I am thirty-one. I was working at a job with a toxic environment that caused me to suffer from depression and chronic anxiety…. So I resigned and was out of work for two weeks. Now I have a better and more peaceful job that also pays better.

However, the trauma I suffered because of that bad employment experience is affecting me. I dread reading my emails for fear that there will be a negative message from my boss. I feel anxious every time I am assigned a new task, for I fear making a mistake and I’m scared to death that something similar will happen with my new job.

I want to be content with what I have, but I can’t find that happiness.

Dear Friend,

We are very sorry to hear about what you have been going through. You don’t say how long you worked under such stress, but it was obviously long enough to make chemical changes in your brain. Sadly, those changes didn’t just reset when you removed yourself from the stressful environment.

Prolonged stress can cause damage to our hearts as well as other organs of our bodies. While experiencing stress, our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode. That means that our hearts speed up to prepare us to confront the danger or to run away, and we begin to breathe faster. These physical reactions are monitored in our brains, and adrenaline begins to stream through our bodies, giving us an extra boost of strength and focus. This causes agitation and an anxious readiness for action.

God designed these reactions to help us in dangerous moments, but when the moments extend into days, weeks, and months, our hearts, our respiratory systems and even our digestive symptoms suffer from the constant demands on them. Our brains produce the chemicals needed to keep us constantly vigilant and ready.

When the stress is gone, our bodies and brains don’t catch up very quickly. We may feel just as anxious, agitated, and vigilant as we did before, but with no good reason. Our bodies are prepared for the stress to return at any moment.

One of the most rapid and practical things that we can do is to stop and force our bodies to breathe more slowly. As we breathe deeply and slowly, we can call out to God to help us.

Read and memorize the Biblical passage written by the apostle Paul that says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”(1) Focus on the words as you breathe, and ask God to guard your heart and mind, giving you His peace.

When you successfully slow your breath, your heart rate also slows down. When your brain concentrates on God and His ability to guard your heart and mind, it eventually gets the message that the stressors have gone. However, if after trying this for a few weeks or months, you are still suffering, we recommend that you see a professional counselor or join a therapy group of other people who have the tendency to be anxious.

We wish you well,

1 Php 4:6-7