With the encouragement of friends and family, I began praying fervently for God to show me what to do. I had prayed about this anxiety before, but I never really expected God to do anything. That sounds terrible, I know. I felt like I was doing this to myself--I was making mountains out of molehills and I just needed to calm down. I didn't see how God would have a part in that, other than telling me "good job" once I finally chilled. It was a weird form of pride.
After much crying to my husband and mother, and a couple godly friends, I began to feel some hope that I didn't have to live in this state of perpetual anxiety forever. Though it will probably take a while to recover and retrain my thinking, I will one day be able to live my life without the fear of randomly breaking down.
I bought a book a few years ago to help me tackle the issue, but at the time I wasn't ready to admit that there was something wrong with me that needed fixing. After my panic attack a couple weeks ago, though, I was ready. I needed it, actually. Once I admitted to myself that it was okay to have this struggle, I was eager to understand it and move past it.
There's a ton of psychological mumbo jumbo in there (all of which is very helpful and enlightening and if you'd like to know more about it, just ask) and I began practicing relaxation techniques and positive self-talk right away.
One of the very first chapters dealt with relaxation. I'm a stay at home mom. I'm home a lot of the day. If you'd asked me before, I would say that I have a lot of down time. Yes, I'm usually holding a baby, playing, cooking, cleaning, but I usually have my favorite shows on in the background, I'm listening to music, or I'm chatting it up through my phone--all leisurely activities, right? I probably relax a lot, right? NOPE! The advice in this book was to experience relaxation in all forms, including recreational relaxation like watching a favorite movie or going to a quiet stroll, relational relaxation like eating a quiet dinner with a best friend or having a chat with your spouse while rubbing each other's feet, and then just plain old rest. Rest means still and quiet time by yourself--no tv, no music, no activity. You can mediate, take a hot bath, lay out in the sun, or curl up in bed without falling asleep. When you are feeling a lot of anxiety, it's a good idea to take at least one hour a day to rest, be still, and clear your thoughts. After a couple weeks of making time to do this, even if it's the only change you make in your lifestyle, you'll apparently notice a huge difference.
That certainly sounded easy enough, so I decided to start there. I put my son down for a nap, drew a bath, and got ready for an hour long rest-fest.
I made it 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes I was actually starting to feel more anxious! How could I just lay here when there is so much to do? With Asher sleeping, wouldn't my time be better spent mopping the floor or shoveling the sidewalk? I need to make a grocery list. What am I serving for dinner? What time will Todd be home? Has the mail come yet? I wonder how long Asher will sleep. If I get out now I might have time to finish last night's Revolution before he wakes up. Maybe I'll have some ice cream. Ice cream is bad for me! I don't care!
Yes. That's what happened in my head after 15 minutes. Super restful.
It struck me in that moment how my anxiety had gotten so out of control in the first place.
I never rest. I don't value rest. We as a culture don't value rest. We value busy. We value productive. We value efficiency. We don't value rest.
And because of that, many of us are fried.
From my understanding through reading this book, our bodies require downtime to function properly. Not just sitting on a couch to rest our bodies types of downtime. Our brains need it, too. We need to be still. We need to stop worrying about getting this done or that done, and really take care of our health by giving ourselves permission to slow down and rest our mind.
That might mean relying on other people once in awhile, which is something else our society doesn't value. We need to value that more. Let people help you! Let someone else have your burden for 60 minutes so you can rest. Then you can take their burden for 60 minutes while they rest. See how that works? No one is put out and everyone is rested!
That might also mean saying no to certain opportunities, which is also unpopular. It might not be the best things for our families to work 90 hours a week or participate in every single sport. Everyone is different, of course, and taking on a busy load might not feel like a burden to you...but if it does, and you find yourself unable to rest, you aren't doing yourself any favors. Give yourself permission to say no.
I know there are people who will read this and will say, "but I like to be busy!" I'm that kind of person, too! I don't like to sit around. Part of that, I see now, is running from the quiet time in which I'm forced to deal with my thoughts, but the other part of that is me just enjoying life. I like to do things! In this case, it's a work hard, play hard thing. Be busy! Do the things you enjoy, and do them a lot! But also, take time to rest.
I also know there are people who will read this and say, "but I don't have any time to rest." Let me tell you, there are all kinds of excuses not to do something in this life. If something is important to you, as I believe rest should be, then you'll find a way. You aren't a more valuable person because you go go go all the time without resting. You've heard the expression "worker smarter, not harder" right? Allowing yourself to let something fall to the wayside in order to rest is working smarter. It is NOT easy! I am still wrestling with it. But I know it's true. When God created the whole world, He then took time to rest. If God can create everything and still make time to rest, I know we can do it, too.
I used to feel like taking time to rest make me lazy. I wanted to look back on my day and see that I maximized every opportunity. How could I feel good about sitting still for an hour, or even 30 minutes? Then I thought about some of the people I respect most in this life: one is my stepdad, and one was my Grandma Alene. My Grandma was such a joy to be around. She loved her family and always went above and beyond to take care of her grandkids, and yet she never seemed frazzled. She would sit and paint for hours, or sit on her patio and watch us play croquet, or play board games with us. She lived a full, rich life, and even though she was retired and enjoying her grandkids for most of the time I knew her, I would never call her lazy. She maximized every opportunity, and she did it with a beautiful calm. My dad (stepdad) is a lot like her. He doesn't get rattled easily. It drove me crazy as a kid how he "mozied" everywhere, never in a hurry, enjoying pointing out the sights or a deer standing in a field. He has a calm about him that can only be perceived as strength.
These examples in my life maximized every opportunity because they slowed things down.
You know that Alabama song that goes:
"I'm in a hurry to get things done.
I rush and rush until life's no fun.
All I really want to do is live and die,
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why."
I've been singing that a lot the last couple of weeks. It's ok to slow things down. More than that, it is so important to slow things down. Let's take some time to rest. Let's allow each other this time, and encourage each other to make rest a priority!