The statistics are staggering. Forty million adults are dealing with overwhelming anxiety in the US alone. Yet, only 36.9% are in treatment. That’s a lot of people suffering and struggling by themselves.
Are you one of the diagnosed or undiagnosed sufferers of overwhelming anxiety? If you are, you know all too well the nausea, diarrhea, tingles, and racing heart that come with the territory. Like me, maybe you even experience temperature extremes and chest pains.
My journey through overwhelming anxiety began 2.5 years ago. It showed up with a fury and wreaked a lot of havoc for months. The healing process has been slow, to say the least, because I chose to take a holistic approach to healing. My goal is to fix the root malfunction rather than just masking symptoms.
What I learned through overwhelming anxiety
There is so much information and advice out there. It is easy to find solutions to ease anxiety. A Google search will turn up everything from essential oils to bible verses and prayers. But I came to an interesting conclusion. There are two types or reasons for anxiety. One is circumstantial, and the other is a body system malfunction.
Circumstantial anxiety will come from many reasons. Our minds sometimes become flooded with fear. Money issues and relationship troubles are often enough to trigger an anxiety attack. In this case, calming essential oils, teas, scripture, and hymns can be of great help. Getting our mind focused on the Lord and His control over our lives is often the needed remedy. Sometimes the fear of the future hijacks our minds. This fear stems from either a lack of trust in the Lord or a struggle to control our own lives. Surrendering our lives to the Lord and His sovereignty will bring relief to that anxiety.
In contrast, body system malfunction anxiety is precisely that. Some system is having trouble, and there’s not much you can do about it until it runs its course. In my experience, you just have to let it run its course when the body goes haywire. It’s essential to begin supporting the body’s weak area(s) and replenish those body systems with nutrition.
For about three months, overwhelming anxiety ran rampant in my body. An attack would leave me exhausted for days. By God’s mercy, I was in the middle of a multi-day attack on a day when I had two different doctor appointments. My blood pressure was high at my OB and higher by the time I got to the chiropractor. Since I was in the middle of an attack, she was able to identify that my endocrine system was out of balance. She started me on supplements to support my hypothalamus and pituitary glands. She also suggested St. John’s wort for immediate help when an attack started. It took about three months for me not to have anxiety in the back of my mind and feel like an attack might start.
My experience with anxiety
God led me through both kinds of anxiety. At first, I was terrified of getting sick, so I became obsessed over preventing the stomach bug, cancer, or an autoimmune disease. Someone only had to mention their stomach hurt, and I’d immediately feel the anxiety begin. But what started as a fear of sickness seemed to open the floodgates for my endocrine system to fall apart. No amount of oils, hymns, or scripture were able to stop an attack.
Early in my journey, God showed me where I was struggling with Him to maintain control of my own life. He made that sin in my life quite obvious and prompted me to repent and seek forgiveness. He showed me His sovereignty, goodness, and love. Through my anxiety journey, the Lord taught me about trials and suffering. He brought me to a place of trust and complete surrender to Him. He used my overwhelming anxiety to draw me closer to Himself.
My healing was a journey with the Lord as well. Step by step, the Lord gave me the information I needed to discover the deeper issues and how to fix them. Once I was completely trusting and surrendered to Him, He then required obedience. Obedience, I discovered, was the point of my journey of healing.
What does my story mean for you?
Step by step, the Lord provided information and people to help me. Starting with my chiropractor, I kept learning new information. He showed me how little I knew Him on a personal level. I became very aware of how little I knew about myself and who God had created me to be. The world of herbs and the gut microbiome became a fascination as I studied anxiety and the body. It is awe-inspiring to see just how fearfully and wonderfully we are created. I am still awestruck at how entwined our bodies are with nature, and how much one needs the other.
As I listened and read other people’s stories, I came to understand that each body is different. What created anxiety in me and what supplements helped me likely won’t work for other people. But there’s one thing everyone struggling with anxiety symptoms should consider. Lacto-fermented foods and drinks showed up in almost every story of healing I heard. I have concluded that the gut microbiome is what we should address first. That is the one thing, hands down, that turned my anxiety around as well.
Our bodies are made of beneficial bacterias, so much so that we only have about 1% human cells. Most of these beneficial bacterias live in our intestines and help us digest the foods we eat. It is these same beneficial bugs that preserve fruits and vegetables through lacto-fermentation. That is why consuming those naturally preserved foods is so life-giving and healing. We ultimately strengthen and increase our microbiome each time we consume raw sauerkraut or some other fermented food.
Each person’s microbiome is pretty much as unique as their fingerprints. But the microbiome’s health is critical to a person’s health. Science is finding that our gut controls our brain, immune system, neurotransmitter production, and many other crucial pieces of body function. Without the proper beneficial bugs, our bodies begin to lose their function. Loss of function means experiencing overwhelming anxiety and depression for some people. Other people experience brain fog and mental impairment, while others will develop an autoimmune disease or cancer. I’m definitely not saying that balancing your microbiome will cure cancer, but it is a legitimate piece of the highly complex puzzle.
It’s fascinating to begin to understand the intricate way God has made our bodies. The microbiome is fragile. It is super important to not only protect your gut but nourish it and rebalance it as well. Conventional food choices, toxin exposure, and pharmaceutical medicines all trash your gut and open the door for problems, leaving it vulnerable to “bad bug” overgrowth. Amazing things will happen when you start to show your gut some love with beneficial bacteria.
Many people find all kinds of symptoms disappear as they rebalance their microbiome. Be open to seeing someone if you’re not making progress on your own. An herbalist, functional doctor, or naturopath can offer the perspective needed to unravel the symptoms you are experiencing. You may need some herbs and supplements to help your body be able to start healing.
Continuing my story…
God brought two docuseries that were rich in information to me. One was a docuseries by Dr. Mark Hyman called Broken Brain (the series is no longer available, but he has a podcast with some fantastic information). The other was a docuseries called Interconnected. I was fascinated by the doctors who offered clinical information and patients who had found restoration.
One statement, in particular, caught my attention. “A health crisis can usually be traced back to something that disrupted the microbiome within the year before the trouble started.” As I thought back, I remembered that shortly after Baby Bro was born, I had become infected with cryptosporidium. It is a parasite that burrows in and destroys the first layer of cells in the small intestine. It had no doubt been the thing that had initially trashed my gut. Then I started drinking the fluorinated town water. That was in September, and the overwhelming anxiety hit in March.
As I listened and continued researching, the pieces started to come together, and little by little, I made progress back to health. It was a journey, but the restoration I experienced was way better than relying on medication to stop the anxiety symptoms.
Proactive Things That can help anxiety
Lacto-fermented foods are foods that beneficial bacteria have preserved. These are the same bacteria that our bodies need to stay healthy. By consuming raw sauerkraut or other naturally fermented foods, we balance our microbiome. The balancing changes our health for the better. My chiropractor recommended eating a bite of lacto-fermented foods after each meal. Sauerkraut was the first thing I made, and I have since expanded those foods to pickles, carrots, and salsa.
I’m looking forward to adding beets and radishes to my rotation this summer. In addition, I use Cultures for Health’s knowledge base for information and recipes. You can find all sorts of information, supplies, and recipes on their site.
Along with the veggies, I began brewing kombucha and got my kids hooked. Finally, a beverage choice besides milk and water that’s not full of sugar!! Flavored with fruit makes it extra yummy, too. Kombucha boasts so many incredible health benefits. It brings specific beneficial bacteria to the body.
Once I was comfortable with the kombucha brewing routine, I added in milk kefir. Milk kefir is another cultured drink and brings more beneficial bacteria to the diet. After adding in the milk kefir, I began to notice the results of the nutritional changes I had been making. My extremely thin and flat hair began thickening, and I sprouted new hair too!
Along with fermented foods and drinks, I began eating the rainbow every day, or as much of it as possible. That simply means eating fruits and veggies of red, orange, yellow, green, and blue/violet every day. As important as it is to introduce beneficial bacteria into your gut regularly, to sustain them, you need to feed the ones that are already there. The foods that feed existing beneficial bacteria are called prebiotics. Root vegetables are prebiotic, so it is important to eat those regularly also. Dr. Tom O’Bryan recommends sweet potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips. Those are especially nourishing to our microbiome.
That covers the physical, but what about the spiritual?
It’s so easy to question God when severe trials and suffering come into our lives. Our first reaction is to beg God to take them away, at least mine was. I wanted my life to be easy or at least more manageable and not painful. I was fighting through overwhelming anxiety, and it affected every single area of my life. My relationships, my housekeeping, and my personal care all suffered. There wasn’t anything in my life it didn’t touch. At first, I tried to fix myself out of panic. I would fight those attacks hard and worry about when it was going to show up again. Then, I became fixated on my diet, thinking it was something I was eating. It became a compulsive obsession.
Here’s what I came to understand, though. The anxiety was just a tool in God’s hands. God completely uprooted my life through the overwhelming anxiety. He used the anxiety to bring me to a place of complete trust and surrender to Him.
Somewhere in my journey, I heard our pastor speak about the crowns that we will be awarded when we get to heaven. One of them, the crown of life, will be awarded for enduring the trials brought to our lives. That sermon challenged me not to fight God’s work. Instead, it encouraged me to be willing to remain under the trial He brings and thus allow God’s work to be profitable.
Throughout my journey, God comforted me with the fact that He was working in my life. His working in my life became an assurance of my salvation as I felt God drawing me closer time and time again.
If you find yourself in the middle of a trial, I hope you can take comfort in these two thoughts. Trials come to us for one of two reasons. First, the devil leaves lukewarm Christians alone because they pose no threat to him, so it could be a sign that you are growing in your faith and the devil has noticed. Second, God uses trials as fire to refine us. Either way, those trials we face are blessings and show us we are moving in the right direction. If you find yourself in the middle of a trial right now, I hope you can take comfort in those two thoughts.
On the other side of anxiety
I remember feeling so discouraged and feeling like life would be like this forever. It was almost impossible to view it as a season that would pass, just like our natural seasons all come and go at their proper time. In the middle of it all, it felt like I would battle this overwhelming anxiety for the rest of my life. If you are feeling that way right now, I understand entirely.
Truthfully, my life has been trials within trials, from the day of my birth through growing up, becoming a wife, and even in my mothering journey. I know firsthand how easy it is to feel discouraged and defeated when difficulties are happening simultaneously. I have spent so much time wondering if I would ever experience the blessing promises that we read in the Bible.
Let me encourage you, though. Trials are seasons, suffering has its purpose, and you will be grateful for them on the other side. Let me give a quick word of testimony. I was praying the other day and started asking God to make things easy again, and I stopped myself. If you don’t remember anything else, remember this: God is closest to you in those seasons of trials. I would rather suffer and experience closeness with God than have an easy life.
The person you are after the season of a trial is SO worth the walk through the suffering.
It was quite a realization that I was more grateful for the change in me and the closeness with the Lord that came from those trials. That is more valuable to me than an easy life. I want more of Him in my life- more growth, more personal change, and more closeness with my Heavenly Father- instead of a life lived on Easy Street. That realization was tangible proof that God had been working the entire time through all the trials and had blessed me with spiritual growth. The trials had been a refiner’s fire.
I believe that is the most significant purpose of trials and suffering in the life of a Christian. Regardless of what started it, even if the trial is a consequence of bad choices, the Lord will work through it. You will leave the trial at the appointed time a different person if you allow Him to do His work in your life.
For me, anxiety was my most significant life changer. It changed me in a way that no other trial to date had. I’m on the other side now, and the Lord is leading me through a rebuilding phase. He is blessing me with the understanding and healing from many things in my past. It is bringing about change within my home. I can only give God the glory for the great things He has done in my life and offer my life back to Him.
My holistic healing journey was an act of obedience to the Lord as he brought the information to me step by step. I had to use the information He brought to me, and as I sought Him through it, I was able to recognize the next step He showed me. Your journey will be different than mine, although there may be pieces that help us both. But we are all created as individuals on our own journey.
That’s why you need to seek the Lord for the order of healing He has for you. Seek Him for what he wants to teach you and prepare you to do. God has created you for a purpose, and these trials also prepare you for your unique calling.
If your health is not good, I would like to encourage you to dive into a God-honoring holistic lifestyle. Figure out what’s making you sick and take steps to eat as clean as you can and nourish your body. I do not believe the mental disorders that plague us today are a deficiency in a manufactured pharmaceutical drug. You may need medicine for a season while you heal, but not as a permanent course of treatment. You will not regret the time and energy spent finding and fixing the underlying problem on the other side of healing!
Lean in close to the Lord through the tough seasons. Find a Bible study to work through or choose a book of the Bible to study yourself. Surrender to Him and let Him work in your life. He will show you the way.
I have carefully put together a resource library of the websites, products, and companies I used to find healing and create a God-honoring, holistic lifestyle. The process of finding safe products that actually worked for me was complicated. It was also challenging to weed through the secular, sometimes satanic, information promoting a holistic healing lifestyle. But, Lord-willing, my trial and error product use will save you some time and energy!
My journey has been pretty intense, and I know it won’t be over until the Lord calls me home. Please don’t think that I am saying I am healed, never experience anxiety, or will never again. I am not saying that at all. Anxiety is an emotion and a legitimate response to life. It can also signal that something requires attention, but I don’t believe it will be a disabling, overwhelming anxiety for me again.
I’m glad you’ve joined me on the journey. Please know that whatever you’re going through, I’m praying for you!
More in the Series:
Part 1- Well, Hello Anxiety
Part 2- If You are Struggling With Overwhelming Anxiety
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