(Update 7/27: I inadvertently combined some information from Dr. Hart's Relaxation and Christian Meditation CD with his DVD message. Sorry about that. You can order his CD here .)
I watched Dr. Archibald Hart's dvd again the other day, Overcoming Stress and Anxiety, and couldn't remember if I posted his suggestions for the long-term treatment of panic disorder and generalized anxiety--both are biological forms of anxiety. With biological anxiety, Dr. Hart teaches you have to change some things in your life--become more proactive--in order the get the brain chemistry balanced again. He said in the dvd that stress plays havoc with the brain, and it will take some time to de-stress the brain. He suggests medication to treat the symptoms of biological anxiety but also urges us to go further to change our lives so that the root cause of the anxiety will be exterminated--the root cause being too much adrenaline and cortisol caused by too much stress.
He mentions that relaxation techniques will help lower your adrenalin. He makes the point that research supports the best way to stop panic is to meditate.
Christian meditation helps slow down your brain, takes control of your thinking. He suggests taking a psalm like Psalm 23 and reading it through slowly one time. Then go back and take it phrase by phrase, pausing to meditate on what the phrase means. For example, "The LORD" from verse 1. Meditate on what LORD means to you. Ask yourself questions--Is He really my LORD? Am I loyal to Him?, etc. You can also take this time to dialogue with God--tell Him how thankful you are that He is your LORD.
After thinking about LORD, then go on to the next phrase, "is my shepherd."
I tried this form of meditation this morning with my Sunday School class. When we stopped to meditate on the phrase, "is my shepherd", the word my jumped out at me. The LORD is my very own shepherd. I never thought about that before. Then I thought, what does a shepherd do? He feeds the flock, protects the flock, rescues the lost, guides the flock. I remembered Jesus said that He was the "Good Shepherd", and so I discussed that with my ladies. While we went through the first phrases of the psalm, the room was quiet and calm as each one of us were meditating on what the words meant to us. In the stillness, I felt a sense of reverent awe for God. And also contentment because of what His Word was saying to our hearts. Dr. Hart says if you go through the first three verses within five minutes, you're moving too fast. The point of meditation is to take your time and listen to what God might say instead of rushing through.
I hope you try this form of worship by yourself. It really does calm down the mind and I love what God's Word says in Isaiah, "The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." Meditating on God's Word brings healing to our minds, hearts, and souls as well as peace. It encourages and edifies us and develops our faith in God. It also places us in the position to hear from God. We will be able to hear His still, quiet voice.
Dr. Hart also suggests getting nine hours of sleep every night. And de-stress before bedtime--turn off the tv, take a hot bath, read uplifting material like a Christian book or the Bible. If you can't get a full nine hours each night, take naps during the week so that you average out nine hours a night. If you don't sleep enough your brain chemistry is not going to be in balance because sleep enhances the body's natural tranquilizers.
It takes discipline to do these things, but they are so beneficial. I'm encouraged to start putting his suggestions into practice. Dr. Hart's dvd is called Overcoming Stress and Anxiety and can be purchased on eBay or Lifeway.