By Melissa Miller
I placed my hand over my heart, it felt as if a jackhammer lived inside of me. I’d never had a panic attack before … so, why now? I was only looking for a shoe - it wasn’t a stressful situation. I laid down on my back and called my husband, taking deep breaths that never seemed deep enough.
The panic attack years ago was one of a handful I experienced after I became a mother. There weren’t any major moments that triggered them, but I lived at a new baseline of stress that eventually caught up to me.
I never considered myself someone that struggled with anxiety, it took me a while to admit my need to be proactive in this area. I needed to come face-to-face with the reality that my life drastically changed when I became a mom. My demands and responsibilities changed. My quantity and quality of sleep changed. The level of unnecessary pressure I put on myself to be a perfect mom was sky high. And not to mention the new gift of pure LOVE existed in the form of a baby I worried about almost every second of the day.
It took a lot of trial and error, but over the years God helped me create my own “exit strategy” for anxiety. Stressful days or weeks may come, but now I have some tools in my arsenal to help crush anxiety and stay in the right mindset.
Grace for Today
We’ve all heard the saying “one day at a time.” I’m not a fan of cliche advice, but in this case it actually works. The phrase sounds like it belongs on the front of a Hallmark card, but the principle is from scripture.
Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
One day, I took a bath hoping to decompress from the stress (nothing wrong with that, right?!) and I felt the Holy Spirit use this verse to minister to me.
I felt Him whisper to my heart, “Didn’t I give you grace for this day?”
“Yes Lord, you did.” I said.
“Then why are you worried about tomorrow?” He replied.
I realized when tomorrow comes (or next week, next month - or the trial I’m imagining in my mind) I’ll have grace for that day too. Extending today’s grace to all my other days and hypotheticals doesn’t work. “I have God’s grace for TODAY” is something I’ve learned to speak out loud whenever I catch myself worrying. I take time to pray and ask God to help me to keep this perspective and to trust in His grace. I’ll read over the whole passage in Matthew 6 or flip to some of the amazing Psalms that always feel like a breath of fresh air.
2. My Body is A Temple
Over time I discovered that how I treat my body can contribute to or diminish my stress levels in a big way. A few factors that contributed to those dreadful panic attacks in the early days of motherhood: I wasn’t exercising regularly, my diet consisted of inflammatory foods (which increased tension symptoms), and I was deficient in a lot of key nutrients that help with sleep and anxiety (like magnesium). Slowing down helped too - turbo speed was meant for short spurts, not for the long haul. I’ve made a lot of changes in my health over the years, and can’t remember the last time I had a panic attack. And surprisingly, I’ve grown to enjoy the process of learning how to better take care of my body.
I’m not a health expert and God doesn’t expect us all to be, but there is tremendous value in stewarding this body God gave us. Part of staying at our best for our kids includes our health - and boy, does it make a huge difference!
1 Corinthians 6:19 says “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
3. Stay Humble and Grateful
James 4:6 says “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Need more grace? Want God to carry your heavy burdens? It starts with a humble heart. Rebelling against Him or doing things “our own way” doesn’t work. My pride (aka need for control) is usually the first thing to stand in the way of resting in God’s peace in my life.
If you’ve identified your stubbornness and pride standing in the way, a simple prayer to pray is:
Lord, I submit.
I need you.
Help me trust you.
I’m ready to do things your way.
In addition, God offers us an amazing exchange. Isaiah 61:3 speaks of providing a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness.
When life feels heavy, praise Him.
When anxiety starts shouting, turn on worship music and shout louder.
When stress rises, make the longest list you can of all the things you’re grateful for.
Intentional gratitude changed my attitude. No cheesy rhyme intended.
Melissa Miller is married to her best friend and has three children. She serves alongside her husband at Canvas Church in San Diego, CA. Melissa works for a marriage ministry, and is passionate about helping marriages and families thrive. Melissa and her husband are in the process of adopting internationally. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and beach days with her family. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!