Imagine waking up at 2:00 a.m. with hundreds of thoughts swirling around in your brain. The thoughts are piercing. It is as if your mind is churning in a blender that will not turn off. It is so loud, almost as if it is jammed in an airhorn that doesn’t stop.
You are thinking about a project you forgot to do, a text message (to a sensitive friend) that you forgot to respond to earlier in the day, and worrisome thoughts on a medical test you are awaiting begin to escalate. Your fingers suddenly become tingly, legs become weak, and your breathing becomes labored.
Imagine preparing to head to a social event, but a million thoughts begin to steal your excitement. Instead of the excitement to get out of the house and mingle with friends, obsessive worry takes over.
You worry about being an awkward conversationalist and about potential societal threats. You worry about what you are wearing and wonder if it is the right attire for the event. Your palms begin to sweat, your breathing becomes more intense, your heart begins to race – why does this keep happening?
If these scenarios sound familiar, you or someone you know may be suffering from one of several different types of panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense feeling of threat or danger. It is the feeling of something terrible coming. Different types of panic attacks can happen regularly or can appear out of nowhere without the person’s realization as to what is causing it.
Sophie is an eighteen-year-old who struggles with social anxiety. Every time she enters a crowded room, she begins looking for the EXIT sign. She imagines all the worst-case scenarios. She plans multiple strategies in case something happens.
What if a fight breaks out? What if she sees an ex-boyfriend? She wonders what everyone thinks of her. Does she have something in her teeth? Are her clothes stylish enough, or are they too “last season”? Will someone think she is a bad Christian because she is beginning to panic?
As her breathing becomes labored, she suddenly gets chills, experiences heart palpitations, and becomes nauseous. Sophie is struggling with social anxiety. She is unsure of how to cope with these feelings, which causes her body to respond in this manner.
Anxiety can have a strong and paralyzing effect on one’s body. It is important to realize if this is happening to you so you can begin to pinpoint the triggers and working through different coping mechanisms.
Types of Panic Attacks
There are several types of panic attacks:
- A cued panic attack is one of which you are aware. You may be very aware that you have social anxiety and what situations set your internal alarm off. You may avoid social gatherings altogether because of these unwanted intense feelings.
- Non-cued panic attacks are those for which you are not prepared. You do not know why you are having them, and you are unsure of how to narrow down what is triggering you so you can stop them from happening. It may be something below the surface of which you are unaware.
- Agoraphobia is the fear of going into crowded places. You may avoid going to the mall, movie theater, or other crowded and tight spaces because of a fear of not being able to control a social situation or feeling trapped/helpless.
- Anticipatory anxiety is the fear of having a panic attack. You may avoid situations that you know have previously caused intense feelings of anxiety or panic.
The first step in the process of dealing with and processing your anxiety is to figure out your triggers. What is causing you anxiety? When is it happening? Who is it happening around? Why is it happening?
Steps to Overcome Panic Attacks
If you are struggling with intense feelings of impending danger, it is important to begin narrowing your signs and symptoms down so you can take proactive steps to improve your physical, emotional, and mental health.
Do not be ashamed or embarrassed about what you are feeling.
The first step is to know that you are not alone. Do not feel like you are less-than or falling short. The Bible reminds us that God wants to walk hand-in-hand with us on this journey of life. He does not promise that the road will be easy, but He promises that He will walk alongside us. He will comfort us in times of pain. He will direct us in times of uncertainty.
Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Anxiety may be part of your story, but it does not have to define you. The flames may be burning around you, but they do not have to steal your joy or feelings of hope.
Begin breathing techniques and relaxation exercises.
If you are struggling with panic attacks, begin taking deep breaths when a worrisome thought is consuming you. Download a relaxation breathing app on your phone to have on hand when you begin feeling the onset of panic. Find relaxation exercises and activities that work for you.
Re-channel that negative thought. Speak words of affirmation aloud. Practice yoga, exercise regularly, ensure you are getting adequate sleep and proper nutrition/water intake. To battle the mind, the body also needs proper care and nutrition.
Begin journaling when you have a panic attack.
What were you doing at that moment? What was happening around you? Who was around you? How did you feel? What thoughts began racing through your mind? Journaling will help pinpoint what is causing the panic attack if you are unaware. Journaling may also help you work through and process your thoughts on a deeper level.
Know that your pain will not last forever.
Barbara Haines Howett said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, she became a butterfly.” You may have seen a lot of pain in your lifetime. Maybe those closest to you have not been the most encouraging.
You were made for a beautiful purpose and your story is still being written. Perhaps the last few chapters of life have been painful for you, but there is hope on the horizon. Your story can help make a difference in someone else’s life. This setback may be propelling you into something amazing that is right around the corner – and you do not want you to miss it.
Find a strong support system or accountability partner that you can be authentic with. Find someone who will understand and support you when things become heavy.
Hope on the Horizon: Christian Anxiety Counseling
If you are currently struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, Christian counseling for anxiety may be the perfect fit for you. It is a non-judgmental space that wants nothing but hope, joy, and the beautiful unfolding of a new chapter for your life. Today could bring new dawn – scheduling your appointment is the first step to building a stronger and better tomorrow.
Bible Verses for Anxiety
I encourage you to say and pray these aloud when anxiety tries to creep in and steal your sense of peace:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. – Psalm 34:4
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. – Proverbs 12:25
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. – Psalm 23:4
A Prayer for the Anxious Heart
Father, right now I pray for the person whose heart is anxious. Lord, I pray that you would intervene. Cover their soul right now. Replace their anxious thoughts with thoughts of hope and positive declarations to ward off this negativity.
Please take away the feelings of panic and replace them with feelings of peace and hope. Please soothe their soul, calm their mind, and let them feel that You are present – now and forevermore. Please work in their heart as only You can. Please remind them that they are not alone.
In Jesus’ Name,
“Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Alexandre Croussette, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Masking”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Letting Go of the Stress”, Courtesy of Eli DeFaria, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Free At Last”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License