I confess that I have been anxious. My sleep has often been fitful. My body is tense and I feel restless. I am easily irritated. I feel busy yet I am busier in my mind than with my hands. Who can blame me? I live near the epicenter of the COVID-19 hotspot of New York City. The climate here is tense; just about everyone knows someone who has the virus. I am a caregiver to my husband who has multiple sclerosis, a memory-impaired 88-year-old father, and a brother who is a paraplegic. I am on the ministry team of my local church and I am a member care staff for global workers. The weight of personal concerns and concerns for others are sometimes too much to bear. As a counselor, I often tell people that we will never be rid of stress, and stress can be used to motivate us for the better, but anxiety–anxiety robs us of what good we can do and preoccupies our minds with the “what ifs” that often never happen. Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. We are living in uncertain, stressful times but we can prevent it from becoming anxious-filled times.
Before you beat yourself up for being anxious, take note that the apostle Paul was anxious, too (2 Corinthians 11:28) but he also said to be anxious about nothing (Philippines 4:6, 7). He directs us to let the heavenly father know everything that is bothering us with thanksgiving. If we admit that it grieves us to be anxious, we can turn to the grief that is behind the anxiety. You can grieve for the lives that have been lost or sicken by the Covid-19 virus; you can grieve that your love ones may be alone and you cannot visit them or comfort them; you can grieve that you cannot help to care for people better; you can grieve over the potential loss of income and security for yourself and those around you; you can grieve that your plans that have been changed and that you don’t know what your new normal will be like; you can grieve that you miss the human touch; you can grieve for your children that they are missing milestone celebrations or that they do not have playmates around; you can grieve that you lost your temper and have not been more pleasant and loving with the people you are confined with; you can grieve over the loss of independence, the ability to move around freely; you can grieve that you can’t concentrate and you are not as productive as you would like; you can grieve that you are fearful, weak and helpless.
Three principles that can be applied in times of anxiety:
- Lament. To lament is to cry out to God when there are no answers. I have been listening to the Psalms in my daily morning walk. Each day, I echo in prayer something that the psalmist has said. The Psalms teach us to express just about every emotion we have.
- Identify the source of your anxiety. What keeps you up at night? What is making you irritated and upset? And what hovers around you like a dark cloud? This takes reflection, contemplation and the courage to face your own worst enemy. Does it trace back to a specific fear? The feeling of losing control or competency? The failure of self-discipline? The lack of self-confidence to walk the path before you?
- Remember that you do not have to battle this alone. The greatest lie that Satan can tell you is that you are alone, no one is in your predicament and no one will understand. You are not alone. God is with you always. Choose to trust him for help from many people and on many levels.
My worst enemy is the feeling of not being in control. Covid-19 hit a very raw nerve as overnight what we can’t control seems to have grown exponentially. As I lament, what I am staring at is a sad emoji that represents my heart, and I reach for my phone to text my godly community to pray and to uphold me in this battle.
We are not people without hope even though we have never experienced this particular kind of hardship.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? …Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:31-39
Our God is good and trustworthy for all our concerns. “He is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” Psalm 62:2
HOLISTIC APPROACH TO MANAGING ANXIETY
Practice some or all of the following approaches to managing anxiety. We are mind, body and soul. Anxiety can be fueled by your circumstances, your mind, and your emotions. We need more than one way to quell our anxiety. These resources can help you manage anxiety from the spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, behavioral level.
- Recognizing the signs of stress & anxiety
- Doctor Discussion Guide to managing Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Spiritual – Connect with God, spend time more time praying & contemplation. Listen to the Lord on what he is teaching you through your anxiety.
Physical– 20 minutes of major muscle exercises can increase the endorphins in your brain. Deep breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system and increases calmness.
Mental- Replace negative and faulty thinking by challenging these thoughts and replace them with God’s truth (renewing of our minds, Romans 12:2)
Emotional– Learn to recognize and validate your emotions. Emotions stuffed or trapped is like an unpredictable time bomb. Gently release them every day and ask what is behind these emotions.
Behavioral/ Interpersonal – Develop healthy habits and learn to be vulnerable with a trusting community. Adapt to a new normal and make new or deepen existing relationships.
Find a supportive community online –
- The Anxiety Cure. A proven method for dealing with worry, stress, and panic attacks (Archibald Hart.1999)
- Rewiring Your Anxious Brain. How to use the neuroscience of fear to end anxiety, panic & worry (Catherine M. Pittman and Elizabeth M. Karle.2015)
- The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (Edmund J. Bourne.2000)
- Suffering. Gospel hope when life doesn’t make sense (Paul David Tripp. 2018)
- Rachel’s Cry. Prayer of lament and rebirth of hope (Kathleen D. Billman & Daniel L. Migliore.2006)
Professional help: When your anxiety gets to the point where you cannot carry on your daily task or if you would like to talk to someone about your anxiety. The following agencies serve global workers.
Paracletes Services firstname.lastname@example.org