Anxiety, fears, and racing thoughts

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

God has not given us a spirit of fear!  He gives us power, love, and a sound mind.  Yet, in our world today, anxiety, fear and “monkey brain”–racing thoughts are prevalent and exhausting.

Anxiety Disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older (about 18%) in a given year, causing them to be filled with fearfulness and uncertainty. (National Institute of Mental Health)

I remember attending a conference on the new DSM-5 manual, and the presenter shared that soldiers who suffered the most from PTSD upon return, were those who had unresolved trauma in their childhood.  I bring this up because often unresolved trauma can be the root of our anxiety and fears.  Also, genetics plays a huge part. Who in your extended family has dealt with a diagnosis of Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, or depression?

There is HOPE!  Our society is recognizing, in a positive way, the benefits of researching best practices, counseling, and medication support.

I had two people along my daily activities on Saturday ask for help in the area of obsessive fear, anxiety, and how to calm the brain from racing thoughts.

Note to readers: When you hit a resource link, click the back arrow button (for me it’s top left corner) to return to reading the post.

Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is intended to help the patient face and gain control of the fear and distress that was overwhelming in the trauma, and must be done very carefully in order not to re-traumatize the patient.  For example, if I have a fear of riding in planes, I may begin with looking at a picture of a plane, watch a video of plan a few weeks later, and  then work my way up to boarding a plane, then eventually taking a flight! Some clients do better with “flooding”  a technique of facing your fear head on, and, for example, boarding the plane without all the smaller exposure activities.  Caution!  You have to do what is right for you under the care of a therapist.

If you can regain a sense of “I’m in control” rather than trying to ignore or survive the fear, then you can be master of the fearful thoughts.  You have control over the fear versus the fear having control over you.  Think of your fear as an opponent with patterns and actions that you can predict, reason and control.

Results recently published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (Vol. 18, No. 1, pages 1-11) suggests that this approach works.  Giving people a sense that they can control their own fears is a staple of Zinbarg’s practice as well, he says. Another treatment route is to help people feel that anxiety is something they can tolerate without fighting against, he notes.”If we can succeed in helping people to get the sense they can do something about it, at that point 99 percent of the battle is won.”

(http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar06/fear.aspx)

Here is where I bring my faith in to practice.  God is Omnipotent and Omniscient.  He is always with you and will never leave you nor forsake you.  He is all knowing and will give you the power, love, and sound mind you are seeking.  Literally visualize Him taking care of the image or fear in your mind.  Watch Him work, provide, and then vocalize a promise from His Word or make a statement.  “God thank you for providing safety in this storm.”

Other techniques are mind mapping and keeping a journal.  I found a great video that explains the positive benefits of journaling and what a mind map looks like.  After clicking on the link, scroll down to the bottom of the article and listen to the short video.

http://www.additudemag.com/adhdblogs/11/8894.html

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the best therapy practices for anxiety and fears.  It helps to bring the negative or self-defeating thought out into the open in order to discuss issues surrounding the thoughts, your actions, and how to replace them with more healthy, realistic thoughts.  Below is an excellent article with exercises to help you practice replacing unrealistic or awfulizing thoughts with more reasonable thoughts and actions. This also includes exposure therapy examples.

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_therapy.htm

Mindfulness has become a practice for those suffering from anxiety.  As a Christian, I personally practice mindfulness by incorporating my faith practices of prayer, scripture reading, and worship of Jesus.  It’s important to be true to yourself and values as you consider therapy practices.  It’s okay to say no to certain practices that go against your beliefs.

Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment with all your senses.  Slowly inhale expanding your diaphragm. Count to four, hold for four counts, and then exhale for four counts.  Notice the rise of your diaphragm, hear the sounds around you without judgment, what do you smell?, what sensations do you feel?, and what do you see? This will ground you in the moment. Place no judgment on any thoughts that come into your mind.  Simply let them exist and allow them to float away.  Visualize them floating away.

Mindfulness of the moment with gratitude can bring great joy and peace.  We often live in such abundance, we take for granted the miracle of one drop of rain falling from the sky, watering the earth, and bringing forth vegetation and life. The miracle of the breath in your lungs that provides you with oxygen to live.  The footsteps of your toddler running to greet you with arms wide open. Capture those moments and be grateful to our Creator who is good and filled with blessings.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

Here is a grounding exercise when you are overcome with fear and anxiety in order to ground you in the moment:

54321 “game”.

• Name 5 things you can see in the room with you.

• Name 4 things you can feel (“chair on my back” or “feet on floor”)

• Name 3 things you can hear right now (“fingers tapping on keyboard” or “tv”)

• Name 2 things you can smell right now (or, 2 things you like the smell of)

• Name 1 good thing about yourself

Jesus knew we would be fearful people! He constantly tells us to “Fear not!”  “Be of good courage!”  “Take heart!”

Knowing Jesus and His Word will help you overcome fears.  All of these exercises should be supported with the learning of scripture, engaging with other believers, worship, and prayer.  God tells us to “Be still and know that He is God”.

The benefits of exercise are far-reaching.  Exercise releases serotonin -a hormone that gives us a sense of well-being, and produces great health.  Choose which exercise is right for you and do it consistently.  A great way to calm your mind is through isolated stretching of your muscles, tightening them, and then releasing.  The best way to learn these techniques is through your local gym; however, if you Google “stretching exercises”, you can find many safe techniques.  It’s important to consider your health and what is good for you. Take the time to get out of your mind and concentrate on your full body–exercise, stretch, get active.  Simply tensing up a muscle area and holding for a few seconds and then releasing can offer great stress reduction.

Don’t reject the idea of medication.  Often medication can support our healing.  Ask your doctor what is right for you and consider a complete physical to rule out any other health concerns.  I had a client who suffered from an un-diagnosed thyroid condition that was causing a lot of emotional side effects.  Once this was discovered she began to feel better from the treatment for her medical diagnosis.

Lastly, limit your exposure to media and music that produces fear and anxiety.  Our brain is a computer that holds images and has millions of files/memories.  Keep away from violence and trauma within the media and replace it with all the resources shared here.  Consider not watching the news or getting news updates on your phone. Detox and heal.

Verses on worry and anxiety:

http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/worry-and-anxiety-bible-verses/

Consider a Bible Study:

Breaking Free by Beth Moore (book or a workbook with CDs)

http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=beth+moore%27s+breaking+free&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=30942300141&hvpos=1t2&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1337681091952884110&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_1bbnj86ncf_b

Breaking Free from fear, Kay Arthur

http://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Free-40-Minute-Bible-Studies/dp/0307729850

A Bible Study for men:

Nehemiah: Hope Under Construction

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/hope-under-construction-nehemiah-men-of-purpose-series-P001272490

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