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Part Two – Worry vs Anxiety

(This is Part II of our conversation on panic and anxiety.  If you would like to read Part I you can do so here.)

Worry versus anxiety, what’s the difference?  Although the words worry and anxiety are often used interchangeably, how we experience them is quite distinct.  The Oxford dictionary defines a “worry wart” as “a person who tends to dwell unduly on difficulties or troubles.”  Worry tends to be more in our minds and thoughts. As believers, we know we should take all our burdens to God in prayer and allow Him to work without our “helpful” concern and input, but that can be easier said than done.

Sometimes worry or concern can be helpful, as it can often contribute to situational problem solving which is healthy. 

Our perception of ourselves and our lives is a key component in managing our fears and worries.  Feeling like we need to be in control, and the uncomfortable feeling or fear we experience when we know we really aren’t can lead to worry. It is epidemic in our society to always think we must be “doing” instead of just “being,” and that’s what can lead us away from acknowledging that God is taking care of us.  I use the word “acknowledge” instead of “letting” intentionally, because He never forsakes us.  I know many believe that worry is shameful as a Christian and that it mirrors our faith or lack thereof.  What I’ve seen to be most effective in this area is talk therapy with a therapist.  There is usually a reason behind this behavior that doesn’t have to do with your faith, and more about your background and life experiences.  Do you know about the Orthodox Christian Counseling Institute?  It’s a great resource!

Anxiety, on the other hand, results in trackable physical changes in the body. 

Unlike worry, anxiety limits our ability to solve problems, is much less controllable, and tends to linger and strike unpredictably. 

A few physical contributors can be:

  • Thyroid disorder (which was mentioned in Part I of this blog)
  • Gut dysfunction – Are you eating the right things, and keeping toxins out of your body?
  • Adrenal fatigue – Are you handling your stress well?
  • Hormonal changes – We all go through them, but there are ways to modify these changes and even prevent them.
  • Heavy metal toxicity –  You may have read other posts I’ve written on this topic.

What I find interesting, is that the person constantly feeling overwhelmed and anxious, is quite possibly a person who is struggling with depression.  Depression can also be attributed to the above mentioned physical issues.  These issues can all be addressed through medical testing and intervention.

Some self-help ways to reduce the physical challenges leading to anxiety are:

  • Exercise – releases endorphins, our “happy hormones.”
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – to do this hold one hand on your belly and feel it rise and fall with each breath. Your exhale should be slightly longer than your inhale.  This type of breathing signals our nervous system that we are safe.  Breathing this way should be our default method.  It might take a few weeks of practice to breathe this way regularly, so keep practicing!  There are some great videos on Dr. Weil’s site.
  • Ashwaganda and Rhodiola are two herbs that can be used to support the nervous system.
  • Aromatherapy – lavender oil is one popular method to reduce stress and anxious feelings.

Having worry and/or anxiety issues challenge us on many levels.  Functional medical doctors and health coaches are two resources that can help you help find the root cause of your physical triggers. There are always answers, the key is to find the right people who can help.  One doctor whose work I follow closely is Dr. Kelly Brogan.  Her book A Mind of Your Own has shed light on how I’ve been able to help my clients, and myself!

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