It seems as if everywhere we turn, we hear about the increasing stress from demands placed on us. The joy of accomplishment and kudos from the boss may not stave off stress – especially if we feel personally responsible for all the work. Advertisements promising relief from health issues associated with such anxiety recommend exercise, seminars, and drugs to calm and control our stress.
But these kinds of measures aren’t intended to get rid of stress entirely, just to manage it. Is merely coping the best we can hope for?
Christ Jesus, who faced a great deal throughout his life, found his strength and energy in an entirely different source, in the understanding of his real selfhood, or Christ – even in the face of constant demands from multitudes of people who sought his teaching and came to be healed. In fact, Jesus called everyone to the Christ, the Truth he taught and demonstrated: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus sought to free people from false, material beliefs by imparting to them a truer idea of God and our relationship to Him, offering everyone refuge in Christ.
The Master knew he wasn’t personally responsible for everyone else. He was actually turning thought away from himself as a man and toward his spiritual identity as the divine idea, Christ, which heals. His teachings revealed that his source of renewal was spiritual, not material. Further, he taught that the Christ is eternal, here with everyone, all the time.
Many years ago, before I began studying Christian Science, there were demands at work that threatened to be more than I could handle. I started having anxiety attacks that were also affecting my sleep. I conferred with a doctor, who prescribed sleeping pills for relief. Oddly enough, since I’d thought this was what I wanted, having a possible escape from anxious nights didn’t feel right. I knew the pills wouldn’t bring actual healing, and I found myself thinking, “You don’t need a dodge – you need a real solution.”
I needed to reconsider my approach. The thought came to me to read a Christian Science Sentinel I’d picked up at a nearby business. Up to that point I had never considered prayer as a way to solve my anxiety and sleep problems. As I read, I felt my thought being uplifted, turning in a new and more spiritual direction. I read about people who were finding solutions to challenges by turning to God, striving to know Him more each day, and understanding that He cares for all His children. They also talked about the Christ, God’s power and presence, which meets human needs.
Boy, did I want to know God and have confidence in His care for me! For the next several days, I left the pills alone. I felt spiritually fed as I continued to read.
One night, when I was especially anxious and feeling so vulnerable, these words by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, came to me: “O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;…” (“Poems,” p. 4). I had remembered these lines from my time in Christian Science Sunday School, which I had occasionally attended as a child. I realized that this “gentle presence” was God. And in that moment I saw that I did know God, that I had always known Him, because He is omnipresent. I felt so safe and no longer felt alone.
I threw away the sleeping pills without ever taking one, slept soundly, and experienced no more of the fear or intense stress.
I have since learned that the voice of comfort speaking to me in the night was the healing presence of the Christ, reassuring me that God is always here and able to help.
As we become more aware of God’s ever-presence, realizing that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1), we find a deeper sense of refuge and rest.
This article was adapted from an article in the Dec. 22, 2014, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.
Link to these Peace and Freedom topics:
addiction, alcoholism, Anxiety, brain, chronic pain, Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, do not be afraid, Fear, God, God and our relationship to Him, God’s power and presence, healing presence of the Christ, Jesus, suffering, Jesus Christ, Matthew 11:28-30, Matthew 14: 22-30, Prayer and Meditation
I couldn’t sleep for 60 years but I always had to work hard at school and in the economy because I always had low self esteem. AFTER my 60th birthday I became a student of the human mind — hoping I would have a delightfully happy old age with grandchildren.
So on my 60th birthday I see my doctor and pour my heart out and he says: “You have a mental illness.”
Every American knows the answer to that: “I certainly do not!”
But after many other doctors did their work the bunch of them decided that I have probably had undiagnosed MS for most of my life.
One of the doctors actually said, “How in hell did you get through life?”
Funny. I thought everyone was working harder than me. But the good news is this: now I can sleep after many years of constant reprogramming of my brain — but there is only so much humans can do and for the rest you need God.
Like most Americans, I only had lip service acknowledgement for God — and all of a sudden I needed him more than anything! The guy has a great sense of humor!
He took me back and continues to help me out.
So when I hear folks today complaining about depression, insomnia, pain, and all the other hardships of life I like to tell them: this phase we’re in is the SHORT PART. We are in a test to see if we can hack it in eternity!
Most people, as soon as they get that, stop complaining and take on some spiritual training.
Don’t forget, in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) the 12th and final step is, “Having had a spiritual experience as a result of these steps we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”
No spiritual experience might mean no sobriety. No peace.
What Jesus came to earth to give us was peace, freedom and a good night’s sleep. “He is the all time greatest anti-anxiety teacher,” one of my mentors always tells me…..
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
Above: Actor Jack Nicholson in the film “The Shining.” He likes to tell people the story of his own horror with the sleeping pill Ambien.
Peace and Freedom
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
YOU DREAD giving a speech for days beforehand. Your heart pounds, stomach turns, hands tremble and face perspires. What to do?
Pop a pill.
That’s the advice being offered by a growing number of doctors, who say the drugs that have helped millions of people overcome anxiety or depression — including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft — can quell stage fright. “It turns out to be a very treatable condition,” says James W. Jefferson, senior scientist at the Dean Foundation for Health, Research and Education in Middleton, Wis.
Some drug companies are conducting clinical trials to test their drugs for treating social phobia, a common anxiety disorder that causes everything from performance fears to shyness. The disorder may afflict as many as 20 million people at some time in their lives. Prozac and other antidepressants aren’t approved for such treatment, but psychiatrists say they have used them for anxiety disorders for years with good results.
Of course, some people object to using drugs to enhance performance. “For people who have public-speaking fears alone, I wouldn’t treat them with the antidepressants, because there isn’t any evidence they work. And you have to take antidepressants chronically, every day, and most people don’t need to speak publicly every day,” says Murray Stein, a psychiatrist at the University of California in San Diego.
“People shouldn’t have to take a pill,” agrees J. Oliver Crom, president of Dale Carnegie & Associates Inc., which sells training in public speaking. “It’s a lot cheaper, better on your system and probably longer-lasting to go get some training.”
BUT PSYCHIATRISTS and others note that many people have long medicated themselves with alcohol or other substances to calm their nerves before performances. “Some people take a deep breath and keep going, some have a drink, some smoke a joint, some people take a pill,” says Ken Sunshine, an entertainment industry PR consultant.
It’s been known for years that a blood-pressure pill can help tame the physical symptoms of stage fright — the pounding heart, tremors and sweating. The new antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs go further by getting at the brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, that regulate many emotions. Serotonin is involved in fear and avoidance behaviors, such as freezing — choking up and not knowing what to say — when you feel threatened, says Jonathan R.T. Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and director of Duke University’s Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program.
In recent years, psychiatrists have been prescribing antidepressants that raise serotonin levels, such as Prozac, to treat social phobias. One drug that increases dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine levels, Nardil, seems to work well in relieving anxiety, but it has difficult side effects, Dr. Davidson says. Some anti-anxiety drugs enhance the activity of another neurotransmitter, GABA. While antidepressants are usually taken daily, some anti-anxiety drugs can be used as needed.
Before John Niemann sought help, he couldn’t speak in meetings with co-workers to coordinate projects. The 44-year-old steam fitter at the University of Wisconsin in Madison was “like a mouse in the corner,” he says. He couldn’t talk to his supervisor or go to a store to return videos, for fear he’d be put on the spot. Mr. Niemann visited the Dean Foundation and was diagnosed with social phobia. Now on Prozac, he says he’s a new person. He recently gave a talk to two dozen Little Leaguers and their parents. And he felt bold enough to ask for a better job (which he got).
ALTHOUGH EVERYONE experiences some fears before speeches — only severe cases warrant taking medication every day. There are several signs that a person is a candidate for regular medication: if public speaking causes great distress, if the phobia interferes with relationships, or if it compromises a person’s ability to do a job. Some people make important decisions — such as turning down promotions or avoiding certain careers –because of public-speaking fears. Dr. Jefferson says one of his patients dropped out of law school, though he did well, because he couldn’t bear making presentations before the class.
One entomology professor in Raleigh, N.C., says his anxiety never seemed to abate even after he had made hundreds of speeches. It was his sweating that unnerved him, he says: “It gave the appearance of my being scared.”
Dr. Davidson diagnosed social phobia and prescribed Klonopin, an epilepsy treatment that belongs to a class of anti-anxiety drugs. Now, the patient says that he is reaping professional rewards, including more grant funding, arising from his new visibility. “I can’t imagine being as successful as I am and still suffering from anxiety,” he says.
Some drugs simply deal with the physical symptoms of stage fright. Musicians and others have used a beta-blocker like propranolol before performances. A recent Johns Hopkins study found that eye surgeons who took propranolol before surgery had fewer hand tremors. The drug blocks the effects of the surging adrenaline that causes the heart to beat rapidly, body temperature to rise and hands to tremble.
Psychiatrists caution that drugs aren’t the only answer, and counseling often helps patients perform more comfortably. “Some people can do quite well” with just talk therapy, Dr. Jefferson says. “It depends on the preference of the patient.”
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