God has placed it on my heart to write a book about anxiety for Christian women and in the process I want to also create a series of posts related to the topic, so that you can understand anxiety from a Christian, as well as a psychologically informed, perspective.
If you’re reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you what anxiety is, what it feels like, or how much it can affect one’s life. You know these things.
If you live anywhere in Western society, stress, worry, anxiety, and busyness have at some point consumed you. It’s “how we roll,” I guess.
Whether it’s trying to make that extra buck, preparing for an interview, writing an exam, expecting a child, having enormous and unpaid expenses, fighting an incurable disease, trying to measure up to the unrealistic beauty standards set for us, or just the general sense of always being told that nothing we ever do is good enough.
These life situations might make us feel a mix of tension, excitement, or even fear. We worry and stress about things that are usually beyond our control; it can get so severe that we start depriving ourselves of sleep, awake all night thinking about how to get out of the perceived threats of danger all around us, even from our own thoughts.
Fear and discomfort arise from our incapacity to find long-term answers to these problems. Worries and excessive fear are the body’s reactions to these situations.
What Is Anxiety And Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety is not for the here and now. It’s about the future. Anxiety warns us that we may be in danger and prepares us for the worst. Anxiety signals us to focus our attention and energy on what might happen. When we feel anxious, our mind and body become alert and begin to prepare for the worst.
At the core of it, God designed our bodies and minds to prepare for situations that we may need to escape from, actual danger, such as being chased by a lion or the threat of not having enough food for our families. It can be a good thing, when there is really a threat.
Anxiety drives us to plan and prepare. Anxiety is an inevitable part of life as long as life involves threats and dangers. Anxiety is evidence of our desire to live, thrive and overcome the things that threaten us. Anxiety is a life force and can keep us alive in certain circumstances. Anxiety is a response to an ambiguous sense of threat or danger, now or in the future.
Anxiety is a natural human reaction as a necessary warning signal, but becomes pathological when it is excessive and uncontrollable, or when there is not real threat. It’s normal to feel “nervous” before important upcoming events (final exams, job interviews) or things like paying bills or making public presentations. But it is not normal to constantly worry and experience so much suffering that makes it impossible to function in daily life and this is anxiety disorder.
Let’s define anxiety according to the dictionary: “An unpleasant state of mental uneasiness, nervousness, apprehension and obsession or concern about some uncertain event”. That’s a terrible worry that can be characterized by physiological signs (such as sweating, stress, or increased heart rate), by doubts about reality and the nature of the threat and self-doubt about our ability to deal with it.” Everyone is scared. It is a natural part of life. When it reaches the point where it interferes with your lifestyle, it becomes a disorder. Below are four factors to consider when discussing anxiety disorders.
However, we don’t live in a world where we are being chased by lions on a daily basis. We don’t have to run through the forest trying to capture our next meal. We have shelter. We have grocery stores with our foods already prepared. We have cell phones to contact people from around the world. We have indoor plumbing. In fact, currently, there are more jobs available than there are people available to fill them. We are NOT constantly in a true survival situation as people used to be in human history. So why are we still so anxious?
Anxiety disorders often run in families. That means we often have a mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or brother or sister who also have anxiety problems. Did you grow up with someone who has problems with anxiety and depression? Do someone else suffer from panic and obsessive thoughts in your family? Do you have someone in your family who self-medicates, through things like alcohol, food, or sex to “heal” themselves?
If your anxiety, depression, worry, and fear are genetically inherited, or if your anxiety arises spontaneously, or you’re genetically predisposed to anxiety, depression, or alcoholism, that doesn’t mean you’ll end up with the disorder, so fear not. This means that you need to be aware of it, especially when you start experiencing symptoms.
The great news is that your genetics are only a small part of the overall story. We don’t have to be controlled by our genetics. Scientists are finding that we can actually change our thoughts and even our brains and biochemistry when we have the intention to do so, and with the proper strategies.
The environment we are in plays an important role in anxiety disorders. Do you have a mother who is always worried? Do your parents expect you to always be perfect? Are you an adult, with strict religious beliefs? Was your family environment dysfunctional? As a child, was there a breakup with an important person in your life? Do you live in a chaotic part of the city with lots of crime? Do you work in a toxic employment situation?
It can help you to realize that some of these environmental situations can make people anxious and result to having problems with anxiety and depression.
The good news is, we can change our environment. We simply have to make a choice to make a change. Maybe you need to get a new job. Perhaps you need to leave a toxic relationship. You may need to save up to move to a new community. Don’t let your environment control you. Change your environment. Some of us get into a “learned helplessness” state of mind where we have convinced ourselves that we have no power to change our situation. This is another lie from the enemy. God has given us free-will and an opportunity to live our lives by a higher standard, but we have to CHOOSE something greater. Taking responsibility for how you feel and where you are in life is a big part of the recovery process, as well as taking ownership of all of your choices regarding the environment where you spend your time.
A common belief is that people with anxiety disorders have catecholamine activity. This means that they tend to be hypersensitive and nervous. It was also concluded that these people had less endorphin activity.
You are not a slave to your biochemistry, just as you are not owned by your genetics. Biochemistry can be changed. Did you know that the thoughts that you choose actually change your biochemistry? It’s true! When you are thinking the worst, your brain will get addicted to and produce more of these “negative” chemicals. When you start thinking positive thoughts, your brain will start to produce more “happy” chemicals. That is why things like cognitive-behavioral therapy is so effective, because you actually change your biochemistry by changing your thoughts.
I don’t believe that anxiety is just a biochemical imbalance that needs to be treated with medication. Truth is, certain medications can worsen your symptoms. Because endorphins help us control the way we think and react, we are personally able to create more endorphins and reduce our catecholamine activity. It is important to understand that overreaction, our negative way of thinking, causes most of our anxiety. I’m not telling you to stop taking any medications your doctor may have you on, especially if you’ve gotten so deep into depression or anxiety that you cannot get out of that state without a little help. But just know that your choice of thoughts has the power to change your state and you actual biochemistry. It’s a powerful thing!
Anxious people have often certain personality traits responsible for most of their anxiety. If you are someone like me: a perfectionist, Type A, focused on always trying to be the best, have high expectations for yourself and others, and tend to be overly-analytical, you are much more prone to anxiety than other personality types.
Those who are anxious are often analytical, who tend to fixate on everything that enters into their minds and question and pick apart everything until they are sick with worry, always asking the “what if?” question. They want things to go a certain way and have very high expectations. As a result of their high expectations from people and circumstances, they are often frustrated and anxious when those expectations are not met. They value the approval of others and must appear to be in control at all costs. Anticipation and fear of negative events is a big part of their thought process and they tend to overreact to the slightest threat of challenge.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders are different from the everyday anxiety we all experience because anxiety disorder is more intense, last longer and significantly affect your daily functioning. Although approximately one in twenty people have one of the following anxiety disorders, you may be one in 8 percent (Brown and Barlow 2009) of people with unresponsive symptoms in one of these diagnostic categories. This book will help or support you even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder; however, I wanted to give you a breakdown of anxiety disorders as well, for your own education. If you feel like you have any of these or have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, please seek a licensed mental health provider in addition to this book.
General Anxiety Disorder
This type of anxiety is the kind in which a person worries about happenings around them from family, job, relationships, to their finances. It is a disorder because this kind of people worries too much about these things, that it hinders their daily productivity. We all have times where we worry about some of these things, but a General Anxiety Disorder will inhibit your ability to live a normal life and do the normal things in life.
A life example (not a real person): Selina describes herself as an “anxious part-time and full-time caregiver”. She is worried about the same thing, things that other people do, finances, relationships, health, world events, but she also worries too much and too long. She only works part time because she feels overwhelmed by her anxiety and worries. She couldn’t sleep well because she is always worried, when she wants to sleep. She worries about things to do the next day. She is constantly irritable and argues with his people over little things. She would love to find another job, but every time she thought of searching, she begins to worry that she would never find anything, etc and she put off the search. Apart from taking care of her work, Selina is worried about her health, her family, and the world events such as global warming or the ups and downs of financial markets. Very annoying, Selina can’t stop worrying when she wants to and feels powerless to worry, even for some minutes while trying to do something else.
This type of anxiety occur, when someone is frightened about some things that might likely cause harm or danger. This kind of anxiety disorder often occurs when you are involved in too many things and you don’t have enough time to rest. In other words, panic disorder is likely to occur when one is stressed out.
A life example (not a real person): Steve is a successful lawyer who prides himself on working harder and longer than any other lawyer in his office. In recent months, the company has lost several key and senior customers, Partners pressured him and other attorneys to charge more and more hours. During this time, Steve’s first child was born and he couldn’t sleep well because of his newborn and was pressured by his wife to help him spend more time with the baby.
One morning on his way to work, Steve experiences his first panic attack while taking the escalator from the subway to the street. He clung to the railing tightly as he became very dizzy and breathless. He was afraid that he would faint and fall off the escalator, Steve ran the last few minutes to a safe place. He managed to work all day, but over the next few weeks he would experience panic attacks in other situations, such as climbing stairs, taking the subway, and driving on certain freeways.
Most of his panic attacks seem to come “out of the blue” and Steve begins to worry that he could become very dizzy at any time and under any circumstances. Steve continues to take the subway, but only to street level stations that don’t require him to take the escalator. He then took a taxi from the train station to the office, which added another 30 minutes to his day. He begins to avoid other situations such as stairs, balconies or multi-storey parking lots. If he had to climb stairs or use the balcony, he clung to the railing and didn’t look down. Steve has tried various ways to “control” his panic, such as breathing and medication. However, he continues to avoid situations that produce terrifying physical sensations, and as a result, his world gets smaller every month.
Social Anxiety Disorder
This kind of anxiety is related to a person’s social life. This is the debilitating disorder that I dealt with for many years prior to uncovering some of the secrets that I will be sharing in this book. This disorder occurs when someone is shy, beyond the normal amount of regular social discomfort that inhibits one’s ability to have normal social interactions such as speaking on the phone, attending a meeting, working a job that involves talking to people, interacting with someone at the grocery store, etc. Such a person finds it difficult to face people. Social anxiety disorder makes people to often lose opportunities or jobs because they find it difficult to express themselves. People with this disorder usually have a low self esteem, though not always.
A life example (not a real person): Jane, a teacher, is always shy about public speaking. She is very worried and exaggerated about what other people think of her, especially when standing in front of a group, but also when talking to people she respects or in positions of power, such as government officials or her principal. Jane loves teaching and has been a little anxious for years in raising younger children. However, when budget cuts forced her to take a job as a high school teacher, she became afraid to come to class.
One day, while she was teaching his class, she started to have a blush on her face and neck. She felt unable to continue speaking and left the class. Jane was worried that this would happen again, so she started to feel sick when she was too worried and put on heavier makeup to cover her blush. She avoided wearing certain colors, which she feared would make her face appear redder.
Jane missed many school days but made it through the school year. However, throughout the summer, she was worried that she would not survive the next year. She was starting to think she wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, even though she loved teaching and that was the only thing she really wanted to do.
Obsessive compulsive disorder
This is the other anxiety disorder that I was diagnosed with and it left me unable to leave the house at one point in my life. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), can occur when the anterior lobe creates an obsession. Obsession is knowledge or doubts that won’t go away, such that people spend hours each day focusing on the obsession. Obsessions can sometimes lead to the creation of complex rituals that need to be performed to reduce anxiety.
A life example (not a real person): Ann, a chemistry student, often washes her hands whenever she thinks she has touched something that might contain germs. When she washes, she does it in specific and complex ways to make sure she doesn’t miss a single spot. It starts with the little finger of her left hand and moves up and down the inside of that finger to the next finger. The process usually takes forty-five minutes and the longer she washes, the more anxious she will feel. Ann often stops bathing because she can’t stand the pain in her shoulder or the loud and angry protests from her roommate who wants to go to the bathroom. Thoughts of microbes and disease baffled Ann because they made no sense, he knew that, but she couldn’t ignore them or get them out of her head.
As the name implies, specific phobia is a disorder that comes when someone have fear for certain things. The sight or thought of the things that they are fearful of makes the person less productive.
A life example (not a real person): Joan vividly remembers the day twenty years ago, when her fear of cats began. She was in first grade and had just left the restroom when she saw a cat clutching a dog’s head and scratching its eyes and ears roughly. The cat screamed while the dog screamed, running around the school grounds and trying to shake the cat’s head. Joan was paralyzed with fear, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the terrifying battle in front of her.
Since then, Joan has avoided cats and any situation where she might run into them. Joan quickly changes the TV channel when she sees a commercial or show featuring cats. She was walking away from talking about cats and crossing the street when she saw the pet shop in front of her. Recently when Joan got a job as a kitchen equipment technician, this phobia became a problem. Now she is afraid to go to work for fear of running into a cat in one of the houses she visits as part of her job. She calls ahead and asks homeowners if they have cats and if they keep them away from workers. Sometimes that helps. However, not all homeowners are willing to do this, and even if they do, cats sometimes make it into the kitchen. The last time this happened, Joan was scared and ran away from the house while the owner of the house looked on her with disbelief. Now Joan is worried about such house calls so she is considering quitting her job.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
You can become worried and anxious out the usual range of human experiences, if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Such traumatic events will create great fear, horror, and despair in everyone, and this includes natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and fires; car and plane accidents; and violent crimes against you or your immediate family, such as rape or other physical violence. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may appear immediately or started immediately after the traumatic event or delayed not more than six months afterward.
Causes And Damages Of Anxiety
If you don’t know what’s causing your anxiety, you are at a disadvantage in trying to change it. Anxiety is generated by the brain and will not arise without the contribution of certain brain areas. And while the brain is a very complex and interconnected system, it remains largely a mystery; we can identify two main causes of anxiety in it. The good news is that we can rewire and change our brains through the thoughts we choose, through therapy, and through changing our responses to the things that make us anxiety. If you change things things enough, you actually can change your brain. This is called neuroplasticity.
The main cause of anxiety in the brain is two neural pathways that can trigger a fear response. The cortical pathway is what most people think of when considering the causes of anxiety. For now, think of the cortex as the pathway for sensation, thought, logic, imagination, intuition, conscious memory, and planning. Anxiety treatment is usually directed at this pathway, perhaps because it is more of the conscious pathway, meaning that we tend to be more aware of what is happening along the way and have better access to the parts of the brain that remember and focus. If you find that your mind keeps turning to ideas or images that increase your anxiety, or you become obsessed with a doubt, worry, or problem and you are trying to think of a solution to the problem, you may be experiencing cortex-based anxiety.
The amygdala pathway, on the other hand, can affect your body due to anxiety. The amygdala’s many connections with other parts of the brain make it possible to mobilize the body’s reactions very quickly. In less than a tenth of a second, the amygdala can provide a rush of adrenaline, increase blood pressure and heart rate; create muscle tension, and more. The amygdala pathway doesn’t produce the thoughts you’re aware of and works faster than cortex. Therefore, it creates many aspects of the anxiety response without your knowledge or conscious control. When you feel that your anxiety has no clear cause or logical meaning, you usually feel it effects of anxiety arising from the amygdala pathway. Your awareness of the amygdala is likely based on your experience of its effect on you, which are: physical changes, nervousness, desire to avoid certain situations, or aggressive impulses.
Other causes include, cognitive- emotional influences, past experiences of anxiety and fear, environmental factors and cumulative stress.
Effects of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety is usually a cunning trick. It signals you to pay attention, but it also turns your brain into oatmeal, narrowing and hardening your focus and blurring real issues from view. Anxiety fools you from the “now” while you compulsively repeat and regret the past and worry about the future. This results in a loss of your competence and capacity for love, creativity, and joy. It tempts you to believe that you are smaller and smaller than you really are. Anxiety affects self-esteem and self-worth, the foundation on which everything rests.
It doesn’t matter if you see your anxiety as the product of your genes, damaged brain chains, early trauma, current stress or world events. Whatever your perspective, one thing is certain; anxiety can make you feel bad. This can interfere with your ability to think. It can dig the huge negative groove in your brain and makes it impossible for you to hold on to positive thoughts for more than five seconds. It can affect your body enough to make you feel paralyzed.
If you’re really worried, your mind center could shrink to the size of a pint of pea. Obviously, it’s hard to feel good when anxiety affects your memory and concentration, and you’re unable to read, write, study, analyze, or receive new information.
Anxiety can also destroy your ability to tolerate ambiguity and complexity. You can’t see two sides of a problem, let alone six or seven sides. The most devastating thing about your self-esteem is losing the ability to see your own versatility. You tend to lock yourself in to narrow ideas of who you are and lose track of your own abilities.
Our perception is often affected by anxiety. As author Susan Jeffers reminds us, Anxiety triggers small chatter in our heads that conjures up disastrous scenarios and serious doubts about our ability to cope, do new things, and cope with anything in life. It triggers our “lower self” thinking, which prompts us to act from our most reactive selves.
Anxiety also has effect on your emotions, your relationship with families, with people around, and God. Anxiety has an effect over your work or profession and also your health.
Prevention of Anxiety
Anxiety prevention entails committing to breaking free from the cycle of anxiety, fear, worry, and sadness that has deprived you of a meaningful and happy life. If you’re like many people who suffer from anxiety disorders, you’ve been stuck in this pattern for a long time. As a result, moving forward will necessitate a great amount of drive and effort on your behalf. This section discusses the importance of motivation in overcoming anxiety and fear. The items listed below are required to protect you from developing anxiety disorders in the future.
Motivation: Motivation is a crucial factor in avoiding anxiety. The more driven you are, the less worried you will get, the more capable you will be of overcoming your anxiety, fear, and concern, and the more likely you will be to practice activities that make you joyful. You’re more likely to adopt the new attitudes toward anxiety and terror if you’re driven to change.
However, as crucial as motivation is for any recovery, it is sometimes misunderstood. Let’s take a look at motivation before moving on to techniques to improve your motivation.
What is the definition of motivation? “It is a motivator or motive to do something.” A small amount of motivation is sufficient. You’re stuck if you believe you can’t start preventing anxiety unless you’re strongly motivated. Motivation isn’t something you can turn on or off like a light switch.
Motivation, on the other hand, is more like a dimmer switch; you can turn it off, but you can also turn it “on” and then turn it off somewhat too intensely. In truth, you only need as much incentive as you need to try, whether “trying” means learning a new skill or disregarding a learned behavior. The correct motivation is based on what you want right now. To put it another way, all you need is enough motivation to accomplish anything right now, and the moments pile up. So, even though it may take a long time, don’t think of weeks or months of hard effort when calculating how much drive you’ll need to recover from an anxiety illness. Think about how much incentive you’ll need to learn a new skill today or perhaps right now.
Realistic expectations: Realistic personal expectations minimize anxiety and enhance motivation, in part because they are more likely to be met, hence it is critical to have realistic expectations at all times. This not only alleviates tension but also boosts our motivation.
Allow your values to lead you: Your values give your life significance. They motivate, inspire, and nourish you. Your values serve as a compass in your life, representing what you seek sincerely and personally. Furthermore, your values drive significant adjustments, such as overcoming worry and fear to live a more satisfying and vital life. Values also assist you in seeing past anxious situations that may hinder you from doing what you want to do or what you would do if you weren’t focused on avoiding the fear or anxiety.
This part teaches you the benefit of connecting with your values and allowing them to lead you to a more fulfilling, less anxious, and meaningful existence. Goals are not the same as values. The destination is a specific destination, or Points (San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego), and the goal is a route on entry the direction of a value. Value is direction, it is a course (e.g. sailing south along the California coast), and the destination is a specific destination, or Points (San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego). The objective is the product, and the process is the value. Integrity is a value, and the goal is to have honest and sensitive conversations with coworkers and friends. The aim is to meet with your doctor once a year to discuss your health. Value is not a wish, a wish, or a preference, such as more money or Indian food; value is not a wish, a wish, or a preference. Truth, belief, or comprehension is all examples of value. Others benefit from certain values, such as charity or generosity. In your wellness and growth service, other values, such as creativity or spirituality, are most popular. To put it another way, follow the spiritual principles and beliefs that boost your pleasure while removing fear, anxiety, and concern.
Positive words and thoughts: To help prevent anxiety disorders, keep a good attitude if you find yourself in a difficult scenario. Allowing yourself to be overcome by the fear of the scenario or circumstances may cause you to think and speak negatively. Allowing negative thoughts to creep in is not a good idea. (Proverbs 23:7; Proverbs 23:8; Proverbs 23:9; Pro “For he is as he thinketh in his heart…….” Allow pleasant thoughts and words to enter your mind.
Biblical Angle to Managing Anxiety
Anxiety and worries has a way of creating fear in our hearts. Truth is, the first thing the devil does whenever he attacks us is throw our minds off-balance. He knows the moment you’re not stable in the heart, every other thing becomes confused. Your mind is the central processing unit of your life. Hence the Bible admonished to carefully keep our minds, for out of it are the issues of life [Proverbs 4:23].
Beloved, you must learn to apply God’s Word when going through challenging moments. If you’re sick, challenge God by His word. Irrespective of what the doctor may have told you, challenge God by His word. His will never fail [Luke 21:33]. His Word is quick and powerful [Hebrews 4:12]. God’s Word restores and quickens our lives [John 6:63].
Another very potent remedy to anxiety is Prayer. Why worry when you can pray? Philippians 4:6 says we shouldn’t worry about anything; instead, we should pray. Have you prayed about that seemingly insurmountable situation? There’s no limit to what prayer can do.
The weapon of Praise is another very powerful tool for handling anxiety and worry. Philippians 4:6 also added thanksgiving. Why don’t you worship God instead of bemoaning your challenges? Praise unlocks closed doors, brings healing, brings favor and enhances absolute victory over forces of darkness. The Psalmist understood this; hence, he praised God even in distress. Engage the weapon of praise today as you pick up a song right now, and sing it heartily unto the Lord.
1. In your own term, how can you define anxiety?
2. List the types of anxiety with a life experience of each.
3. Have you been anxious in life? Explain how you felt in the process.
4. What was the impact of anxiety in you in the process above?
5. How did you manage to come out of it? What have you learned so far from this book that you can apply the next time that you experience anxiety (i.e. prayer, taking your thoughts captive, using God’s Word to combat the lies of the enemy, etc.)?