Anxiety, as we’ve said, is basically a bad brain habit. The good news is that habits can be changed and brains retrained, at least in most situations.
Anxiety accomplishes nothing because it removes the individual from the present moment and throws him into an imaginary future where he’s powerless to act. This suggests that a strong emphasis on the here and now can be a powerful antidote to anxiety. Matthew 6:34 reminds us of this principle: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow”—the “what if ” of tomorrow—“for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” The idea is to stay focused on the present moment of today.
Responding to Clinical Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are very different from standard, run-of-the-mill anxiety. They often have no apparent cause. To make matters worse, once a panic attack begins, there’s no way to stop it. All you can do is ride it out—like a bad roller-coaster ride. While this isn’t a great answer, it’s the real, in-the-moment, workable answer to a panic attack. Here’s what you and your kids need to know about panic attacks:
- Once the bar comes down across your lap, the ride’s on and you can’t stop it.
- It will eventually come to an end. It always does.
- As uncomfortable as it is, you won’t die. No one has ever died from a panic attack.
- To the extent you’re able, try to relax your breathing until the attack is over.
A Way of Escape
Severe anxiety is so debilitating that, in some cases, the sufferer can’t think about anything but finding an avenue of escape. Young people who believe they don’t have many choices may be tempted to seek the easy way out by taking their own lives. That’s a temptation the rest of us need to overturn in any way we can.
We need to remind kids with this problem of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
As parents, as well as teachers, pastors, youth leaders, and other responsible adults, we have the power to show our kids that there are other ways of escaping the pressure. This is a task that can be accomplished, and it will make a huge difference in our world. All it takes is a little bit of practical know-how and a whole lot of love.