Note: I find it tremendously difficult to write about anxiety and panic attacks. Human nature compels me to hide my flaws. Please know that I do not write this post to “toot my own horn”, but to give glory to God and provide hope for those struggling with anxiety and panic disorders. Furthermore, I want to share some anxiety-eliminating tricks I picked up along the way.
As many of you know, I had the amazing opportunity to spend Christmas in England with my boyfriend. He lives in Devon, an idyllic region of southwest England. Though the opportunity to spend the holidays with my Love and his wonderful parents was by far the most exciting element of this invitation, God threw in a bonus by allowing me visit a destination that has been at the top of my travel list for years. He’s so good!
The anticipatory anxiety leading up to the trip was quite overwhelming at times, particularly as the travel date drew nearer. Here are my top 3 tips for controlling anticipatory anxiety:
- Realize You’re Normal: Before a new or momentous event, it’s normal to feel nervous. Don’t be hard on yourself! Allow the anxious sensations to be and answer “what if?” thoughts with “so what!?”
- Anticipatory Anxiety is “The Worst”: Through the years, I’ve realized that anticipatory anxiety is often the most alarming part of an experience. When you’re in the so-called “scary” situation, you will handle it. You are more than capable!
- Focus on Excitement: While lying in bed at night, I would cast my disturbing thoughts upon the Lord (“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken” –Psalm 55:22), and thank Him for taking them. I often had to do this repeatedly. I wouldn’t beat myself up for having these thoughts. That’s normal when you’re stressed! I’d just calmly hand them over. Conversely, I would let thoughts regarding the exciting elements of my upcoming trip run rampant!
When the time came to hop on the plane, I was terrified. It was nighttime and I felt I was blasting off into the unknown. I shared some of my fears with my boyfriend’s parents (who generously offered to accompany me on this flight), and they offered some kind and calming words. However, I decided that I didn’t care if my worst fears came to fruition (such as having a panic attack or medical problem in the middle of the Atlantic), seeing my boyfriend was more important. I decided to simply put one foot in front of the other and trust that God had the situation under control. Lesson: Find something in your life that is more important than fear.
Flying overseas was new to me, and (like many people), seemed very scary! Here’s how I made it through the experience with flying colors (no pun intended).
- Use the “DARE Response”: If you haven’t read Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks by Barry McDonagh, I highly recommended it! This simple approach to anxiety (which taught me to have a “bring it on” attitude towards anxiety and panic), has been life-changing for me. This counterintuitive attitude has helped me feel more in control of my life and body. I will include a link to this book at the bottom of the page.
- Stay Busy: Thanks to technological advancements (such as in-flight Wi-Fi and seat-back entertainment), I was able to stay busy and connected with family and friends during the flight. If you’re spiritual like me, I recommend having Bible verses, worship music, and anxiety-reducing audio readily available for tense moments.
- Educate Yourself: If flying (or any other situation) scares you, do some research. Knowledge is power! By doing a bit of research, I learned that there are many places for planes to land when flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, I learned about the many health and safety standards used to keep flyers safe on overseas flights. (View from my seat. “Let’s do this thing!”)
During my trip, I had a few moments of anxiety, but no full-blown panic attacks. These fleeting moments of bodily discomfort were a small price to pay for an amazing experience. By understanding that symptoms of anxiety are uncomfortable, but not dangerous, I was able to enjoy myself. I learned that I’m not “broken”, “strange”, or “hopeless”. I’m “strong”, “capable”, and “victorious”. Here’s the best news of all: So are YOU!
(Christmas morning fun. Check out the crowns from our Christmas crackers. Very English!)
(Roman Baths: 2,000 years old!)
(Tower Bridge: I walked across it!)
(View of Trafalgar Square from the National Gallery)
(Walking on the beach in Budleigh-Salterton)
(Inside Longleat House: my Anglophile heart was soaring!)
P.S. I want to offer thanks first and foremost to God for giving me the strength to embark on this adventure. I also have to offer tremendous thanks to my boyfriend and his wonderful parents. Their care and concern gave me courage throughout the trip. Last, but not least, I want to thank all of my friends and family who offered prayer and encouragement before and during the trip (particularly Alyssa Nagel). I love you all!
Link to Dare book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0956596258/ref=s9_simh_gw_g14_i1_r?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=02TH7KEWJSA4YWM40FK7&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079475242&pf_rd_i=desktop