By Shailie Dubois
I thought I was dying.
I started a creative project I had dreamt about for years: I would write and illustrate a children’s book about overcoming our worries, fears and doubts from a spiritual perspective. Now that my main character overcame her obstacles, it was my turn. Over the next year all of my worries, fears and doubts manifested into anxiety.
On the eve of my book launch, I experienced my first anxiety attack. It felt like I was suddenly locked inside of a cage with a wild, ravage beast. My heart pounded in fear. My mind was spinning out of control, short of breath, and my entire body cold. It took weeks to clear the restless feeling in my chest, and I hated how it could happen anytime—anywhere.
Everything about me became muted, out of fear of waking the beast.
I was confused, but determined to understand what was going on. I started to explore anxiety through prayer and meditation—not an unusual approach for me to take.
A basic understanding of anxiety was a great place to start. I knew anxiety was a natural response to any situation we perceive as stressful or threatening. But, the difference between healthy anxiety and an anxiety attack is when our flight or fight mode is triggered by negative thought patterns. The body experiences our thoughts as if they are actually happening, causing symptoms that confirm: I should stay home; There is something wrong with me; I am in danger.
Awareness of this cycle was a huge breakthrough. I started to document the triggers and self-talk that caused feelings of anxiety, but sometimes it seemed random and not connected to any of my triggers.
I realized that fear alone of having another anxiety attack is all it takes.
With time, I knew I would be okay. I am okay became a powerful affirmation that slowly transformed the cage of cold hard steel into wobbly Jell-O, and the beast into a over-sized earthworm in need of a friend. But let’s be real, most days it was a really strange blend of both.
These are the practices I found helped me ease out of the grip of fear and into Love:
Slowing down our breathing into long, even inhales and exhales sends a message to our body that we are safe. Once our anxiety is triggered it can take 30 minutes or more—depending on how long we have been feeling anxious—for the physiological symptoms to subside. So when we don’t feel good right away, that’s okay.
Connect with Nature
Being in nature has been scientifically shown to significantly decrease anxiety and depression. It helps us step out of our own thoughts and feel connected to something bigger. Finding a special place to unwind will connect us to our ability to heal and regenerate.
Exercise, yoga, singing, dancing, writing, painting, drumming… Find a way to channel anxiety into some enjoyable.
For those that believe in a Creator, High-power, God, Universal Energy… The most powerful thing we can do is pray. Prayer is often misunderstood as a religious practice of asking and receiving, instead of an open line of communication with the Divine that anyone can access. Prayer does not necessarily require words. It does require us to be in an open and receptive state, which can be accessed by focusing on our breath.
The more time we spend in prayer, our hearts truth will become louder and will eventually overpower the worries, fears and doubts that circulate in the mind.
Here are three ways to explore the power of prayer:
Feel More & Ask Less
Affirmations like I am Peaceful are more powerful than asking for our anxiety to simply go away. To pray for peace is to truly feel as though our prayers have already been answered. Acknowledge what this peace feels like; with practice, allow it to fill the body and maybe even the surrounding area.
Pray for Others
Anxiety is experienced by people all around the world. Praying for others who struggle with anxiety shifts our focus from me to us. This practice will burst our bubble of isolation and loneliness. Visualize pure white light entering our hearts and wrapping around the earth. Bask in this loving energy; affirm we are peaceful.
Divine Truth is our Truth
Anxiety and panic attacks are ultimately rooted in believing fear-based information. Set an intention during prayer to align with Divine Truth. Over time we will be able to distinguish the lies that cause anxiety from the truth that sets us free.
Everything I have learnt from anxiety came from time spent in prayer. Now, I am working on my second book and rely on these practices to help me see the burden of anxiety as an opportunity to have a deeper spiritual relationship. Today, when I feel anxious I know with complete confidence we embody the very thing thing this creature anxiety hates: Love.
We have to find our own way to remember this truth.
Shailie Dubois has a degree in Psychology. She is also a graduate of the Advanced Shamanism Program at the Canadian Centre for Shamanic Studies. She practices Intuitive Prayer Healing, a combination of her studies in psychological well-being, Christianity, Bhakti yoga, shamanic healing, energy healing, prayer therapy, aromatherapy, music, art and a lifetime of dreaming. Her mission is to inspire community rooted in the service of God. She is called to bring people together through artistic expression, sharing stories and songs, and providing sacred space to get lost in and find “home.” Connect with Shailie on her blog Altar of the Heart.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak