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Mental Health Counseling from a Biblical Perspective for Teens, Young Adults, Adults, and Couples in the Redmond and NewCastle areas. Seattle Christian Counseling for Teens & Adults emphasizing God's word with Joshua Loy, MA LMHC and Gabe Davis, M.Div, M.S., LMFT.

Anxiety Part 1: Fighting the Torture of Anxiety with Band-Aids

Blog | New Ground Counseling | Addiction Counselor

Blog posts from Joshua Loy, MA LMHC and Gabe Davis MS, MDiv, LMFT. New Ground Counseling focuses on Bible-based, Mental Health Counseling for Teens in the Redmond, Bellevue and greater Seattle area.  Emphasizing the power of God's Word in Biblical Counseling with Teens and Young Adults.

Anxiety Part 1: Fighting the Torture of Anxiety with Band-Aids

Joshua Loy

The Torture of Anxiety

“Everything in my body feels like pins and needles.”
“It can take me hours, sometimes a whole day to come down.”
“I have the worst-case scenario continually running through my head.”
“I never want to experience that again.”

Descriptions of anxiety often end up sounding like torture.  Probably the best (and worst) description I heard this year was “Anxiety is that feeling of falling toward the ground when tripping… consistently over long stretches of time.”  Anxiety amplifies every individual moment and stretches it out in terror, dread, and overstimulation.  Anxiety is also the largest and fastest growing category of diagnosis in the DSM.  More and more of us are facing this internal torture.

Wherever you are from worrisome thoughts to panic attacks, anxiety is exhausting and unpleasant.  So if you struggle with fear, worry, anxiety, or panic, these next few entries are for you. 

Dragonball-Z and Your Body

Our bodies are hard-wired with an incredible automatic response to danger.  It’s designed to activate quickly to prepare your body to fight or run.  P.S., it does this in split-second fashion.

Anyone remember Dragonball-Z? (No?  Just Me?  Sigh…)  Well, your nervous system doesn’t take 5 episodes to “power up” to level 5000 to fight the bad guy.  If it perceives danger, it takes less than a second to reach 150 million (which we all know is Super Saiyan).  And here’s what just happened:

  • Accelerated heartbeat (for more blood in muscles to fight)
  • Deeper, rapid breathing (for a large supply of oxygen needed for ‘the struggle’
  • A flood of adrenaline (epinephrine) (for increased strength, stamina, and speed)
  • Increased muscle tension (for quick movement and bracing for hits)
  • Cold sweat (in prep for the warm sweat of actual muscular activity)
  • Dilation of pupils (for a better view of the threatening dangers)
  • Dry mouth (because your body suspends stomach/digestive activities)

But unlike Dragonball-Z, you’re not saving the earth from immanent destruction.  You’re lying in bed and thinking “What did that person think of me?!”  So when you are embarrassed, fearful of the future, or feel threatened by what others think, your body gets ready to survive the zombie apocalypse.

The Band-Aids

When working with anxious persons, I always start with the band-aids.  Because when you’re bleeding, band-aids are helpful.  Here are some simple steps you can take immediately to reduce symptoms and get through anxious moments.

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Or “Belly Breathing”)

This is maybe the most important band aid, because it helps you respond to the physical chain reaction outlined above.  Desperation comes from the feeling of being out of control.  Belly breathing is one of the only ways to decrease the bat-crazy state of the anxious nervous system.

You can find instructions HERE, but most people find it easier to learn belly breathing through demonstration.  I recommend that clients download an app for their phone.  There are lots of great apps, but the one I’ve used is: “Relax—Stress and Anxiety Relief,” because it’s available for iPhone, Android, and Windows. 

If you are consistent in practicing (1-3x per day), your body actually gets better at powering down.  It learns how to relax more effectively and quickly.  Also, you can start doing this the moment you feel anxious (before you go Super Saiyan).

Reduce Unnecessary Stress

This sounds like simple advice, but it’s hard.  People really stink at saying “no” to things, especially if they struggle with “shoulding” all over themselves.  Many times, our ‘shoulds’ play a big role in anxiety (“I should be a better mom.  I should have had money in the savings account by now.  I should be married by now.”).  Anxious people can fail to pull back on responsibilities, even when they are having weekly panic attacks.  They’ll say, “I can’t live like this anymore” and then sign up to lead a small group at church (palm --> face).

Give yourself permission to do less, because stress is an evil side-kick to anxiety. 

Use Your Proven Calming Methods

Each person has unique things that are calming to them.  In other words, what’s calming to one person is not always calming to another.  Some people watch episodes Planet Earth and rest in wonder + worship.  Others can only see animals killing each other.  So take some personal inventory:  “What works to calm you down?”  It might be: listening to music, baths, journaling, walking, reading, etc.

Then, do these in response to your anxious moments.  This is called “developing a relaxation response.”  Your proven calming methods actually get better.  Surprisingly, many worried people have not yet employed their own stuff.

Other Band-Aids:  Medication, killing your coffee intake, progressive muscle relaxation, internal skill building, etc.  (**Medication can be an important, blood-stopping band-aid.  Anxiety hijacks the nervous system and the brain.  If we are unwilling to use interventions that combat the chemical takeover that many experience (especially when it has become automatic), then cue up the disappointment and frustration.

You Can Be Free of Fear

These are only band-aids.  These strategies address the symptoms of anxiety.  They cannot resolve anxiety.  They actually don’t get anywhere near the cause or solution.  If we do only these (as prescribed by many), we are simply 'mowing the weeds.'

Astoundingly, God invites us to get off the anxiety spectrum completely.  He looks at the person with worry and the person with a full blown panic disorder and says “You can be free of all fear.  You can have true and lasting moment-to-moment peace.”  That’s a bold proposition, but also a hopeful one.

God tells us that anxiety comes from us—our fears, insecurities, and bleak anticipation for the future.  However, He also says that peace comes from Him—His promises, character, and accomplishment on our behalf.  With these, He invites us “Do not fear.”  More importantly, God tells us how not to fear. 

Over the next four weeks, I invite you to see how God can be your safety and peace, in the midst of a raging storm.