FAMILY FORUM: Dealing with panic attacks

By James Stillwell

Published: August 22, 2017

Q: Recently I suffered a panic attack. I am a success in my business, working long hours. I am also an entrepreneur. My wife and I have preschool and elementary children. I don’t want to take medicine. I eat healthy and exercise vigorously. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Anxiety is a result of believing your stressful thoughts about the future. Question your stressful thoughts, for they are probably not true statements, but rather judgments that come to you whenever you think about the future.

One of the most effective treatments for anxiety is to use your in-breath and out-breath as an anchor. Whenever stressful thoughts occur, acknowledge them, question them, but let them go. Keep coming back to your breath, to the sensations as you inhale and as you exhale. Using your breath in this way will keep you in the present moment, and keep you from being a victim of your anxious thoughts.

Christians through the ages have combined prayers and reciting scriptures along with paying attention to their breath to achieve a sense of the calm presence of God. 

In Matthew 6, Jesus refers to the birds of the air, which don’t worry, and about the flowers of the field, which also don’t worry. These non-human creations don’t have anxiety because they’re always existing in the present moment. They don’t have the capacity to live in the future and therefore worry. In this way, Jesus is saying, “be like the birds ... be like the flowers.” 

Determine your financial needs. Could you work less and still be OK?

Consider your physical needs. Are you getting enough sleep? Adequate sleep (7-9 hours each night) is restorative to your brain, enabling you to handle stress more effectively.

Also remember the “Sabbath principle.” The ratio of 6:1 work to rest is a good idea. Jesus said that Sabbath wasn’t created for God’s benefit, but for our benefit. If you are working seven days a week and not taking adequate rest, it will catch up with you. 

You’ll be surprised how living within the principles God has established in creation and revealed in scripture can help you achieve the peace and calm of living in the present moment. 

James Stillwell is a licensed pastoral counselor serving the Lexington, Frankfort, and Louisville area.