As you can imagine as one of the leading members of Christ Audio I've received my fair share of calls and emails. Once I spoke to a lady concerned over her adult child who was married and had children of his own. She constantly fretted over his travels, business, and marriage. As she expressed her feelings I noticed a tendency to overthink many aspects of her son's life. Even small details would conjure imaginations, usually negative.
I asked about her son's affairs. To my surprise he had never encountered major misfortune in his travels, business, or marriage. In fact, he was successful, happy, and in a very stable relationship with his wife. When I asked what I could do for her, she answered with a prayer request for her son.
Undoubtedly, the mother needed more prayer than her son. The attics of the mother in this story displayed hallmark anxiety symptoms. Anxiety and overthinking tend to be partners on a very ugly path that changes a person.
The Value of Anxiety
Probing deeper I discovered that mom could never relax. Even during festive occasions she expressed worry and sometimes dissatisfaction over a multitude of things. Fully enjoying a festive occasion with her family was usually tainted with underlying thoughts of doubt, fear, and sometimes anger.
Over the years I've pondered the value of anxiety. Can anyone really benefit from anxiety? Anxiety is a combination of biological and psychological mechanisms that helps millions of people each day. Low to moderate amounts of anxiety is normal and can actually help an individual think ahead, deliberate longer over a decision, help us to perform better, and keep us out of trouble.
But when the anxiety button is left "on" problems begin. In the case of the anxious mother, anxiety shrouded her mind. Her view of life was mostly negative, although she didn't see it that way. Additionally, it caused her to magnify situations with overthinking making things worse for herself and others. Compounding the problem were a flurry of intense emotions that further exacerbated an already troublesome pattern.
Our conversion centered around her need to always help. Her son never needed help yet she had a nearly obsessive drive to always be of assistance. No matter how small the task she would step in and "make things better", which of course was driven by an inner compulsion that needed satisfaction. After satisfying one compulsion she'd move on to the next, and so on.
As you can imagine a mentality like this can never fully enjoy life in the present moment. The depth of our spiritual existence can only be appreciated when we stop trying so hard to live and just... live.
Now it's time address the elephant in the room. Anxiety is a mental illness that affects mind and body. The central theme for this mom was her desire to help, or make things better, even when her help was not needed. During my interview with her I noticed cyclical mental patterns, disjointed thought, and sometimes a lack of memory. These are all symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety short circuits cognitive skills, causes lack of clarity, and depresses memory. These shortcomings are generally caused by stress and the ensuing biological mechanisms. If the cycle is not properly addressed symptoms may worsen and cause more harm.
In the case of mom, if her son was truly in harms way, or in dire need, her over stressed cognitive skills would not permit her to make the best choice for her son.
For number of years clarity and high cognitive skills have been associated with an "actively relaxed" mind, generally induced by a meditation practice. A person in this state of mind can more rapidly react to an emergency with faster and more appropriate actions than a person with debilitated cognitive skills. So mom has it backwards. If she wants to be her son's best aid she needs to let go of the psychology that holds her prisoner in the halls of anxiety. Then she can be a source of inspiration, wisdom, and true help to her son.
To my surprise this mom meditated every day, exercised frequently, and was on healthy diet. Looking into her life we can surmise that a healthy lifestyle may not be the answer to the anxiety woes.
This case clearly shows that there are two components to anxiety, psychological and biological. Regardless of how the body is maintained the mind can still wreak havoc. Worst yet, the inflections of the mind have the insidious ability to disrupt good health. So what is gained with meticulous prowess is lost to the mind gremlins who steal, plunder, and destroy.
You can benefit from anxiety if you keep it under control. Healthy anxiety can guide us and keep us safe. Left unchecked it can destroy us from within.
Do You Have Anxiety?
Overthinking and constantly ruminating over everything is a classic symptom of any type of anxiety disorder. A brain that has the hyper-vigilant switch turned on is always on the watch for what it thinks to be dangerous or worrisome. If not properly addressed the effects can be devastating for some people. To help you understand whether or not you might be affected by anxiety here's a simple list of questions to get you started.
- Do you sometimes think about what people should have said or should not have said? This may be a symptom of common in social anxiety.
- Do you worrying incessantly about how you are looked at by others? Do you worry about how you are measuring up to the world? This may be a symptom of common in social and performance anxiety.
- Do you create fearful what-if scenarios about things that could go wrong for yourself, loved ones, and the world? This may be a symptom of common in generalized anxiety disorder.
- Do you ever have extreme imaginations about your deficiencies, faults, and incompetencies. This may be a symptom of all anxiety disorders.
- Do you ever feel trapped inside? Do you feel panic or high stress, so much that breathing is difficult and you fear being around people? This may be a symptom of panic disorder with or without agoraphobia.
- Do you constantly worrying about a multitude of things? Are your thoughts sometimes obsessive? Can they lead to frightening mental scenarios that make you nervous? Do you go back and think those thoughts constantly? This may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Have you ever noticed that one thought can cascade into chain of worrisome thoughts? This may be a symptom of all anxiety disorders?
If you answered yes to any question in this list you may have anxiety. There is no shame in asking for help. Seek professional advice from a doctor, licensed counselor, or therapist right away to get treated. There is a high likelihood that your anxiety can be managed to a healthy standard.
Why Anxiety Is So Harmful
No one likes to experience stress or anxiety —the fact is that nearly 40 million Americans deal with some level of anxiety everyday. The of anxiety can go from a small annoyance to a major health hazard that requires medical treatment. Anxiety disorder can affect your health in more ways than you may realize which can have long-term implications. Here's a list of complications to consider if you think you may have anxiety:
An active spleen - Anxiety can affect internal functions like spleen and blood cells. During high stress moments the body distribute more oxygen which causes the spleen to discharge extra red and white blood cells overworking your system.
Muscle tension - Once you start to feel anxious, the body naturally tightens up and contracts muscle fiber which creates a strain on larger muscle groups. Chronic stress can lead to headaches, stiff neck and shoulders, and migraines.
Throat or voice troubles - If your voice sounds croaky or squeaky during a stressful situation, it is because fluids are diverted to more essential locations in the body, causing spasms in the throat muscles. The relocation of fluids will feel as discomfort in the throat and may result in tightness, possibly making it difficult to swallow.
Liver reactions - When a person experiences anxiety, the adrenal glands located above the kidneys produce excess amounts of the cortisol hormone. The liver will react to the abundance of cortisol by producing more glucose, the high-energy blood sugar that prepares the “fight or flight” reactions in he body. Additional blood sugar could potentially cause health issues and should be addressed right away.
Skin reactions - Feeling cold, sweaty, or clammy, or warm, with flushed cheeks is the body’s outward expression that stress has invaded the body and is preparing the "fight or flight" response. This reaction is useful reaction when we are confronted with a truly dangerous situation. However, continuous, or a long-term, overexposure to this reaction can adversely affect our health cause the skin to age faster. Other skin reactions may include: increased perspiration, increases production of histamine, and even eczema outbreaks.
Long-term exposure to anxiety can cause additional health issues so it's best to get professional advice when dealing with anxiety.
How To Start Overcoming Anxiety
The surprising truth about anxiety is that many people can overcome it. At the very least it can be managed and controlled lessening the effects it may have. Here's a list that many people find helpful on the way to recovery:
- Breathe - When you get anxious try controlling your breath. Firs take a 4 to 5 long deep breaths. Inhale, hold for 2 to 5 seconds, exhale. Then practice a regular breathing pattern - 4 to 5 seconds for the inhale, and 5 to 7 seconds on the exhale. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Exercise - 20 - 30 minutes of daily exercise has been proven to help anxiety.
- Meditate or pray - Letting go for a few minutes and getting touch with God can help tremendously at soothing the nervous system and balancing you heart, soul, mind and body.
- Healthy diet - A healthy organic diet that cuts out sugars, caffeine, alcohol, unhealthy fats, and processed food has also shown to help with anxiety. Be sure to consult with your doctor before you change your diet or start an exercise regimen.
- Magnesium - This supplement is a mineral that nourishes our nervous system and fights anxiety, fear, nervousness, and restlessness. Magnesium is also has protective effect over the heart and arteries. be sure to consult with a doctor before you take any supplement.
- Herbals - There many herbal products and teas that help with anxiety. Test and learn, but be sure to ask your doctor about any adverse effects herbal compounds may have on your health.
- Therapy - The mind can hold almost miraculous keys over the body and a therapist can help untangle troublesome psychology while highlighting positive mental powers. So get help from a therapist.
If you can control your mind you can control anxiety. Controlling anxiety can lead to mental stability which can magnify our efforts to remain physically healthy. By being clear of mind and body we can relax in the mindful tranquility of God where insight is developed.
But our first task is to address the mental patterns that quietly veil our perception. Living with a psychology that does not permit full-time clarity disallows us to effectively perceive the errors of own mind, worst yet trying to adopt a psychology that breeds clarity. Very few people have the time, persistence, and tenacity to unravel mountains of information adequately enough to permanently change themselves.
What is certain though, is that love and faith can move mountains. If any part of this article spoke to you in a familiar way it's probably time to seek help and employ any recommendations you get from a doctor, counselor, or therapist. Just be sure to keep your love and faith burning bright. Love and faith ignite the will and spirit, and a strong will can help you overcome the insurmountable. Thank God gave you the power to overcome which dwells in Christ Jesus. God bless you. We're praying for you. To continue the discussion about anxiety post your comments below.
If you're wondering about the mom whom I spoke with. I advised her to get help from a licensed counselor. Almost a year later I got a beautiful email from her. She did not seek professional help due to the expense, but she took my advise seriously and embarked on a quest to become a better person.
Through books and lots of self observation and practice she was able to see how "off" her thinking was. Instead of trying to create the change she wanted for her son, she is now at peace with her life, her son's life, and everyone around her. She wrote about how her newly found peace allows her to experience a love she never knew existed. This new experience has enabled her to truly help others in profound ways not possible before.
The lesson we can all take away from this is that anxiety can be a valuable teacher. Although at times she may be a harsh teacher she can bring a lot of value to our lives. If we are willing to understand, learn, change, and persist we will come out wiser, and hopefully healthier. God bless you. We're praying for you.
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