What is your productive pace? Have you ever thought about it? How many projects and commitments can you legitimately try to tackle and balance while still remaining productive?
In this day and age it is not uncommon to hear the topic of stress grace nearly every lunch or dinner conversation. We’re maxed out! We try to be the perfect partner, parent, employee, neighbor, friend, relative, community and church member. And the truth is, we’re really not “good” at any of them because we are attempting to be all things to all people. It is this very attitude and lifestyle that slowly moved panic disorder, one of the most common anxiety-related illnesses, up the list to the point that it is now the number one mental health problem among women, and second only to drug abuse among men. It is a disease of stress! The more you have on your “to do list,” the more likely you are to succumb to its affects and develop an anxiety-related illness.
And the sad thing is, it is a very preventable illness for the most part. The ball is in our hands and we would do ourselves a great service if we would use one simple word a little more often: “no.”
“No” isn’t a very popular word. It never has been. But for people suffering from the effects of stress, it is a word that must be learned if they hope to regain balance in their lives. When I was a senior in college and was diagnosed with panic disorder, I was told I would have to simplify my life. I was told to eliminate some “stressors.” I didn’t really know what a stressor was, so I had to look into it a little more. It was pretty profound: a stressor is anything that causes you stress.
I learned there are actually two types of stress: distress and eustress. Distress is the type I was familiar with. This is any form of negative stress, such as financial problems, marital difficulties, work issues, etc. But there is also a form of stress that is associated with positive life events such as a vacation, purchasing a new home, or even Christmas. The truth is that any form of prolonged stress is bad for us. It upsets the body’s chemistry and negatively affects the way the brain’s neurotransmitters send and receive messages. And anxiety is the consequence of too much stress on this highly-vulnerable brain chemistry.
I love the way Dr. Archibald Hart, a world-renowned authority on stress, compares life to a marathon. He says we need to approach life like a marathon instead of a sprint. We need to pace ourselves so we can go the distance. However, many of us treat life like a sprint, going as fast as we can…only to find we tire out before the finish line.
One of the best ways I found to reduce the effects of stress in my life, and to help combat anxiety and panic attacks, was to simplify my life. I put into action a series of steps that help me cognitively evaluate stressful situations and attempt to maintain a productive pace. They can be summarized as follows:
• Eliminate – Eliminate any stressors that can be eliminated. Cut back on activities, commitments, that extra part-time job or those extra obligations that steal your time and sap your energy. Learn to say “no” before your exhaustion point is reached…without feeling guilty about it! It goes back to the marathon runner thing…pace yourself and know your limits.

• Prioritize – Prioritize those things that cannot be eliminated. Do only what is absolutely necessary and no more. During recovery and de-stressing times, get the most important things done first and then let the rest go. I heard somewhere that if the items on your “to do list” aren’t in the top three, then they probably aren’t that critical and it won’t be earth shattering if they have to wait until a day or two later.
• Evaluate – Evaluate the unexpected. We all have crises and predicaments. The car breaks down, the weather doesn’t cooperate, someone gets sick, and we get stuck in traffic. Obviously, many of these things are out of our control. Certainly, if there is action that can be taken, we need to act. But if there is nothing we can do, we need to realize so and let it go without fretting about it and picking it up later. There’s no sense in getting ourselves all worked up and acting ugly about something that we can’t do anything about! Instead, we need to practice remaining peaceable and calm.

I also realized that along with being a physical and psychological issue, anxiety has a spiritual side. I have always been a person of faith, but at this particular point in my life I discovered that in God’s word He said He sent His Son that I might have life, and have it more abundantly. But I certainly didn’t feel like I had abundant life. So I dived into His word and read how much God talked about anxiety…and that Jesus actually had mankind’s greatest panic attack in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked God if He could skip this whole cross ordeal. We’re told He sweat great drops of blood! Now that is a panic attack! And He knew how I felt.
It was here that I also leanred how important it is to control our thoughts and our words. Where the mind goes, the mouth and the man follow. But that is another topic in itself that we’ll have to address later.
Finally, I believe that fear is at the root of all worry, stress, and anxiety. It can be the fear of not performing at expected levels, the fear of failure, rejection, or what others will think of us. Fear brings us into bondage by getting us over-committed and stressed out in the first place. Then fear in another form keeps us in bondage after we’ve gotten ourselves run down and in a state of physical exhaustion or an anxiety or panic disorder.
But with God’s help, we can recognize our limits and boundaries. We can prioritize our lives so we can find the pace that is right for us and the one at which we are most productive. We can accomplish what we were meant to accomplish and find out what our destiny is and begin to walk it out and fulfill it.

Author's Bio: 

Angela is the author of Don’t Forget To Look Up: A Christian’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Panic Attacks, and The Don’t Forget To Look Up Workbook: Uncovering the Root of Anxiety, Panic and Fear. She received a bachelor of science in public relations from Kent State University, and is pursuing a master of arts in professional counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. As director of Fear to Freedom Ministries, Angela helps those suffering from anxiety and panic disorders via her website and ministry events. She has conducted an anxiety support group at Mercy Medical Center, and presented at the First and Second International Conference on Panic Attacks at the University of Westminster in London, England. She has also worked with the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), presenting at the organization’s National Conferences. Angela also had the privilege of conducting a series of stress briefings for the soldiers of the 3rd Chemical Brigade at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, and spoke at the 2nd Annual MarineParents Conference in St. Louis. She is a speaker at churches and events, and a frequent guest on television and radio programs including It’s a New Day in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and 100 Huntley Street’s Full Circle in Burlington, Ontario.