During the month of October, Solidarity recognizes World Mental Health Day on October 10th and Mental Illness Awareness Week from October 6th through the 12th. I am grateful to belong to and lead a community of Solidarity members who are the only healthcare sharing community to share in medical needs for people suffering with mental illness. It brings me joy to know that, every month, my sharing dollars go directly toward those with medical needs including mental health.
In the United States, a staggering 1 out of 5 adults experience mental illness each year.1 I pray that you and your family are not one of them, and if you are, this month you are in my prayers. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders. Experiencing anxiety is a normal part of life. If it becomes excessive and influences our daily activities, then it may be diagnosed as a disorder.
But what is it and where does it come from? Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful or dangerous situations whether real or perceived. It’s the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel caused by a flood of hormones and neurotransmitters in the body. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from excessive anxiety, it feels far from normal. It can be completely debilitating, and these molecules in a prolonged elevated state in the body are correlated to physical illness.2
So, what do we do about it? Some people are more prone to anxiety than others. This can be from how we were raised, how we learned to process and manage these normal emotions, and also from our genetics passed down from our parents and grandparents. Our genes certainly play a role in our predisposition to anxiety, but they do not lay down the law. They negotiate with us.
When anxiety is present in our bodies, it is important to recognize if there really is a danger our body is letting us know about. This danger can be physical, emotional or even spiritual. If so, I recommend finding someone to help identify it and then do something about it. This could be a loved one, a mental health professional or a priest.
In cases where there is no danger, I have come across some very powerful tools for supporting anxiety. I have found them helpful even when we are predisposed through our genetics or our habits.
- Balance Hormones: Hormones and neurotransmitters may be responding to other hormones in the body being out of balance (i.e. testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, etc.).
- Magnesium: Magnesium is a common sub-clinical deficiency in many Americans and has many beneficial qualities including support for anxiety.3
- Exercise: Exercise has been shown to be very helpful even ahead of counseling for the treatment of anxiety.4
- Prayer/Meditation: 15-30 minutes per day of prayer and meditation is one of the most important things we can do. Prayer/mediation is always appropriate no matter what condition we find ourselves in. 15-30 min of daily prayer and meditation has changed countless lives and can impact yours. Please download my favorite prayer/breathing exercises which can be found here.
If you or a loved one is suffering with anxiety, never forget hope is the strongest of all human emotions. May our trust in God’s plan for our lives always be greater than the anxieties we face. The light is never overcome by the darkness! May the words of Saint John Paul II always be in our mind, “I plead with you! Never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”
Dr. John C. Oertle
Chief Medical Officer
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/
- Yaribeygi H., Panahi Y., Sahraei H., Johnston T.P., Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057–1072.
- Boyle NB, Lawton C, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety and stress—a systematic review. Nutrients 2017; 9(5): 429.
- Stonerock G.L., Hoffman B.M., Smith P.J., Blumenthal J.A. Exercise as Treatment for Anxiety: Systematic Review and Analysis. Ann. Behav. Med. 2015;49:542–556. doi: 10.1007/s12160-014-9685-9.