8 months ago, I sat in my counselor’s office struggling to breathe. My panic disorder was full blown and I couldn’t wake up in the morning without an anxiety attack coming on.
She held my hand and prayed for me and told me someday I will be free of this.
I wanted to believe that.
It’s been 8 months and, by God’s grace, I’ve tasted freedom.
After so many months of battling, forcing myself to face fears that rocked me, and beating my body with exercise, healthy food and LOTS of prayer and fellowship, I sat down with my counselor and she told me, “You beat this. You don’t need therapy anymore.”
Knowing my love language is Words of Affirmation, she handed me this certificate she made herself.
Tears are welling in my eyes as I write this because I DID NOT THINK I could get here but, with God’s help, I KEPT TRYING. And though a panic disorder was honestly the HARDEST thing I’ve ever had to deal with, it’s been the BEST thing with how much it’s changed everything else in my life and how much more incredibly grateful I am for the people and the places and the resources that have been here every step of the way.
But I know this isn’t it.
Life will get hard.
There’ll be bad days.
Moments that feel impossible.
But God’s given me tools to help me as those moments inevitably come. Even since my last appointment with my therapist, I’ve found certain simple techniques that can make all the difference in preventing anxieties, fears or sadness overwhelm me.
Here they are:
5 Easy Ways to Experience More Joy, More Peace
1. Laugh in the Mirror
This will feel ridiculous.
But it works.
When you’re sad, anxious, down, whatever-opposite-of-happy, stand in front of a mirror. Look at yourself. Then, laugh.
Just try it.
Then, do it anytime you want to feel better.
2. Start and End the Day Thinking, “What Can I Be Thankful For?”
Waking up and going to sleep was the hardest time for me when I struggled with my panic disorder. But the best and easiest fix to change my hardwired habit: Practice gratitude.
In the morning when I woke up, I asked myself, “What can I be thankful for right now?”
Not what am I thankful for – because in the beginning it may be hard to feel it. But what can you possibly be thankful for?
I prayed and thanked God for each blessing as I went about brushing my teeth, cooking breakfast, and getting Knightly ready – for every possible thing I could be grateful for: air, pillows, sunshine, rest, blankets, toothpaste, carpet.
At night before going to sleep, I journaled, “What can I be thankful for from today?”
Every moment, every little thing during the day: food, a shower, a TV show I got to watch, a book I had, a hug I received, a hello from someone new.
Do this for a few days and you’ll find this new habit is quite addicting – and the more you think about what you’re grateful for, the more you’ll feel it.
3. Watch Something Funny
Happy, funny, uplifting, encouraging, hilarious.
Like what our parents tried to tell us, what we watch really does affect us. There’s enough negativity in the everyday so why not watch just a half hour of something funny that you love everyday.
My personal favorite: Friends
When I started working on my panic attacks, I watched a half hour almost everyday, from Seasons 1-10 straight (this is probably my 4th-5th time in my life doing so since I’m such a fan). You know you watch it too much when Friends start to feel like your friends. But, whatever, it makes me laugh every time.
Having finished through all 10 seasons again makes me want a new hilarious show. Any recommendations? Let me know!
4. Hang Out with Positive People
As a photographer, one of the most important things I’ve learned that helped my photography is this simple truth:
People Mirror You
It’s subconscious. It may never be intentional. But they’ll mirror you. AND – you mirror the people around you.
I’ve heard it time and time again: You are the average of the 5 people to whom you are closest.
So what are the people closest to you like?
Call up the optimists in your life – those encouragers, the ray of sunshine that people enjoy being around. Go out to coffee. Hang out with these people.
On the flip side, it may also be time to consider which friends you may need to remove from your life – the ones who use you, degrade you, are constantly negative, that drag you down.
A good way to know the difference and to find the courage and way to do just that is to read through this great book:
Curious where you can find some good people to be around?
If you’re near Orange County, Mariners Church has a great program to find good community with their Rooted Experience. If you’re struggling with an addiction, it’s also worth it to try great groups like People of the Second Chance.
5. Journal and Pray
I once heard a popular counselor say, “If people journaled everyday, I’d be out of a job.”
There’s something to it.
No matter how busy your day is, take time to stop, sit, pull out a journal/notebook and start writing. Some ideas for journaling:
- Prayer requests
- People/Things you’re grateful for
- Problems you’re facing but also all the possible solutions to each problem
- Things you need to let go of
- Praises to God
- Favorite quotes/Bible verses
- Something that inspired you today
- What you’d love your life to be
- Good memories
In fact, right now would be a perfect time to just stop and journal and pray, lifting up any burdens you have to the Lord. Trust me – He’s strong enough to carry them for you.
Dear Heavenly Father,
You see every burden, every fear, every hurt, every pain. God, You know the aching of our hearts and what has brought us down in life. And in You is peace.
Lord, bring us to You – bring us to Your peace.
For each person here struggling, give them the courage to be open, vulnerable, honest and to be filled with hope that they can be set free. Help them to see how powerful You are to be able to handle every problem they have, how loving You are to being willing to let it go to their loving Father, how true You are so that they know how truly incredible You are and the life they can have in You.
Help us to let go of our burdens to You.
Our pains to You.
Our fears to You.
Help us to know just as You keep the universe and all that moves and breathes in Your hands and in Your care, so, too, can You keep us, help us, love us, be with us, hold us, care for us, never leave us.
We ask You to bless us with laughter, with joy, with gratitude, with healing uplifting community and the time to calm our hearts to reflect and pray.
In all things, be glorified our Lord and King.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
May you feel His joy and peace more and more this week my dears <3
With love (and without makeup and not caring!),