3 Ways to Overcome Panic This Holiday Season
I can remember my first panic attack. I had no idea what hit me and assumed the claustrophobia of driving 1200 miles in a day and a half had finally put its choke hold around my neck. I'm much more susceptible to them now and have become hyper-aware of the warning signs one of the buggers is on its way.
I'm so thankful to have guest poster, Jane DeLong relay her experiences with panic attacks and how she's learned strategies for coping by turning to His Word. Please welcome Jane to the Introverted Believer Blog. Love, Kass
I couldn't breathe. My chest felt tight. I needed air. I needed space. I needed to get out of there right away. I was surrounded by people. I had made a list, but forgot to bring it with me. So many people to buy for. So many decisions of what each might like. It was all too much for me. My heart was racing and my breath shallow. I spotted the nearest door and almost ran to it.
As the cool, crisp air hit my face I immediately felt better. My breathing deepened as I slowly inhaled the cold winter air. My heart rate slowed as I made my way to my car. Once there, the tears began streaming. I couldn’t stop crying. I sat there, alone in my car, sobbing for several minutes.
Then I cried out, “Lord! It’s not supposed to be this way! This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. What’s wrong with me? Why can I not find the joy in Christmas?!”
This was the scene last Christmas. I wanted so much to give my family the perfect Christmas with the perfect gifts. But every time I set out to shop I ended up in near panic.
Why was I so panicked? In my frustration, I turned to the Word of God. I landed on the story of Elijah. This great prophet of God ran for his life in near panic after slaying 400 prophets of Baal.
Jezebel swore to kill Elijah in retaliation. And this prophet, who had just witnessed a mighty act of God, tucked tail and ran. He panicked, just like I did every time I thought of Christmas shopping. I wanted to run and hide under the covers until December 26!
Elijah wanted to die, I wanted to hide.
Through this story I found a strategy for coping with my own panic attacks.
1) Pray the right kind of prayer.
Elijah prayed but his prayer wasn’t very rational. “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” 1 Kings 19:4b
Like Elijah, my prayer hadn’t been very rational. I cried out, “What’s wrong with me?’ when I should have asked God to calm me, guide, and enable me to find His joy in the season. The focus of both Elijah’s prayer and mine was on self. We were having a pity-party. I needed a new prayer, one that focused on God’s power to overcome my panic.
Father God, You are all-powerful. Your grace is sufficient for all my needs. Your power is shown in my weakness. When panic strikes turn my attention back to You. Spirit Helper, open my eyes, ears and heart to see, hear, and know You are with me in my panic. Allow me to feel Your presence in those moments I am unable to breathe. May I breathe in Jesus and breathe out my jitters. May I breathe in the Prince of Peace and breathe out my panic. Enable me to find Your joy in Christmas again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Praying God-centered prayers instead of “woe is me” prayers calms our hearts and places our focus on God’s strength rather than our weakness.
The very first words in the Lord’s prayer are, “Our Father”. The entire prayer focuses on God and His power to provide. As I learned to pray God-centered prayers, my panic was replaced with peace. The chaos in our soul turns to contentment as we turn to God.
2) Take the right kind of rest.
Elijah fell asleep. He was exhausted from the traumatic events. Fear breeds fatigue. When our body is physically exhausted our ability to think clearly diminishes and many times panic ensues. Rest is the bodies mechanism for coping with stress. However, there is another kind of rest we must seek as well. Rest for our soul. In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus told us to take His yoke and find our rest in Him.
Our souls need to rest in Jesus and allow Him to carry our burdens. The burden of providing the perfect Christmas for my family was something I placed on myself. The pressure of perfection brings undue stress.
Once I began taking the right kind of rest by praying the right kind of prayers, my attention turned from seeking perfection to seeking the Perfect One. Spending time with Jesus always calms our soul, giving us composure and confidence instead of turbulence and timidity.
3) Find the right kind of nourishment.
God sent an angel with food for Elijah; not once, but twice. The Bible says the meals consisted of baked bread and a jar of water. These meals strengthened Elijah for 40 days and 40 nights.
As I pondered this story the Lord brought to mind the ritual of communion. We take the bread as a symbol of Jesus’ body and we drink the juice as a symbol of His blood. The whole reason we have Christmas is so we can have Easter!
My panic came because I was focused on what the world says Christmas should be. I needed to refocus on the true meaning of Christmas. I found forty Scriptures that speak of Jesus; references of Him as the Bread of Life, Living Water, Prince of Peace, Lamb of God. Any verse that would keep my focus on the Christ of Christmas instead of the commercialism.
I wrote these verses on index cards. Each day I randomly chose a card from the pile and carried it with me throughout the day. Any time I began to feel panicked I read the verse as a breath prayer. This practice settled my mind and focused my heart on the true gift of Christmas.
If you need calm over chaos during this hectic time of year, why not find verses that speak to you and focus on them as you head out to all the festivities and shops! When we pray the right kind of prayers, we take the right kind of rest, which leads us to the right kind of nourishment.
Praying we find the right kind of balance this Christmas season. From one fellow introvert to another, may God bless and keep you!
(You can read the full account of Elijah’s trip from powerful prophet to panicked pessimist in 1 Kings 18-19)