “fight or flight” response. These ups and downs of day-to-day life, with their fair share of unknowns, bring about stress and sometimes even an anxiety disorder.Some of these unknowns, such as a public speaking engagement, an upcoming deadline, taking an examination, moving to a new house, starting a new job, or a new school all bring about a little anxiety that we can usually work through. After the moment has passed, most people find the after-effects of anxiety wearing off, and they generally don’t live life feeling tense and unsure.
Sometimes, however, the anxiety – a normal and natural response to these situations – can be overwhelming to the point of being out of control and debilitating. Some people feel this “fight or flight” response, the feeling of heightened awareness, “jelly legs” or “butterflies in the stomach” kicking in even in normal and non-threatening circumstances. Due to the symptoms that accompany it, constant anxiety can take a toll on your physical and mental health, and even affect your social life.
With anxiety comes worry and fear. These can rob us of the joy and peace that God intends people to have in their daily lives. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Overcoming anxiety is neither quick nor easy, and while your journey of dealing with anxiety does not end by quoting this verse, using these resources along with others will sustain and encourage you as you do so.
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety affects different people in different ways, but some of the common symptoms of anxiety include physiological and other signs such as:
- shallow, quick breathing
- frequent fatigue
- rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
- difficulty falling asleep
- irritability, restlessness, and frustration
- muscle tension
- high blood pressure
- lack of concentration or confusion
Anxiety doesn’t look the same in everyone. Some people will deal with anxiety by withdrawing, while others become more talkative. A person may appear confrontational due to anxiety. They may stumble over their words, have nervous tics, or tremble.
In children, anxiety may have them avoiding extracurricular activities, crying, or clinging to their parents. If you think your child may have anxiety, it is important to talk with a child therapist to determine whether that is the case and to help them overcome it.
What causes anxiety?
Some people are very aware of what causes them anxiety. It may be the experience or recollection of a traumatic event or particular social situations. For others, they may not have a readily identifiable trigger to which they can point.
At times, the accumulation of stressors over time may lead a person to have an out-of-the-blue anxious reaction to a normal situation. Not having an obvious cause or trigger for anxiety can itself be an added stress.
Anxious behavior can be inherited or modeled, so anxious parents are likely to have anxious children who either inherit it from the parents or else see it modeled and thus learn it from them.
The difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder
While we all have feelings of worry and fear over certain situations or issues, for some people these feelings and the accompanying symptoms can be more intense and prolonged over a long period. If your anxiety is at the level where it is disrupting your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Types of anxiety disorders include:
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD), which is a type of phobia in which being around people at a social occasion triggers anxiety. It can be as mild as having butterflies in the stomach, or as serious as having a full-blown panic attack from a crippling fear of leaving the confines of your house.
- Separation anxiety, where a person is reluctant to be apart from parents or home, and anxiety sets in at the thought of being apart and when they are apart.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is where one has recurring thoughts or urges about something, followed with compulsions to perform certain acts repetitively. Usually, the compulsions are a means to ease the anxiety brought on by the obsession
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), or free-floating anxiety, is where a person feels fearful or anxious without it being tied to a specific experience or event.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event and then has unwanted thoughts and flashbacks to the event that bring about fear and anxiety.
- Panic disorder, where a person has panic attacks without an identifiable trigger.
- Phobias, which are intense fears about something which may not be dangerous or threatening in itself or to others.
Help with overcoming anxiety
Those who struggle with anxiety are sometimes told to simply “stop worrying and trust God”. This may not be altogether helpful for those suffering from chronic anxiety. What is more helpful if you think someone you know has anxiety is to encourage them and be patient with them.
Some ways to help reduce your anxiety include:
- meditation and relaxation techniques (there are mobile device apps that can help)
- consuming fewer stimulants like coffee or nicotine which can exacerbate your anxiety
- exercise to get the blood and good hormones flowing, thereby relieving stress
- having a phrase you repeat to yourself such as, “I’ll be okay” or “God has this under control” to calm yourself down.
Therapy is another helpful way to deal with anxiety.
Types of therapy for an anxiety disorder
The types of therapy that are used to treat anxiety and various anxiety disorders include Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). These can be used in isolation, or in combination with prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
Exposure Therapy, as the name implies, exposes you to the situations or things that you fear. For example, when you have a fear of heights, you will typically avoid situations where you’re in high places such as climbing mountains, crossing tall bridges, or standing on top of buildings.
With repeated exposure to a scenario where heights are involved (whether it’s doing it in real life or using your imagination), you’ll get an increasing sense of control, with the goal of reducing your anxiety over that situation. Your therapist will not plunge you into the deep end, but rather, through systematic desensitization in which you are gradually exposed to your fears step by step.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown as an effective treatment for panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias. This therapy seeks to identify, challenge, and correct negative thought patterns and distorted perceptions of ourselves and the world around us.
These perceptions are often what lie at the root of anxious reactions to situations. CBT will help you learn coping skills, confront your fears, and help you to recognize when you are anxious.
Getting the help you need
To help you address your anxiety, a Christian therapist can create a safe space and use not only spiritual resources such as Scripture and prayer but highly effective tools for anxiety relief designed to work for your particular type of anxiety and meet your specified goals. This holistic approach to healing the whole person offers lasting solutions to anxiety relief.
As anxiety disorders differ from one another, the effective treatment options available to you will vary. Anxiety therapy does more than simply treat the symptoms. It attempts to uncover the underlying causes of your anxieties and fears, giving you tools to cope and helping you learn how to:
- look at situations in your life from a fresh perspective
- learn relaxation techniques to calm your mind
- develop better coping and problem-solving skills to overcome anxiety
- overcome your fears
Christian anxiety therapy will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your anxiety and its underlying causes, as well as develop tools to control negative thoughts and help you make God-honoring choices for lasting recovery.
Your struggle with chronic anxiety may be draining you and reducing your quality of life. Compassionate anxiety therapy can help you reclaim the life God intended for you.
“Anxiety”, Courtesy of Wokandapix, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Stressed OUt”, Courtesy of Energepic.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Breathe”, Courtesy of Fabian Moller, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting on the Dock”, Courtesy of Pexels, Pixabay.com, CC0 License
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