How to survive an anxiety attack

I’m sipping a coke through a red straw in the outside corridor of my office building. It’s quiet out here. I listen to the roar of cars on West Street and the bubbling fountain down by the canal. I remember three things I’ve done today: Meeting with IT, emailing our Marketing Vendor, finding a coke in the break room.  I count the bushes in front of me: One . . Two . . Three . . Four . . Five. I smell the corn chips from my lunch box and the cigarette smoke from somewhere else.

Inhale.

Exhale.

It’s a new technique my aunt showed me to get through an anxiety attack. Count something you can see. Count something you can smell. Remember something that has happened today.

Anxiety is exhausting. At first it’s scary. But days of feeling this fight or flight sensation simply drain me. Trying to focus my eyes and keep fear from blurring my vision. Trying to calm my heightened senses that distract me. Trying to steady my breath when my heart begins to race.

Eventually I just want to shut down. My eyes droop, my mind goes blank, and I feel nothing.

Scripture is what really works against anxiety. Truth conquers fear. The other night I slept at my parents home, beneath the covers of my old bed. My sister slept in her bed across from me and the box fan on the floor was blowing loudly. I felt the release of a panicking chemical in my brain making me feel like I should run out of the room and find safety.

It’s the feeling you get when you’ve woken from a nightmare and cannot go back to sleep. Even though I wanted to run and find safety, in reality I was in the safest place I could be. So I told myself this and then I started rehearsing truth through scripture.

“Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8

“‘For I know the plans  I have for you,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29

“Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.”  Philippians 4:6

I suddenly remembered something my friend Esther told me to do when I feel afraid. She said to speak these words out loud: “Jesus Christ is Lord of my life.” I rehearsed this truth three times and as the words slipped from my lips I suddenly smiled. This was real, my fears were just imagination. Fear had no power over me.

As I thought about all of my fears from experiencing death to facing life I considered the sovereignty of God and how Jesus Christ is really Lord of all these things. I’m facing a lot right now, starting graduate school, moving to a new place. Realizing that God is in control allowed me to feel more than the nothing that usually hits me after a panic attack. I felt peace in the midst of my circumstances.

Peace is not the absence of fear but the presence of faith.

 

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