"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
In the midst of struggles, our natural tendency is to seek comfort. Whether it be reaching out to a close friend, sipping on a glass (or two) of wine, or cuddling into the couch to watch a brainless movie, the hope is comfort and freedom from whatever ails us. But what doesn't come natural is the realization that our God, the God of all comfort, doesn't just provide comfort so that we might find solace from our troubles, he comforts us so that we might pass it on.
When I was reading this verse the other day and thinking of its significance, I got to thinking about anxiety. Hearing the news, seeing reactions on social media, and knowing the hearts of dear friends, it seems like anxiety is everywhere. Having personally struggled with anxiety on and off for the past 5 years, I am all too familiar with how heavy and terrible it feels. Let's be real - anxiety sucks. Reading this verse in 2 Corinthians, I realized how much comfort I've received throughout these years. The Lord has taught me so much about how to cope with anxiety and I want to pass it on to you.
Throughout the next couple weeks, I am going to break down my top 5 coping mechanisms for anxiety.
My prayer is that by sharing them with you, you might receive comfort and peace, and conquer the power of anxiety. So, without further ado - here's my first tip.
This sounds a bit obvious and you might be thinking "well, duh. I know I have to breathe..." but, I've realized that breath is an incredible weapon against anxiety. And I have yoga to thank for that. Yoga is all about using breath in conjunction with poses. Connecting inhales and exhales with each movement, yoga encourages you to breathe while your body works. But more importantly, it challenges you to focus on your breath. Instead of thinking about what you have going on that day, how tight your muscles are, or what stressors await you after class, the instructors encourage you to draw your focus to your breathing and let your thoughts slip away. (This goes hand in hand with my next tip to change your focus, so that could be another reason I love it so much.) But here's what has been really helpful for me.
When I am struggling with anxiety, everything gets tight. My heart feels constricted with an increased heart rate, my chest feels like a 3 year old is sitting on it, and my neck muscles tense as I draw my shoulders up to my ears as if to protect myself from an impending attack. The thought of relaxing is like a childhood dream to be a princess, near impossible. But the truth is, the possibility of relaxation is right at my fingertips, or should I say lungs. Without getting too longwinded (oh gosh, I can't stop the puns) I'm going to jump right to my anxiety tip.
When you are feeling the weight of anxiety and you can't seem to relax, lay on your back and get as comfortable as possible. Release tension in every muscle in your body and begin to focus on your breath. Take a deep breath and exhale out completely. Then slowly inhale to the count of 5. Inhale, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - so that your chest is fully expanded. Then exhale slowly again to the count of 5, until your stomach has caved and all the air is out. Continue doing this for the next 3 minutes, adding a count or two if you can. With each exhale imagine your body sinking even deeper into the floor or wherever you are laying, and each muscle fiber letting go of tension. As you do this, allow your breath to become your sole focus. If an anxious thought tries to jump in, notice it and with your exhalation let it go - and keep breathing.
I have found this trick to be incredibly helpful. By changing my focus, even if for a second, my mind is taken away from the anxious thoughts causing me terror - and by breathing I allow my body to relax. I'm amazed by how a simple, deep breath significantly decreases the power of anxiety, and my prayer is that you might experience it too.
The next time you find yourself slipping into the grasp of anxiety, take a few moments, try some deep breathing and let me know how it helps. I'm here for you, praying for you, and look forward to sharing my next tip.
- image by Roost Photography -