Freedom from Fear

Freedom from FearEveryone experiences fear. For many, it’s a subtle, gnawing feeling that something is not quite right. For others, however, it’s crippling and debilitating. Fear can affect every area of our lives–our business, our dreams, our faith and our family. Finding freedom from fear is essential to live the abundant life.

My battle with fear started as a child and continued into my adult life. Panic attacks were sometimes a daily occurrence. Agoraphobia set in and my world grew smaller every time I surrendered to the fear. If I didn’t find freedom, it would surely destroy me.

Through wise counsel, great resources and a growing faith, I started experiencing seasons of peace. These five steps have been foundational in my journey to freedom:

Recognize

It’s essential that we recognize fearful thoughts when they hit. Most people don’t take time to really analyze those uninvited, mental intrusions. We simply react and respond. The Bible encourages us to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). To help you sort through your thoughts, start a “thought log” and document what comes into your mind.

Rationalize

Fear can be rational or irrational. God created us with an ability to instinctively respond in dangerous situations, and this is good. We need that innate, rational fear to protect us from sudden danger. Too often, though, fears can become irrational, and we start making decisions based on emotion, not reason. In your “thought log”, write down what is fearful to you, and then classify each fear as rational or irrational. Ask a spouse or friend to help you discern.

Root

We are born with only two fears — a fear of loud noises and a fear of falling. All other fears are learned, typically at a young age. As children, we accept most things at face value, trusting those in authority over us. But, wounded people wound people. When we believe a lie, there’s a disconnect between what is real and what we believe. Fear settles in. To effectively uproot fear, we must understand what lies we believe and replace them with truth.

Respond

As I began to recognize the lies at work in my life, I was soon faced with a test. How would I respond the next time a fearful thought hit me? Would I give in or would I confront the lie? At first, it was difficult, but soon I was able to respond by facing my fears. The more I stood against them, the stronger I grew. If fear said, Don’t get on the airplane, I would get on. If fear said, You shouldn’t go into the store, I would force myself to go into the store. I responded to each irrational fear by doing what it told me not to do. For me, this was a major step towards freedom.

Rest

We live in a very busy world. We rarely take time to slow down, rest and recuperate. I have discovered that stress is a primary trigger for panic attacks. When I don’t rest properly or deal with stress effectively, the adrenaline levels in my body continue to rise until the only outlet is panic and exhaustion. Today, I rest regularly by shutting down in the evenings, napping when I can, taking family vacations, and enjoying one day off a week.

Fear does not need to control your life. If you can recognize and rationalize incoming fearful thoughts, then you can then find the roots and respond accordingly. With fear out of the way, you will be able to write your book, compose a song, start that new job and chase your dream!

Question: Have you experienced an irrational fear that has hindered your life in some way? What have you done to overcome that fear?

Season of Grace – New eBook

Season of Grace BookI’m very excited to announce the release of my Book, Season of Grace – Finding Freedom from Panic Attacks, Fear and Anxiety.

Since I was a teenager, I struggled with crippling panic attacks, anxiety and fear. For decades, this fear controlled my life. It told me what I could and couldn’t do. It kept me trapped in a cycle of anxiety, fear and constant dread of another attack.

I wanted to be free. I had to be free!

I started digging deep into this idea of total, complete freedom — the kind of freedom that you didn’t have to worry about another attack, or all the things you couldn’t do.

The journey was absolutely amazing! Today I am completely free from the panic attacks and fear that controlled my life for years. I am free! And, I am 100% convinced that you can be free too.

This book documents my journey to freedom. I share practical steps on how to deal with panic attacks, and how to stop them. I talk about the mental and emotional aspects of fear, and how I managed it. And, I share about the finished work of Christ, and how God’s grace opened the door to true, lasting freedom.

I know that this book can be an incredible resource on your journey to freedom. I hope you find it encouraging and helpful!

Here’s where you can order the book:

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book!

What is Stress?

What is Stress?When it comes to fear, panic attacks and anxiety, stress can be a key trigger. But, what is stress and how does it affect us?

Here’s one definition of stress: “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

Stress has many forms and can be caused by a variety of things. Trying to pin down the causes of stress may be difficult because it varies from person to person. What may be stressful for me may not be stressful for you. It’s a very personal experience, but often has very common results.

Stress and Panic

I have found in my own life that stress is a key trigger for anxiety and panic attacks.

For the past few years, I have not struggled with panic attacks. But today, when things get stressed in my life because of work or other issues, I can sense what I call “adrenaline zaps”. It’s those small, little adrenaline dumps into my body that temporarily get my heart racing. In the past, it would often result in panic, but today, I recognize those “zaps” and immediately take steps to keep the panic from hitting.

Recognize Stress

When those “zaps” hit me, I first deal with that excess adrenaline to make sure it doesn’t turn into full blown panic. But, I don’t just stop there. I start to think through the past few days and weeks. What is going on that is putting my body and mind under stress? Is it a project deadline? Too much caffeine? Am I worrying about something that’s out of my control? What am I doing to trigger this “zap”?

Almost always, I am able to pinpoint the stress trigger and deal with it accordingly. Most times, it’s a work project that demands 12 to 14 hours a day of work and much less sleep. I find in those times, that I have to slow down, rest and find healthy ways to release that adrenaline, like exercise.

Dealing with Stress

The first thing you have to do is recognize what is causing the increased stress levels. Once you have done that, the next step is to deal with it.

The problem is that we have an incredibly adaptable mental state. We can easily adjust our lives and our thinking around an increased stressed state. We grow more desensitized to this increased stress level, and instead of dealing with it, we numb it with busyness, food, alcohol and other means. I believe full-blown panic hits when our desensitized stress level reaches a point that it triggers the “fight or flight” mode in us and we don’t know why. You need to quickly respond to stress and get to the root of it as fast as you can.

While you are working through the mental and emotional causes of stress, it’s important to deal with it physically as well.

Get some Rest

Stress is often caused by overwork and long hours on the job with few breaks and lots of pressure.

When your work day is over at 5pm, then don’t work anymore. Turn the email off. Shut down the computer. Take time every evening to rest, recuperate and reenergize.

Sleep is God’s natural way for us to heal our body and mind. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep, if not more. Your body wants to sleep. It’s how it heals itself. Just last week, when I was fighting some serious bronchitis, I slept 14 hours straight because my body was healing itself through rest. So, get some sleep.

Get Moving

For me, exercise is an amazing way to deal with stress. I need to get moving. Everyday, I need to do something. Even if it’s a 15 minute walk, I must get moving at least once a day.

Much of our stress comes from sitting at a desk all day, working on computers and not moving very much. I don’t believe we were created to sit still. Our body just starts to shut down after sitting for a couple hours.

The more you can get your heart rate up, the quicker you can dump that excess adrenaline that’s been building up in your body. Often, I’ll go run or bike for an hour at the end of a work day to burn off that excess stress and adrenaline. And, exercise also releases endorphins into your body, giving you a natural relaxant.

Stress can come in many forms, but the key is to recognize it and deal with it as best you can. Stress is a very personal, unique experience. I encourage you to pray and let God show you what’s causing the stress. He is faithful and wants to help you.

Prayer: Father, show me what’s causing this stress in my life. Give me the wisdom and understanding I need to deal with it.

Is Freedom from Fear and Panic Attacks Possible?

Is Freedom from Fear and Panic Attacks Really Possible?Through most of my early life, when fear and panic attacks were rampant, I would often ask myself this question: can I really be free from this?

Back in the 80’s when I was really struggling with panic attacks, there was no diagnosis for this condition, not even a term called  panic attacks. I was often diagnosed with nerves or stress. Later in college, a psychiatrist diagnosed me correctly with “chronic panic disorder.” It finally had a name. I was prescribed tranquilizers, sleeping pills and other treatments for stress. While these worked temporarily, they didn’t really solve my problem. I was still held captive by fear often resulting in panic attacks.

I started to believe that maybe I would have this condition for the rest of my life. Or, I would have to take medication everyday for the rest of my life. There was even a time I thought God was telling me I would have panic attacks till the day I died.

Today, I believe something much different. I now believe with all of my heart that freedom is possible for everyone. God does not favor one person over another (Acts 10:34), and Jesus died so that we can all be “blessed with every spiritual blessing in heaven” (Ephesians 1:3).

I no longer battle with panic attacks. I also no longer take medication for anxiety and panic attacks. You can read my story about medication here.

I remember the day when hope came alive in me, that freedom was truly possible. I was sitting in a counseling office. Again. What questions would this guy ask? I no longer had to rehearse my answers. I had talked about my “condition” so many times before.

But this time was different. Instead of asking me questions, he told him his story about panic attacks. Immediately, he had my attention. He shared how it crippled him for years, how it caused his world to shrink, and how he had no hope for so long. But then, he shared how he was now completely free. No more panic attacks. I was really listening!

That day sparked a new hope in me. It started me on a journey to freedom. I believed I could be free from this crippling condition.

Today, I shout it from the rooftops: FREEDOM IS POSSIBLE!

There is Hope

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise” (Hebrews 10:23).

Hope is powerful! The biggest enemy to freedom is losing hope. It’s too easy to give up and surrender to fear when you have no hope.

I pray that this message will rekindle hope in you, that you will begin to believe that freedom is possible.

Fear and Panic Attacks are Not from God

I used to think this “thorn in the flesh” was from God, to keep my humble and to teach me how to trust in him. I no longer think like that.

In John 10:10, Jesus makes it very clear what his purpose is, and what the enemy’s purpose is:

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10).

It’s very clear. Does fear and panic attacks “steal, kill and destroy”? Or, does fear and panic attacks “give you a rich and satisfying life”? Jesus removed all doubt who is the source of  fear and panic attacks.

With God, All Things are Possible

“Is anything too hard for the Lord? “(Genesis 18:14).

Jesus said, “What is impossible for people is possible with God” (Luke 18:27).

I now believe that it is possible to be completely free from anxiety, fear and panic attacks. Nothing is too hard for God. He is able to set you free. I really believe that because I have seen it in my own life, and in the lives of many others.

If you want to read more, below are a series of articles I wrote that chronicle my journey to freedom:

Prayer: Father, I may have been hopeless for a long time, but today, let your hope come alive in me. Show me that I can experience freedom from fear, anxiety and panic attacks.

Are Panic Attacks Physical, Mental or Spiritual? Yes.

Are Panic Attacks Physical, Mental or Spiritual? Yes.When it comes to anxiety and panic attacks, I’m often asked if it’s a physical experience, a mental struggle or a spiritual battle. In my own experience and what I’ve heard from others, it’s rooted in all three areas.

Think about water for a moment. It can exists in three distinct states — liquid (water), vapor (steam) and solid (ice). Like water, our being consists of three distinct elements–physical, mental and spiritual. Paul closes out his first letter to the Thessalonians with this encouragement, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v5:23, emphasis mine). That is my prayer over you as well, that God would help you find freedom in your spirit and soul and body.

I hear many stories from those struggling, and very few pursue healing in all three areas. Often, people will pursue a bodily solution (like medication and exercise), but neglect the mental and spiritual aspects. Others may combine body and soul (like exercise and counseling), but neglect the spiritual. And, even faithful believers may focus primarily on the spiritual side of freedom (prayer and deliverance) but neglect the physical and mental aspects.

True freedom comes when you address all these areas.

The Body

Panic attacks are a very physical experience. Your body responds with increased adrenaline, rapid heart beat, shallow breathing and increased blood pressure. It’s getting ready to run or fight. Blood is pumped to your arms for fighting and legs for running. (Ever notice your hands tingling or getting cold?) Acid is released in your stomach to quickly digest food for energy. (Ever get butterflies in your stomach?) Your body is responding to a threat, either real or imagined.

There are certain triggers that can escalate that fight or flight mode, like caffeine or sugar. And, there are physical things you can do to reduce the anxiety, like exercise or medication. Early in my struggles, I found some peace with medication, but today I’m medication free by focusing on diet and exercise to help me release that excessive adrenaline. You can read more on my story about medication. (There maybe other medical triggers causing the anxiety and panic attacks. While it’s very rare, you should talk to you doctor.)

The Soul

The soul is your mind, that part of you that makes choices. The soul is where your memories live and your emotions are experienced. It’s an incredibly complex system of thoughts, ideas, choices and perspectives.

It’s also where anxiety and panic attacks are triggered. Just like the body can trigger those terrifying feelings, so can your soul. Maybe it’s a traumatic memory or a painful parental wound, the soul can initiate those experiences with fear.

When I was in college and the “episodes of fear” were rampant in my life, I made an appointment with a counselor who began sharing with me information about a term I had never heard before: “panic attacks”. A few years later, I began meeting regularly with a pastor who had experienced the same thing, but was now free. He began to teach me about my thoughts and choices, and how to renew my mind (Romans 12:2). But, he didn’t stop there. He began to teach me about…

The Spirit

Understanding the spiritual side of panic attacks changed everything for me. I believe it’s what gave me the edge to find true, complete freedom. Sadly, I believe it’s where most people fall short. The more I began to understand the truth, the more freedom I began to experience. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (Romans 8:32).

Regarding the spiritual side of fear and panic attacks, here are a few of the key topics that were incredibly helpful:

Grace

Understanding the finished work of Christ and all he has done for us has revolutionized my relationship with God. Here are a few messages I wrote about grace:

Authority

Even today, I don’t completely understand all of the authority that we truly have as believers. God has given us amazing authority here on the earth (Luke 10:19), and I believe the enemy’s greatest strategy is to keep us blind to our authority.

If we truly knew how big and powerful we were and just how small and powerless the enemy was, it would change everything.

Freedom

Combining all that I learned about the spiritual side of freedom, I chronicled my journey in this series of articles:

Prayer: Father, help me understand the importance of all three areas — body, soul and spirit. Teach me to put all my trust in you, and help me to know the truth so that I can walk in true freedom.