I have a special connection to breathing these days. Now before you get all sarcastic in your head, I am aware that we all have a special connection to breathing as it keeps us alive. But, about a year and a half ago I learned something new about myself. I struggle with anxiety. I never knew it because it felt normal to me. It’s a fairly mild level, so it never caused me any significant disruptions, so it went mainly undetected. But my husband spent a month in India in Jan 2011 and I decided to take Valarian Root which is an herbal supplement for anxiety, specifically as it interrupts sleep. I had such a good month, in spite of the kids all getting the flu, a million snow days while I had to work and trying to be a single mom. When he got home, I quit taking the Valarian Root because I knew I’d be able to sleep again, and something funny happened. I could feel the difference. I was anxious and tearful and waking at night some. I finally put the pieces together that this is how I felt before but I’d never had a comparison. I was not shocked, but it was strange to say, “I have anxiety” when I never had known it before.
So, the counselor in me set about learning what works well for me in reducing my anxiety. Here’s what I’ve found: following Jesus’ instruction to live in the present and not worry about the future is very important. My friend at work Chandy reminds me to live on the day of the calendar I’m on, not try to live my whole week at once. It’s so true when you have anxiety, you tend to get overwhelmed by looking too far ahead on your calendar. Jesus addresses this tendency in His word a lot by telling us that no one knows what the future holds, and we need to instead seek Him in the present moment. We are instructed to pray for “daily bread” not weekly or monthly bread. Why? Because God only gives you what you need for the moment you need it. He wants us to depend on Him every minute of every day.
The other thing I figured out is so simple it’s elemental. Literally. Air and water. They are essential for everyone but especially helpful for the anxiety prone. Deep breathing has become a wonderful calming tool and I use it whenever I need it. Free, simple and you can do it anywhere. The studies say 10 deep breaths lower blood pressure, lower heart and rate and give you better oxygen sat’s. Deep breathing is simple: close your eyes and picture a place where you feel completely relaxed and safe. Imagine yourself in that place (mine is the beach at dusk) and breath slowly and deeply in through your nose. Hold it for a count, then blow out through your mouth slowly. 10 times. It’s amazing.
I drink much more water than I used too. Water helps absorb adrenaline in your system, so you feel more calm. Anxious people produce more adrenaline often times, so the water is a simple way to get back to a calmer place.
Here’s the thing about being a christian and dealing with anxiety: I used to feel guilt or shame about it. Now I remember that God doesn’t call me to be strong or perfect or together. In fact, it’s when I come to Him in brokenness that He is most able to help me heal. And I do see Him using all kinds of things to help me heal. Including the air and water He created, and His word and His presence.