Dr. Bill Gaultiere
Executive Director of New Hope
are the number two mental health problem in America, second only
to addictions in terms of the number of people effected. One in
ten adults have suffered from panic attacks, phobias, or other
anxiety disorders in the past year. Many, many others have problems
with anxiety. Anxiety can be debilitating. It saps your energy
for living, makes relationships feel like more trouble than their
worth, diminishes productivity, distracts you from learning, and
dulls your sense of humor. The good news is that there is help!
You can move from anxiety to peace, emotional paralysis to effective
living and I've suggested 26 antidotes to help you - or someone
you care about - to get there. First, let's get a better understanding
of anxiety. Consider these people who suffered from common anxiety
mother of three young children had been struggling with a social
phobia for years before she got help. She described a typical
episode like this, "I was at a church gathering last night and
they started going around the circle for everybody to introduce
themselves. Immediately I panicked. My face flushed, my heart
was racing, and I felt sweaty. I couldn't sit still. So I got
up and went to the bathroom."
student named Jared struggles with panic disorder. He becomes
panicked about going to his Communications class because he never
knows when his teacher will call on him to read out loud or to
present his views on a subject. Sometimes his heart races and
he has difficulty breathing, he starts sweating and becomes dizzy
and disoriented, and he's sure that he's going to die or go crazy.
26 years old and she has the same symptoms as Jared whenever she
feels trapped in public. She's an agoraphobic and lately won't
go out of her house or her car in public, even to the grocery
store, without her husband or her mother. She explained why, "My
cart was full of groceries. I was ready to check out and saw that
the lines were really long. I panicked. I was afraid to get stuck
in line. What if I had an attack? That'd be so humiliating. I
just left my cart in the aisle and went home."
named Randy obsesses over his 10-year old girl's safety. Every
day he checks on her at school, looking in the window to see that
she's okay. Every night he checks many times to see that the doors
to their house are locked. Randy has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Even if you
don't suffer from social phobia, panic disorder, agoraphobia,
or obsessive-compulsive disorder you may have a significant problems
in your relationships or work because of anxiety. Ask yourself
(or the friend or family member you're concerned about) if you
experience any of the following symptoms of generalized anxiety.
and feeling keyed up
concentrating or focusing
aches, or tingling in muscles
Chronic or debilitating anxiety, like other serious emotional
and behavioral problems, is multi-causal. By definition anxiety
is a secondary emotion that is felt when primary emotions
like anger, fear, or sadness are repressed. Denial isn't the
only cause for anxiety though. Usually, anxiety disorders
are caused by a combination of two or more of four factors.
vulnerability and biological factors. Some people are born
with an anxious and reactive personality type. Their neuroendocrine
and neurotransmitter systems in their brains are particularly
vulnerable to stress. Various medical conditions and drug
reactions can also cause anxiety symptoms.
circumstances. Usually, adults with an anxiety disorder
grew up with negative, anxious messages (explicit or implicit)
like: · "Don't be emotional or needy."
· "You are as valuable as what you accomplish so try harder."
· "You have to be careful. The world is a dangerous place."
· "You need to take care of yourself."
Stress. We all experience stress, some more than others,
in the form of challenges and changes. We can't avoid stressful
life events but we can respond to them with a healthy attitude.
Provoking Personality Traits. Usually, people with anxiety
disorders have internalized into their self-talk one of
more of the four negative parental messages above. They
relate to themselves and to their world in ways that cause
anxiety. When they experience stress they don't process
their feelings and adapt well, but instead become anxious
I know many people who have either overcome an anxiety disorder
or significantly reduced their anxiety. In each case they needed
immediate and effective help for their whole person - body,
mind, and spirit. Here are 26 different anxiety antidotes in
four categories - emergency first aid, physical, psychological,
and spiritual - that can increase your sense of peace and your
effectiveness in relationships and work.
Randy took medication for his Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
as part of his therapy and learned to trust that his daughter
wasn't in constant danger. There are a number of anti-anxiety
medications that offer immediate and powerful help. Of course,
prospective patients need to consult with their doctor or
If you're having a panic attack or are highly anxious you
can use this technique just to get through it. Focus on
something to distract you from your anxiety until it subsides.
It could be a reading, watching TV, or a project your working
on. Later, when you're feeling up to it, address your feelings.
People with panic disorder make the mistake of trying to
control their symptoms. But you can't stop a panic attack
once it's started. Instead, realize that it's not going
to hurt you and let it ride its course by "floating" with
it. Paradoxically, this should help it subside.
exercises. Anxious people breathe rapid, shallow breaths
from their chest. Slow, deep breathing from your stomach
helps you relax. Breathe in deep until you fill your lungs,
hold it inside for the count of ten, slowly exhale. Repeat
this until your body relaxes.
Relaxation. Anxiety cumulates in our bodies and needs to
be discharged. Sit or lay down in a comfortable position.
Do some deep breathing exercises then go through certain
muscle groups in your body, tensing the muscle for a count
of ten and then relaxing. You can go through your whole
body, head to toe or you can focus just on those muscles
that are tight and tense from gathering anxiety - forehead,
jaw, neck/shoulders, back, hands.
Briana, the agoraphobic referenced earlier, learned to utilize
this technique. Instead of driving home from the grocery
store when she felt panicked she went to her car and waited
until she calmed. Then she gathered herself and went back
into the store to bring her groceries through the check
out line. Retreating to her car gave her permission to go
to a safe place to calm down and going back into the store
to face her fear restored her confidence. To not go back
and face your fear is avoidance and increases the power
of your fear to paralyze you.
The Bible offers a powerful prescription for anxiety: "Do
not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer
and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to
God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Many people today try to get too much done too quickly and
need to set more realistic expectations and get enough rest.
Honoring the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments and
it's more needed today than it was 3,000 years ago.
To reduce anxiety, avoid caffeine and nicotine and decrease
sugar and fat intake.
Deep tissue massage or even a good neck and should rub can
relax your body and help you unwind.
Jog, bike, lift weights, walk, or do some other aerobic
activity for 30 minutes at least three times a week and
you'll feel increases in energy, well-being, and confidence
and you'll release pent up stress in your body.
your feelings to a safe person. At least once a day, process
the events of your day and share your feelings with a caring
listener. This is one of the most things you can do for
your mental health.
your schedule. Left unchecked, anxiety feeds on itself by
leading you to become helter-skelter in thought and activity.
It's good to take a step back, review your priorities, make
a to do list, and focus on them one at a time.
your Anxiety. Understanding when you're anxious and what
causes you to get anxious will enable you to get the help
you need before you're overloaded or in a crisis.
your Feelings. When you're angry, afraid, sad, or whatever
you're feeling, accept it and talk it through with your
therapist, support group, or friend.
your Limitations. Learning when to say no empowers you to
say yes and accomplish great things. You can't do everything
you want to do, you can't please everybody, and you can't
do things perfectly. Instead, focus on what's most important
and do your best until you've accomplished it.
your Self-talk. Anxious people need to change counter the
negative things they say to themselves and use positive
self-talk to help them cope with anxiety and to better care
for themselves. Sheila learned to do this to overcome her
social phobia. Instead of fretting, "They're going to see
me blush. I'll make a fool of myself." She said to herself,
"I don't need to impress anybody. I like me. I can introduce
myself." Other examples of replacing anxious self-talk with
affirming self talk are: · "What will they think if I lose
it?" -> "If I start to panic I'll let it pass and probably
no one will notice."
· "Oh no - here it comes again. What's the matter with me?"
-> "I'm experiencing anxiety symptoms. I'll be ok."
· "I'll never get over this problem." -> "I'm working to
implement my treatment program. It just takes time."
· "I'm weak." -> "It's taking courage for me to face this
· "I'm not good enough." -> "I am loved, forgiven, and valuable."
Relational Conflicts and Set Boundaries. Most people with
anxiety problems fearfully avoid conflicts with other people,
thereby internalizing their anger and generating anxiety.
They need to learn say no, express a dissenting opinion,
ask for what they need, and verbalize their anger to those
who hurt, control, or offend them.
Yourself. For instance, Jared's therapist helped him learn
to speak out loud in class without panicking by using a
technique called systematic desensitization in which he
gradually faced his fear. First he imagined giving a speech
in class. Then he gave one alone in his room in front of
the mirror. Then to his roommate. Then to his professor
in the classroom. And finally, he gave his speech in front
of the whole class.
Relaxation through Biofeedback. By working with a therapist
or a doctor trained in the use of biofeedback you can learn
to reprogram the way you respond to stressful events.
Being thankful for God's blessings in your life - small
and large - helps secure those blessings for your benefit
and is a healing balm when anxious concerns burden you.
Meditation is a powerful relaxant. I often do this with
Psalm 23, prayerfully reciting the psalm to myself, imagining
it's vivid, soothing scenes and entrusting my concerns to
my Good Shepherd. I also like to meditate on nature. Near
my home is a lake, many sycamore trees, flowers of all types,
and music-making birds that I use to focus my thoughts through
reflection and prayer.
This is commonly used in eastern religions, but is safe
and helpful for Christians too. Simply pick a comforting
word or a phrase and focus on it, repeating it over and
over. For instance, I've done this with the phrase, "I trust
you Lord" in order to turn over my burdens to him, one by
Study. The Bible offers much comfort and wisdom for those
who are anxious and troubled. Here's a few examples to get
you started: Psalm 46:10, Proverbs 1:33, 19:23, Matthew
6:25-34, 11:28-30, Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7.
Singing songs of praise to God tunes your soul to God and
His loving purposes for you. When we worship him as our
Lord then we can relax.
Find someone else who is anxious, or who has some other
problem, and offer a listening ear or some practical help.
You're problems won't seem so big and you'll feel better
about yourself knowing that you're making a difference for