Last week was a well-timed kickoff of my online virtual Zoom study for Discovering Jesus…
Many in my world, from friends to audience members, have shared a struggle with what they deem as “panic attacks”. I have sent an email, personalized to each so often in the past year, that I thought I would post it as a blog in case any of those who read our writing, their friends and family, could also move from panic to peace with God’s help.
You are not alone! Some recent statistics reveal:
“A survey from the CDC and the Census Bureau found the percentage of adults with symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from August 2020 to February 2021.” (July 2021)
A national survey from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) shows COVID-19 is seriously affecting Americans’ mental health, with half of US adults reporting high levels of anxiety. (March 2020)
In today’s world, there seems to be an ever- growing list of reasons worry and anxiety are rising. Macro fears impacting the globe: the pandemic, extremism, politics, terrorism, impending war, global warming, etc. Then many more micro reasons (that daily may impact you or your family): poverty or worry about your future, shortages, constantly changing rules on the virus, travel, masks, our children’s education, social gatherings (or lack of them), personal health concerns, relationship or work stress, worry for your children or grandchildren, feeling stretched like there is not enough of you to get it all done, loneliness caused by lockdowns or curbed church attendance levied by leaders, are just a few of the myriad of stressors common today.
Worry will take a toll on your mind and body. Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD shares several on WebMD: inability to concentrate, weight gain from stress eating, taking up unhealthy addictions like shopping, gambling, drugs, or smoking, dizziness, headaches, heart attack, stroke, trembling, memory loss, suppressed immunity, and digestive disorders.
For me and many friends in my world, worry might give warning signs of uncontrollable emotions, heart palpitations, or overwhelming nervousness that was previously not a part of your personality or life response.
The good news is just as worry forced its way into your life, God and His power can help you push it back out of your front door!
“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26 ESV)
“‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jer. 32:17 ESV)
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10 ESV)
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Ps 62:5-6)
And a passage that shows the path from panic to peace and even prosperity that is underlined in my Bible Is Habakkuk 3:16-19:
16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
So, when you feel panic attack coming on, try one of these Selah Serenity activities. I am not a psychologist, but these Selah exercises work for me. Selah is a word from the Psalms that is like a rest note in music, and it simply means, “a pause to ponder”. Applying one or all of them should help you find inner calm and more personal peace. Try each to see what helps you.
1.Climb into God’s Hammock
Pray this verse from Isaiah 26:3 (AMP) OUT LOUD and ask your best friend, spouse, or Bible study group to pray it over you:
“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character], Because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation].
Trust means to place your FULL WEIGHT (body, soul, mind, spirit) on to God. In this blog is a doodle drawing from my Art Bible that captures one word picture of placing your full weight on to God. (Side note: There are many benefits of being creative to lower your stress including your mind, while creating, is distracted from your problems and issues!) I like to picture myself climbing into God’s trustworthy character. To apply this, I often literally lay down, put on soft instrumental praise music, take slow deep breaths. Close my eyes and I picture myself resting into GOD’s hammock of tender loving care.
2. Raise Your Sail
Put up a picture of the ocean, a beach photo from your vacation, a photo of sailboat on the ocean or I gaze over a Bible art drawing I sketched from one of my favorite empowering verses from Romans 15:13:
Pray this verse:
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The word “fill” here is the picture of a sail being filled taut, so the boat moves forward. The sail is filled by the Spirit, the pnuema breath of God. While studying all the verses of hope in the bible for the writing of Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience, I was reminded:
“The God of Hope” is our Creator’s name!
In this verse we see that It is HIS responsibility to both do the filling, and give the OUTCOME of hope, joy, peace etc. All we do is RAISE OUR SAIL through prayer,
“Lord, I raise my sail, I am asking you to fill me, my life, my future with YOU, Your Peace, Your Hope, Your Spirit, Your JOY“
I also keep a white hanky by my bed and when feeling anxious, desperate, or overwhelmed, I just wave the white flag of surrender as a symbol of me raising my sail. No words are even necessary, God knows my heart—and God knows YOUR heart!
3. Triumph in the Tower
If I really need to fortify my mindset to keep calm, I pray this verse out loud:
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
I then either read aloud all the names of God (A long list can be found in the back of my book Becoming a Brave New Woman. I like to say:
“Show me the size of your God, I will show you the size of your courage.
BIG GOD=BIG COURAGE!”
The more of the truth about God and the more of God’s Word you have in you, the more peace and confidence will grow in your life. I often put on praise songs or hymns that proclaim God’s name (One of my favorite right now is Waymaker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light In the Darkness song and sing it over and over until I calm).
4. Walk Out Your Worries
I am thankful for my friend, Janet McHenry, for writing PrayerWalk (or audiobook). I have woven this daily habit into my life, and it always calms me down, lifts me up, and improves my outlook. I think it is because it combines our emotional, physical, and spiritual components of life. Exercise releases happy endorphins, and if I pray and pour out my heart as I walk, I am:
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
To cast means to hurl, like one would throw out a fishing net. So, when I hurl my concerns, I am batting them, like a tennis ball, into God’s court and out of mine! Also, by walking in nature, I am reminded that God created the world and all we see so God can create a way forward for me, my family, my ministry, and my concerns.
5. Bedtime Boost
Nightly, before I go to bed, I do these things:
A) Jot Down Joy: I list my praises and thankfulness on to the Radiant Joy Handout (from Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience). As I “count my many blessings, name them one by one”, I create an attitude of gratitude. (Gratitude has many benefits, including helping you live a bit longer and happier! And here are 10 More Ways to Wake Up with More Joy)
“. . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)
I love the word picture of this verse too. Take your concern, wrap it in the “tissue paper” of thanksgiving, and put your heaviness into a gift bag then present the package to the King who is the only one who can do anything about what is bothering you.
You are trading your sorrows for God’s peace-filled provision.
B) Give Them Up: I write down my concerns, either in a notebook titled “His” (or in my Joy Journal) or into a box marked “His” and I give my stressors to God:
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)
Another word picture of cast or hurl can be like chucking a rock. (When I am really stressed, I will write the stresses on rocks and throw them into the ocean, lake, or river! I started this habit when I was growing up on a farm, I would gather smooth stones and toss them into our irrigation ditches.) The act of throwing and seeing them go into the ocean (which has consistent waves that remind me of the faithfulness of God) helps me leave my anxieties and problems with God because He is faithful and able!
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13)
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
C) Sing to Serenity!
I put on praise music or the WORD (audio bible or even the Psalms on You Tube) and fall asleep to the TRUTH! Why?
“the Lord inhabits the praises of His people…” (Psalm 22:3 KJV)
Listening to and singing the Truth, and praises to God, reminds my mind that I can rest in him, and drift off to sweet slumber—and I wake up with more joy, more hope, more peace, and more motivation!
6. Solace thru Self Care
Take time to just b..r..e..a..t..h..e.. Our mental and emotional health is strengthened when we also take good care of our bodies. Lower your caffeine intake, up fresh fruits and veggies and healthy lean proteins, a dash of calcium rich foods and some ancient whole grains. Get 8 hours of sleep, take a nap, and yes, read a real “hold in your hand” paper book. If you can afford it, have a massage, or buy a self-message chair pad, go to a spa or at least climb into a jacuzzi or warm Epsom salt bath and relax.
Care for yourself like God cares for you.
I have found terrific wellness help from First Place 4 Health ministry (It helped me lose 70 pounds and I have kept it off for more than a decade!) Remember:
“your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…”(1 Cor 6:19)
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul” (Psalm 23: )
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1:2)
7. Rally the Troops: Lastly, I urge you to call in your prayer warriors and ask them to pray over you OUT LOUD. Satan wants to tie you up in emotional knots, but God wants to free you!
So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
It helps to hear our friends speak LIFE over us. This is twofold:
- Satan must flee at the sound of the Truth:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
- Our mind is made to function best on a steady diet of the Truth:
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
If you try all these things, and you are still in need of a breakthrough, then reach out to your doctor, pastor, a Christian counselor, and ask them to offer you other life-giving options and alternatives. We are intricately made, body, soul, mind, and spirit so pull together a strong team of people helpers and experts in each area of life.
In our Living Love-Wise Community Bible Study, this year we are studying Ephesian and are praying Eph. 3:20 (AMP) over everyone. So, as you read this, know Bill and I, are praying this over you:
“Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us…”
Praying all these verses over you until God replaces your panic with His peace.
Hugs and prayers,