May is Mental Health Awareness month. It’s important! I love people who are now or have in the past struggled with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or suicidal thoughts. I am one of those people. At one point of time in my life or another, I’ve struggled with all those things. Sometimes all at once. So, dear friend, I get it!
I understand the hesitancy to say, “Hey, I’m not okay.” It makes some people uncomfortable. When they ask how you are most really just want to hear,”Fine.” And if you do share, they may not “get it”. They may not know what it’s like to struggle for every breath, to want to hide in the safety of sleep, or to hide in the crowd so nobody sees you.
I’ve gotta be honest. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way. Yes, I’ve had moments of fear or panic which fled when I did the thing it did not want me to do, but not the overwhelming sense of not being okay for days at a time…until this week.
I should have recognized the signs. You know: the tight stomach, the feeling that you just can’t get a deep breath, overwhelming tiredness, the desire to hide away from everyone and close your door to the world. My coach even asked me one morning if I was having a panic attack. I firmly said, “No.” and told him I was just trying to catch my breath. But as the day wore on it got worse. My shoulders were tight, my head pounded, my jaw was clenched, my heart raced. And still I could not get a deep breath. I wasn’t afraid. This wasn’t fear. This was something different-an overwhelming pressure which refused to release.
One morning while at my office I heard the spirit of God speak to me. “Jamie, don’t allow the circumstances to create the atmosphere in you. You set the atmosphere.”
So, I turned on a praise music playlist created specifically for those dealing with anxiety. I did the things I knew to do, like leaving the office at lunch to just get out, eating well, drinking plenty of water,continuing to listen to the music. I took a long soaking bath. I went to bed early and got lots of sleep. I continued to get up and go workout every morning. Yet the pressure valve continued to rattle. I finished a book and it made me cry! It wasn’t even sad! It was happy! It was motivating and inspirational and full of truth! Yet the tears fell. I filled myself with the Word of God and turned off negative TV and radio.
I told my husband I needed to go spend the day alone doing some things I loved-like sitting at a coffee shop, drinking coffee, and reading and writing. That’s where I am now.
As I sit here writing this, dear friend, I want to tell you: Sometimes, just because you are doing all the right things you know to do to combat anxiety, you may not, and most often will not, get instant release. It’s a process, a journey, a walking through. It’s like cooking with an old fashioned pressure cooker. The pressure valve can’t be taken off the pot instantly. When you take the pot off the burner you’ve got to give it time to cool off. Do the things you know to do, but allow yourself time. Give yourself permission to not be okay. It really is okay!
Understand that there are those who just may not understand, or who you may feel don’t get it, even though they may and just not know how to respond to you. Just like you give yourself permission to not be okay, give them grace. But if you need the time, take the time! What happens if you try to take the valve off of the pressure cooker before it is ready? Right! Things can explode or somebody may get burned!
So, GRACE is a huge thing here. Give yourself grace. Grant it freely to others! And trust that the God of heaven and earth holds your heart. Allow Him to have access to your mind, will, and emotions too. He dispenses mercy, favor, and kindness without restraint!
Here are Some Ways to Help Youself
You may not have many tools in your toolbox to help start the release process. So, I’ll share some of mine with you. (In no particular order)
- Eat healthy foods
- Avoid excessive sugar and caffeine
- Get plenty of sleep
- Exercise/take some walks
- Fill yourself with The Word
- Play worship music and other soothing music
- Light some candles or diffuse some calming essential oils
- Consider supplements if needed
- Talk to your health care professional or mental health care provider if it persists and increases
- Talk to a pastor, counselor, life coach, or spiritual advisor
- Journal, journal, journal!
- Make a gratitude list: find at least one thing each day to be grateful for
- Breathing exercises
- Do something you enjoy doing
- Pray (Philippians 4:6)
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your comforts delight me.Psalm 94:19 Amplified