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"Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows but only empties today of its strength." - C H Spurgeon.

This week's blog focuses on Anxiety.

Imagine, out of the blue, you start sweating; the walls are closing in, it is hard to catch your breath, and you experience heart pain. Your first thought is that you are having a heart attack. You go to emergency and find that you have not had a heart attack but a panic attack. – This is a description of a panic attack a friend of mine experienced.

I have a diagnosis of generalized anxiety. Over the years, I have become more aware of my anxiety and have learned skills to deal with the issue. When I allow anxiety to take over, I obsess about a myriad of problems and let my mind go wild. I journal, use deep breathing exercises, walk, and pray to combat these symptoms.

I spent years denying that I had any issues with anxiety. In fact, I was angry when my counselor diagnosed me with general anxiety. As I have learned more about the disorder, I have successfully used the above coping skills and, for the most part, am living a calmer life.

When I joined a support group for my bipolar, I talked about how much I battle worry, believing it was more acceptable than anxiety. So, what is the difference?

Worry is usually short-term. There's a concerning situation, and you worry about it. Worry prods you to use problem-solving skills to address your concerns. Anxiety is persistent, even when concerns are unrealistic.

A panic attack is a brief episode of intense anxiety which causes the physical sensations of fear. These can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, and muscle tension.

A person struggling with anxiety may feel all alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE - 31% of the population of the United States has an anxiety disorder diagnosis. There are many more that are struggling with anxiety but are undiagnosed.

What causes anxiety? Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood are common triggers for anxiety problems. Experiences that can trigger anxiety problems include things like physical or emotional abuse.

Most of the information above is educational. Now let's make this real. The stories below are a compilation of several people's stories.

Ned – I wake up every morning in a sweat. I have a stressful job and have spent the night either awake thinking about meetings and staff interventions or dreaming about them. I am in a bad mood before the day even starts. I am sharp with my children and wife and am in the doghouse before I even leave for work. I appear calm and composed at work; I am a mess in my office. I thought I would never be able to live life, but I have found coping skills to release me from my angst and live a fulfilling life. I run every morning, schedule time to meditate and create strategies to deal with difficult situations. I am still taken by surprise and forget my coping skills at times. My wife or a trusted coworker (friend) will remind me to breathe, and I will slowly calm down!

Bertha – People think I live a privileged life. I am fortunate. I have 4 children ranging from 15 to 2 years of age. I am married, a stay-at-home mom, responsible for the house and paying bills, and am the taxi for the children and their friends. Why in the world would I be anxious? My 15-year-old wants his learner's permit to drive. That alone is enough to drive a mother to be overly concerned. My husband has a good job, but we live paycheck to paycheck. There are so many things that cost money. Two children are involved in sports, one in cheerleading and dance, and the baby, you know babies can be expensive. Don't get me wrong, I love my life but am easily overwhelmed and suffer from anxiety. I experienced panic attacks, so I went to my doctor and received medication. The medication and coping skills have helped me to live a more balanced life. Some coping skills I have learned are deep breathing, saying "NO," and ensuring I get enough rest.

Inez: I am a single, middle-aged woman. I have worked all my life but worry about how I will care for myself until the end of my life. I live a good life. I work, I have friends, I have a church, and I love my life. However, I still get anxious! I worry about my children and grandchildren, finances, and other life issues. For the most part, I am stable. Still, life's stressors overwhelm me, and I give in to anxiety and am "useless," unable to stop thinking about everything that could go wrong, and end up sitting in front of the TV, making matters worse by watching the news. I have learned to distract myself from perseverating on things that trigger me by journaling, going for a walk, and spending time with positive people.

If you struggle with anxiety, take the time to learn how to deal with it. There are medications and lots of coping skills.

5 immediate skills for coping with anxiety

· Question your thought pattern. Unhelpful thoughts can take root in your mind and distort the severity of the situation.

· Practice focused, deep breathing. Measured breathing practices may help you manage immediate feelings of anxiety.

· Use aromatherapy.

· Exercise.

· Grounding techniques, such as:

o Journaling

o 333 Rule

§ Name 3 things you can see.

§ Name 3 sounds you can hear.

§ Interact with 3 things you can touch.

Take a deep breath, and have a great week.

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