Author Rebekah Lyons on battle with anxiety, four 'rhythms' that foster spiritual health

Rebekah Lyons is a national speaker and bestselling author of "Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose." | Facebook/Rebekah Lyons

Best-selling author and speaker Rebekah Lyons can still remember her first full-blown panic attack like it was yesterday. 

It was 2010, and Lyons was on a flight from Atlanta to New York sitting in the back row of the plane. As the plane began to descend for landing, she felt herself become panicked, unable to breathe. She collapsed on the floor of the plane, curled in a fetal position. 

“It was terrifying,” she recalled in an interview with The Christian Post. “I stayed on the floor until all the other passengers got off the plane. I was so ashamed.”

Four months before that fateful day, Lyons and her family — her husband, Gabe, and their three children, all elementary school-aged at the time — had uprooted their life in the suburbs of Atlanta to Manhattan. 

“That,” Lyons recalled, “is when the panic attacks began happening.”

Over the next several months, the panic attacks became more frequent and public, from a subway to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“I started to shrink back and avoid being in crowded places,” she said. “It was so debilitating, and I didn’t know what to do.”

Desperate, Lyons cried out to God for rescue: “I was on my knees, crying, asking God for deliverance,” she said. “For the first time, I was flooded with peace. I didn’t have to run from public places for my panic to stop. All was still.”

“That,” she continued, “began a healing journey and caused me to re-examine my response to fear.”

As part of her path to healing, Lyons began practicing a simple, 15-minute morning routine to ease her anxiety. Through this practice, she discovered four, biblical rhythms to help replace stress and anxiety with peace and purpose: rest, restore, connect and create.

“God created everything in rhythm; we’ve got day and night, seasons that come back around,” she said. “Our bodies are made in rhythm: We have a heartbeat, pulse, breathing — all of it is rhythmic. God created these boundaries and rhythms as a framework for flourishing. When we get out of rhythm, our bodies and minds and passions pay the price.”

In her new book,Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose, Lyons pulls from her own journey with anxiety and depression to guide readers through those four life-giving rhythms to overcome fear and live an abundant, vibrant life.

“‘Rest and restore’ are input rhythms because you can’t give what you can’t receive,” she explained. “The second two, ‘connect and create,’ are output rhythms. Now, you can go back out and offer something to the world.”

Throughout Scripture, God requires His people to rest for a reason, Lyons said, adding: “Rest reflects spiritual health. “

“So many of us are feeling the physical symptoms of stress,” she explained. “We’re doing a lot of output, and it’s killing us. Physical symptoms are a raised heartbeat, a mind that won’t quiet. Burnout is a very real thing because we don’t take rest seriously. We don’t have a Sabbath to pause and reflect and take inventory of what’s right or wrong or missing.”

Rebekah Lyons

“Rhythm begins with rest,” she added. “Take a quiet moment and ask, ‘God, are you and I OK? Do I have unresolved grief and trauma I haven’t dealt with? Am I withholding forgiveness? Am I governed by bitterness? Do I have a closed wall?’ Sometimes we can’t find the answer to that until we get quiet and spend time with God.”

“Restore,” Lyons said, means physically caring for one’s body: “God made our bodies to know what we need,” she contended. “People think they can treat their bodies poorly and still get what they want from it. It doesn’t work that way. A brisk walk for 15 minutes, for example, will raise serotonin in your brain.”

Third, connecting with others is an effective way to combat stress: “Giving a hug raises dopamine and gives a sense of belonging,” Lyons posited. “Embrace. Listen. Lead with vulnerability and respond with vulnerability. That’s how real connection happens.”

The fourth rhythm Lyons identified is “create: “This refers to vocational health,” she said. “It’s coming back to our 8-year-old selves. What made us come alive as kids? We hadn’t learned to be afraid yet, so we played without fear. Use the gifts that God has given you to redeem the things that broke your heart.”

The best-selling author of several books addressing mental health, Lyons is aware she’s not alone in her battles to overcome anxiety and depression. She revealed that 77 percent of the population experiences physical symptoms associated with stress on a regular basis.

“It can feel like you’re walking through it alone,” she said. “We need to speak life over one another and encourage one another. When we pull away from each other, we lose. We are all going to struggle in this life. It’s part of the human condition through brokenness. We are not labeled and defined by our brokenness, but our belovedness. We need to be reminded of that and extend that grace to each other.”

“It’s a bigger picture of, when we see our pain and struggle, do we say, ‘that’s who I am?’ Or do we say, ‘that’s what’s coming against me,’” she added. “We need to remember we are free, loved, forgiven, and able to receive the peace of Christ.”

The mother of four told CP that implementing those four rhythms into her daily life has allowed her to remember that “Jesus repairs, restores, redeems, and resurrects,” even in her darkest moments. 

“I want others to feel equipped, encouraged, and hopeful that they have the tools to take charge of their emotional health,” Lyons said. “Yes, there will be relapse moments, but even then, God is saying, ‘I don’t promise fear won’t come knocking, but I always provide a way of escape.’”

“The goal of my book,” she continued, “is that you would be so strengthened and equipped to handle those difficult times because you’re living a life of emotional and spiritual health. You’ll be able to confront those obstacles head-on when they happen, and you’ll know what to do with them and find comfort in God’s peace.”

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