Note: According to the American Institute of Stress, work-related agitation is the major source of stress for American adults (although it is certainly not a uniquely American problem). In addition to common stressors like coworker issues and workload, many of us struggle with the stress of having to fulfill a less-than-satisfying work role in order to live more or less check-to-check. We sometimes feel like we lose our identities, our spirituality, and our dreams in order to serve the mundane reality that work promotes. It is the author’s hope that this message helps the stressed worker find spiritual peace and the energy to pursue a more fulfilling future. Please share this meditation with anyone you know who is fatigued from the workplace or struggling professionally.
When Anxiety Attacks
"AN INSPIRATIONAL MESSAGE FOR THE WORKDAY"
Copyright 2015 Michael Priebe
"The Scream, " painted by Expressionist artist Edvard Munch in the late 1800's, was inspired by a panic attack the artist experienced as he was walking outdoors one evening. Some experts say that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from "anxiety disorder," but it might be accurate to say that everyone has suffered through some variation of "anxiety disorder" at some point in their lives.
Matthew 8:24-27 “Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us, we’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith. Why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves. And it was completely calm.”
Matthew 19:26 "But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
If you’ve ever suffered a full-blown panic attack, you know how terrifying and life-threatening the experience can seem. It can even be frightening to witness someone else’s attack. For some people, dizziness and blurred vision mix with difficulty breathing during episodes of panic. For others, head pressure and a burning-hot face mix with chest pains. Some people experience a surreal feeling of being removed from all surroundings while at the same time being trapped in them. The specific symptoms of anxiety attacks are individual, but many sufferers say that death seems imminent while in the midst of one. Some people even say they have wished for death during an attack attack—anything to make it stop.
The workplace can be a tricky piece of navigation for people with anxiety issues. Since many panic attacks seem to stem from a fear of being negatively judged by others, the evaluative culture of professional life can be a perfect storm for anxiety. Interviews are terrible: formal situations where serious-looking people demand a life summary in minutes. Presentations are painful: gunpoint performances with the whole world staring. Even making small talk or having a one-on-one meeting can seem impossible for someone trying to battle through panic attacks or generalized anxiety.
Even for people who aren’t suffering from anxiety in a clinical sense, a job brings constant battles against some massive fears: the fear of failing at something even though you tried your best; the fear of being persecuted by those in power and rejected by peers; the fear of being exposed as something less than your professional image; the fear of breaking down from stress.
The roots of panic are a little different for everyone, but at the heart of all anxiety lies a problem of perspective. Things that aren’t that important seem like matters of life-and-death, and false, negative assumptions are made about what others are thinking. People and situations are often given irrational powers over our sense of wellbeing.
When anxiety starts to terrorize people and distort their thinking, even faith in God might seem unable to help. Even He might seem powerless in such dark times. In order to climb out of anxiety’s trap, fresh perspective is desperately needed.
The only way to fix anxiety in a lasting way is to fix perspective. Jesus had to calm a few anxiety attacks during his time on this earth, and He did it by getting people to think about things in the right ways. When a storm kicked up over the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ disciples panicked, thinking that disaster and death were imminent. Jesus, of course, was calm. He reminded everyone that their perspective was off: God is in control of everything, including the wind and waves.
When Jesus’ disciples became overwhelmed by the concept of salvation, He reminded them to think about things with the right perspective. They asked, “How can anyone be saved if no one can live a perfect life?” Jesus reminded them that everything which seems impossible is actually possible with God.
Today, if you are struggling with anxiety, take a few moments to cut your fears down to size. Remember that the situations you fear don’t control you and can’t harm you. Allow God to bring you comfort and perspective. He can and will rescue you when you seek Him. Also, show compassion for those around you who are suffering. If you suspect a friend or coworker has anxiety issues, be kind to them and offer them helpful perspective when it fits.
Today, be calm, knowing that with God all things are possible.