(Excerpt taken from article on Insight for Living website)
("Question: Last month, I thought I was having a heart attack. My pulse was racing, my palms were sweating, and I started breathing heavily, as if I were going to pass out. I went to the hospital, and they said my heart was fine—what I had experienced was a panic attack. Now I have anxiety episodes almost every day. I wake up at night fretting about my job or my life. When I have these episodes, I keep thinking I might have a heart attack for real this time. What can I do to gain control of my mind and emotions?
Answer: I’m so glad that you felt safe enough to tell us this. Often people who struggle with fear hesitate to tell anyone because they don’t want to be criticized for having such feelings. Please know that we understand and we want to help.
People can control some emotions fairly well. If we feel discouraged after a long day at work, we may read an enjoyable novel or take a brisk walk and we feel better. Anxiety, however, is much more difficult to shake loose once it grips our hearts. Our thoughts race, we imagine horrible things happening to us, and then our body begins to react. Adrenaline rushes into our system. Our pulse quickens. Our hands turn cold. We breathe rapidly and break out in a cold sweat. We may even feel like we are going to die, which really adds fuel to our fears.
Based on what you described, you have experienced this emotional and physical response. What can you do? Some well-meaning Christians say, “If you just trust God, you won’t be afraid.” However, trust is a passive experience. Convincing yourself to trust when your emotions are running wild and your body is reacting as if you’re in terrible danger is beyond difficult. It’s like trying to fall asleep after drinking an espresso by commanding yourself, “Sleep body. Sleep, sleep, sleep!”
However, you can take some active steps to control your anxiety. The first step is in the spiritual realm. Paul writes,
The spiritual part of the solution is to draw near to our divine Source of peace through prayer and thanksgiving. Imagine yourself joining together with Jesus, locking arms with Him, and stepping forward in His strength. What a great prayer technique! Prayer places us in a position of dependence upon God. Through prayer, you acknowledge that you are not your own. By completely surrendering to God, you can have peace because God is on the throne of your life and He is in charge of the things that you can’t control.Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
One important component of these verses is easily overlooked. I’m referring to Paul’s statement, “with thanksgiving.” We often stop at the petition stage. We’re good at calling out to God, begging Him to bring us relief. But giving thanks takes prayer to a higher level.
Thank God that He will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5-6). Thank Him that He will never allow anything to occur in your life that you won’t be able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Thank Him that when you are weak, His grace is sufficient and His power is more evident (2 Corinthians 12:9). Thank Him that His love for you never ends, regardless of how sick you may be (Psalm 13:5-6). Thank Him that every day of your life is in His hands (Psalm 31:15; Psalm 139:16). Thank Him that living brings glory to Christ and that dying allows you to enter into joys and pleasures beyond your wildest imaginations (Philippians 1:21). Thank Him that you know, without any doubt, that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13-15). Thank Him for all these things and more. Thank Him again and again, and you will find that, over time, your fear will be replaced with the incredible peace of God.
By the way, don’t wait for a panic attack to take over before you start praying. Think of prayer and meditation as a preventative cure—like exercising. Prayer builds up inner muscles so that when you start to feel fear, you have the strength to calm yourself down." )
("Your anxiety is real and the pain is deep. Wanting relief from those symptoms is normal. Yet instead of thinking of your anxiety as something to avoid, think of it as something that has value in your life. Think of it as the kind of pain a pregnant woman experiences when she goes into labor. When her contractions begin, she usually fights and struggles against them, tensing up and trying to make them go away. But at some point, she realizes that her pain has value. Her baby can’t be born without it. So instead of fighting it, she accepts the pain and learns to manage it and use it to produce a precious new life.
Emotional pain can produce something of great value. It serves a purpose in your life. Usually that purpose has to do with some precious truth about God that He wants to reveal to you. Don’t run away or hide from the pain, but accept it, manage it, and use it for your benefit—to grow closer to the Lord than ever before.")
(by Pastoral Ministries: http://www.insight.org/library/articles/encouragement-healing/overcome-anxiety.html)