IT WAS April 2020. The Philippine lockdown was in full swing and the numbers of infections, deaths, and recoveries were slowly rising. I began filling my head with global case statistics and information to understand the nature and gravity of Covid-19. Unsure whether this was just a conspiracy or a real threat, I searched for testimonials and came across videos of a man from Italy and a woman from China, desperately begging for help from the global community because their sick countrymen were helpless and dying.
As I watched the videos, I suddenly felt heaviness in my chest. It felt like something huge was dumped on top of it and I could hardly breathe. Fast forward to November of the same year. We were speed-packing in preparation for our target date of transfer from Manila to Davao City. One afternoon, Reuben felt a huge pressure on his chest, and his breathing became labored. His skin was cold and clammy, and he looked pale. We decided to bring him to the nearest E.R. Thankfully, his sister was with us during that time, so our little girl had someone to be with her as I and our neighbors brought Reuben to Providence Hospital. After four hours of tests and waiting in the E.R., we received the results of the X-ray and ECG. His heart was normal. It was a false heart attack alarm. Thank God for mercy!
ANXIETY ATTACK. According to Healthline.com: “It is a feeling of overwhelming apprehension, worry, distress, or fear. For many people, an anxiety attack builds slowly. It may worsen as a stressful event approaches.” Symptoms vary, but some common ones are shortness of breath, chest pains, restlessness, or numbness.
In our religious society, the usual response to people who confess to having anxiety attacks would be to tell them to stop worrying because it’s a sin. Claim verses. Pray. Change your mindset. These are all Bible-based advice. But when given hastily, without taking time to listen, and devoid of empathy, the attempt to help can come across as a band-aid style of healing for a serious mental condition. The good news is, social media has given an effective platform for sufferers and helpers to normalize the conversation. Slowly but surely, we, as a faith community, are learning the art of empathy and the importance of soul care.
This accepting attitude has become even more crucial for surviving and coping well during our ongoing global pandemic. It has helped us come up with solutions that are not only spiritual in nature, but also meet the needs of the rest of our “being” that makes us human -- the physical, emotional, mental, and social aspects.
Based on our own experiences with anxiety attacks, it became clear that we needed both the spiritual and scientific approaches to treat it. The verses below provide examples of how God’s Word offers an other-worldly perspective and a deeply abiding hope that we’ll survive this pandemic, one day at a time. Please take time to reflect on these truths.
Isaiah 40:31 -- But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Psalm 34:4 -- I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 94:19 -- When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
Matthew 6:31-34 -- (Jesus speaks) So do not worry, saying, “’What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
To address our physical symptoms, going to the hospital to get help for Reuben was a good call. It served as a precedent for a follow up online appointment with a doctor friend who listened to us and gave medical and practical advice on how to deal with moving-away stress. The presence of the faith family also brought much relief, as they offered debriefing, help, food, money, and prayers for our transition.
It’s crucial during abrupt displacement to attend to the mind, body, and spirit. We saw our need to grapple with the effects of stress on our bodies, and also acknowledge that our hearts needed time to settle. Thankfully, our organization granted us a work leave to adjust to our new home in the south. At the end of the leave, a realization hit us: God was WITH us. He showed up through last-minute favors through friends and strangers during the move. He gave us just enough strength to pack, and a generous supply of wisdom to make decisions for our family. On the emotional aspect, He didn’t condemn our struggles with anxiety attacks, and He didn’t judge the tears that were shed as we said goodbye to our former life.
It’s been 6 months since our move. Healing, understanding, and acceptance have taken place. Adjustments are ongoing. But definitely, we have been breathing much easier these days.
One day, someone confided to us about a struggle with anxiety attack. It was now our turn to offer help. We took time to ask, to pray, and to offer practical support to ease this person’s burden. Just as the Lord enabled us to “breathe” in His goodness and mercies during our brief trial, we hope we could be His instrument to help others breathe easier by properly handling their own anxiety attacks.
Practical Tips We’ve Used To Ease Anxiety Attacks:
1. Use deep breathing.
2. Recognize that you’re having an attack.
3. Close your eyes.
4. Practice mindfulness.
5. Find a focus object.
6. Use muscle relaxation techniques.
7. Picture your happy place.
8. Engage in light exercise.
9. Keep lavender (essential oil or tea) on hand.
10. Repeat a mantra (or Scripture or prayer) internally.
11. Reach out to a doctor, family, or friends for help.
The majority of the tips above were directly taken from www.healthline.com. Visit the site to know more about anxiety/panic attacks, and how you can specifically deal with these.