By M. Nicole Hernandez, MA, LPC, NCC, SATP
Before we begin the pursuit to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety brought about by this pandemic called COVID-19 (coronavirus), we need to define what anxiety is and how it manifests itself in us. Anxiety is “Fear” out of balance. Let’s take this one step further:
Fear – a basic automatic response to a specific object, situation, or circumstance that involves a recognition or perception of actual or potential danger, marked by feelings of tension, being edgy, butterflies in the stomach, chest tightness, or a racing heart.
Anxiety – a prolonged emotional state often triggered by an initial fear.
The difference between fear and anxiety is that anxiety is a constant state of fear, even when there is no present threat or danger. It’s an anticipation of fear to come. Fear is at the heart of all anxiety states (Clark, 2012)
Applying the definitions to our current state of being, it would not surprise me that many of you reading this article are in a state of anxiety, propelled by the constant state of informational overload flooding our lives from social media, television, and our government. Then there is the social hotline of inconsistent and incorrect information that passes from one person to another; albeit without any factual basis whatsoever. It’s no wonder people are bombarding the grocery stores and pharmacies; playing into their worst fears.
As Bible believing Christians, we need not be concerned nor fear what tomorrow brings. Psalms 3:5 tells us to “Trust in the Lord…with all our heart, and do not depend on your own understanding (NLT).” When we depend on our own limited understanding of this pandemic, we quickly get caught up in a whirlwind of fear, depression, and anxiety. That is not God’s plan for our lives.
So, what can you do to redirect your mind? I’m glad you asked! There are several avenues we can travel to redirect and refocus our mental state of mind. Here are a few:
1. Mindful Redirection – Take a moment to ground yourself by disconnecting from all elements/social connections that are feeding into your fear/anxiety • Close your eyes and take a slow deep breath, hold it for (5) seconds, while counting to (10) slowly blow it out (repeat x3) • Allow your thoughts to soar and write down those that are prominent • Review your list. What theme(s) appear • Consider how your thoughts are impacting your behavior(s) • What are the facts? • What does God’s word say about your situation?
2. Journaling – journaling provides an outlet for our feelings and emotions. It also provides an opportunity to experience what we are feeling while remaining in control. It brings the mind into balance by connecting both the right and the left brains functions keeping us grounded in the moment.
3. Exercise – physical exercise provides a surge of endorphins that boosts the body’s ability to naturally process through fear and anxiety. It’s also a great way to improve your mood.
4. Dance – turn on some music, get up off that couch and have a “STEP UP” moment. It’s difficult to remain anxious when you’re having a great time!
5. Eat a Balanced Diet – as we move into a (30) day staycation, it is easy to succumb to sitting around eating junk foods. But now more than ever, it is necessary to maintain a well-balanced diet. A diet of junk food and a sedimentary lifestyle will continue to fuel a state of anxiety.
6. Drink plenty of healthy fluids – water, low sugar fruit juices, and herbal teas (herbal teas are also great for improving and calming anxious and fearful moods)
7. Play Games – seek games that challenge your brain such as Scrabble, Word Puzzles and Sudoku. Video games have their place, but often overstimulate the brain. And those that promote graphic violence can increase feelings of anxiety.
8. Rest – get plenty of quality rest. Quality rest is defined as 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If possible, eliminate watching television, playing video games, or computer usage at least (30) minutes prior to laying down. The blue lighting of these items interferes with the body’s natural ability to produce Serotonin; the chemical produced in the brain that naturally guides you to sleep.
9. Take a warm bath – taking a warm bath helps to soothe the body and the mind. And if available, add a few drops of essential oils such as Lavender and Chamomile. This is a treat to the body and your senses.
10. Prayer – take this time to increase your prayer life. Ask God for His direction in your life and share with Him your anxieties and fears. The Bible says in James 1:5 (KJV), “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
11. Ask for help when you need it – there is no shame in admitting that you’re scared and need help. There is great strength and courage to be found in reaching out when we are in need. There are a multitude of resources, both personal and professional that are available and provide online assistance.
12. Be a blessing to others – when we focus our attentions out towards others, we redirect our fears and anxieties. It makes us feel good internally to do good for others, and it’s rewarding!
Take good care of yourselves Saints. We are all in this together!