Reducing Anxiety is an Inside Job

Everyone has a tipping point

What choices do you want to make to increase your peace of mind? Be kind to yourself and pay attention to what your body says.

Wheeling the grocery cart down the frozen food aisle, an overwhelming fear descends, convincing me that something is dreadfully wrong. It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest. I can’t breathe. Impending doom fills the air.  My hands tremble and sweat.  Tingles run up and down my neck and across my cheeks. My heart pounds so fast and hard, I’m certain others hear the thumping. Everything spins. 

I edge my way down on the floor, put my head between my knees and try to catch my breath.  Thoughts race in crazed flurry, darting back and forth between, “You’re dying.  Tell them to call an ambulance!” to “You’re only 28! You’re too young for a heart attack!”  Fifteen humbling minutes later, I gather my wits and my purse, and walk weak-kneed out of the store, leaving a cart full of groceries on aisle 13.



Article Continues Below Advertisement

Turns out I didn’t have a heart attack: I had an anxiety attack, the first of several. 

The next one terrorized me out of a dead sleep in the middle of the night, shocking my husband almost as much as me.  An anxiety attack typically peaks within a few minutes and slowly fades in ten to twenty.  I learned to ride them out, using the same tools I’m about to share with you.


Everyone Has a Tipping Point

Article Continues Below Advertisement


Anxiety attacks hit me three days after I delivered our first baby, who died in the womb half way to term. No one knew why. The baby was fully formed right on schedule.  I left the hospital following a thirty-six-hour labor and delivery, with empty arms, a stack of bills, raging post-partum hormones, twenty pounds of excess weight, and the obvious - crushing grief.  My body was screaming, You’re off the stress scale…. way past your tipping point!

One thing you can count on:  your body doesn’t lie.  So be kind to yourself and pay attention to what it says.  Become aware and listen to the typical stress signals.

If you feel stressed you’re not alone.  According to a 2015 nationwide study, approximately 7 in 10 Americans say they experience physical or non-physical symptoms of stress.

Article Continues Below Advertisement

Those in their twenties and thirties are more stressed than ever before.  There’s a sharp spike in younger adults who say their stress levels have increased in the past year. More than one in four younger adults say they do not feel they are doing enough to manage their stress. Download Study (.pdf)

Since you can’t wave a magic wand and make all your anxieties suddenly disappear, where do you go from here?  How can you improve your quality of life and stop those thieves that threaten to steal your peace?


Article Continues Below Advertisement

Reducing Anxiety is an Inside Job

Between a stimulus and a response there is a space.

 In that space is our power to choose our response. 

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

-Viktor Frankl, Austrian Psychiatrist, Survivor of Auschwitz

Here’s the good news.  We always have choices. We can choose routines that reduce anxiety and cultivate peace.  Here are two takeaways that can be easily slipped into your daily routine regardless of what’s on the agenda.

  • Practice 3-D Breathing



3-Dimensional breathing is controlled deep breathing. You simply inhale while counting from 1-4.  Fill your lungs to capacity in 3-Directions:  downward, forward, and to your sides, like an expanding upside down umbrella. Hold the air for 4 seconds, then very slowly exhale to the count of 8.  Use that sequence 4 times in a row. This triggers the Vagus nerve that runs from the base of the brain to your abdomen, lowers your heart rate, and releases chemicals that decrease anxiety and increase focus. Military special forces regularly use this tool to calm themselves and sharpen focus in life-threatening situations.  

It’s easy to practice 3-D breathing while driving to and from work, running errands, shopping, attending events, and even when you’re tucking your children into bed. Why not teach your kids how to quickly calm themselves with 3-D breathing, too? 

  • Pray often, believing that God is good, loving, and responsive.



Research from Baylor University shows that your beliefs about God’s nature effects your mental health.[i] People who seek a close relationship with God through frequent prayer and who view God as loving and responsive are less likely to experience anxiety (worry, fear, self-consciousness, social anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior), compared to people who are less consistent in connecting with God and who view God as distant and unresponsive. How you perceive and cultivate your relationship with God, plays a potent role in empowering you to stop those persistent thieves from steal your peace. 

So what choices do you want to make to increase your peace of mind? When you make healthy choices, the best is yet to come.


[i] C. G. Ellison, M. Bradshaw, K. Flannelly, and K. C. Galek.  Prayer, Attachment to God, and Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Disorders among U.S. Adults. Sociology of Religion (SUMMER 2014) 75 (2): 208-233.


Pam Vredevelt

Pam Vredevelt

Pam Vredevelt is a Professional Counselor and Coach, Best-selling author of Empty Arms, and the Empty Arms Journal. Jessie Vredevelt Schultz is a business consultant and transformation coach. They co-lead Healing Your Empty Arms: A transformation experience after the loss of your baby or child, for emotional healing, personal growth, and spiritual renewal.

Follow Pam Vredevelt:

Facebook Comments