I’m enjoying Tai Chi. It’s something I started doing after my last panic attack. Whew, that was a big one, and I’m glad it happened.
You see, that panic attack made me realize that it’s ok to accept life is hard sometimes, and we don’t have to pretend that it’s not. Lean on Jesus instead of trying to be super mom, super employee, super caregiver, or super anything doesn’t change that. Continuing down this unrealistic superhighway only takes us farther in the wrong direction.
Maintaining a superhuman façade takes a lot of work and requires reliance on self way too much. We need to rely on Jesus. Asking for help does not signify a personal failure. It reveals inner strength and humility. These are good qualities to develop.
Go ahead, give up some control over your current circumstances. I know being in control is a factor for us dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, but crying out to God (Ps 50:15) is your best option. It’s like prayer on steroids (click here to learn more).
If you find yourself on this superhighway, maybe it’s time to make a few changes. Do something different.
2 Timothy 1:7 says we, those of us who know Christ as our Savior, have the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us self-discipline. There is no reason to fear what might happen or work ourselves up by reliving the past. As the psalmist wrote, “do not fret” (Psalm 37:8). This is playing into the enemy’s hands. We can’t change what happened to us or what we’ve done. But, through God’s grace, we can confidently prepare for the future.
Thank you, Jesus, for saving us from ourselves.
The secret strengths of self-discipline
I don’t know about you, but practicing self-discipline is tough for me. When I decided to make a few changes in my life, I also made a plan I could stick with. So I write each element in my planner at the start of every week. Pray. Bible. Tai chi.
Yes, your read that right, tai chi (TIE-CHEE).
The interesting thing for me is that tia chi is something I’ve often thought of doing, so I’m eager to keep going with it. Now, I’m at the very beginning of this learning curve, only about three weeks in at this point. I’ve studied it a bit since starting and learned that tia chi is something we can do into old age to keep the mind and body fit.
The secret is sticking with it. The movements are slow and intentional and incorporate controlled breathing. Something that helps manage anxiety and panic attacks. Learning to do anything well requires self-discipline. Put in the work because nothing improves without practice. Before you know it, your growing self-discipline will permeate other areas of your life.
I’m not taking a class yet. There is plenty of information on YouTube, where I a series specifically offering five-minute videos. So, I’ve created space in my morning routine for five minutes of tia chi because five minutes works for me right now. I’m not trying to be a super student anymore, just trying to maintain a routine and reap the overall health benefits of this activity.
The purpose of self-defense
Tai chi started as a self-defense system, and it still is today. Over time, it evolved into a graceful form of exercise. Here’s how the Mayo Clinic describes tai chi:
“Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.”
Meditation in motion–I love that!
Like the sword mentioned in the Armor of God passage in Ephesians 6:10-18, we use this dagger-like Sword of the Spirit in combat against the enemy of our soul. Memorize scripture, so you can recall it the moment anxiety starts tightening its grip. Speak it over yourself to reinforce your faith and trust in God’s protection.
The fact that tai chi started as a method of self-defense makes it interesting, especially when coupled with the Armor of God in my head.
The importance of self-care
Consider using the ancient art of tai chi to defend yourself, as it was originally intended. It can be one weapon in your arsenal against the enemies of anxiety, stress, and panic attacks, among other threats to your overall wellbeing. Threats like lack of exercise and progressively sedentary lifestyles. This happens as we age, but it doesn’t have to.
Taking care of ourselves is important, maybe even more so as we age (1 Timothy 4:8). Self-care involves more than what we eat and getting to the doctors when we should. It involves the mind, body, and soul. In an article by Stuart Biddle, we read:
In the expanding literature on physical activity and mental health, researchers have addressed the effects of both single bouts and programs of physical activity. In addition, a wide variety of psychological outcomes have been studied, including effects on mood, self‐esteem, cognitive functioning and decline, depression, and quality of life.
God has a purpose and plan for each one of His children (Jerimiah 29:11). Don’t you want to be willing AND able when He calls, regardless of your age? I do.
The benefits of tai chi
In an article from the Tai Chi for Health Institute, we learn that Tai Chi is “An art embracing the mind, body, and spirit – Originating in ancient China, tai chi is one of the most effective exercises for health of mind and body.” The Institute offers online lessons.
I like the slow movements of tai chi and the controlled breathing involved in maintaining the body’s rhythmic flow. “Breathe in and breathe out,” that’s what I hear the instructor saying as we smoothly move from one position to the next. Then repeat the sequence. No pressure.
According to Mayo Clinic, the benefits of tai chi may include:
- Decreased stress, anxiety and depression
- Improved mood
- Improved aerobic capacity
- Increased energy and stamina
- Improved flexibility, balance and agility
- Improved muscle strength and definition
Tai chi and Jesus
Let’s be very clear, spending time with Jesus every day, reading scripture, and in prayer is the priority. Keep moving and keep growing in your knowledge of and relationship with Christ.
Tai chi is only a complement to that activity. It is a form of exercise that helps one gain physical strength, improve concentration, build self-discipline, and learn to control breathing. All are important to managing anxiety, stress, and panic attacks. Many other forms of exercise can do the same thing, but there is only one Jesus.
Biddle, Stuart. “Physical Activity and Mental Health: Evidence Is Growing.” World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). John Wiley and Sons Inc., June 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4911759/.
Institute in Basic Life Principles. “What Does It Mean to Cry out to God?,” December 10, 2012. https://iblp.org/questions/what-does-it-mean-cry-out-god.
“Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms.” National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed May 7, 2021. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms/.
Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Why Try Tai Chi?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, February 26, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/tai-chi/art-20045184.
“What Is Tai Chi?” Tai Chi for Health Institute, August 19, 2019. https://taichiforhealthinstitute.org/what-is-tai-chi/. © Copyright Tai Chi for Health Institute 2018
Featured image: Tai chi on the beach at sunrise
Group tai chi – NBC News
Soldier in armor – Unsplash
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