Anxiety is something we all experience, and right now we are in a perfect storm of potentially anxiety invoking circumstances. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, many are facing uncertainty with work and school, the worry about racial injustice and the unrest in the country, we are in the middle of a presidential campaign and hurricane season…and that’s not even counting all the usual suspects that provoke our anxiety.
Anxiety itself is not a bad thing. Anxiety can help protect us from dangerous situations and sets off necessary alarm bells when we need to be paying extra attention, but when that anxiety gets out of control it can severely limit our ability to function and can prevent us from living in the present moment. It can feel overwhelming at times, but there are simple steps we can take to help keep our anxiety in check.
5 Tips for Managing Anxiety
- Self-care: Self-care is essential, especially in challenging times. Typically, when you feel like you do not have time for self-care, it should be a warning bell that you need to make time to take care of yourself. In counseling, we often overuse the analogy of the oxygen masks on airplanes. You cannot help others until you have secured your mask first. It can sometimes feel counterintuitive or selfish, but self-care is necessary to be able to reduce anxiety levels and helps prevent burnout. Self-care is not selfish! Self-care looks different for everyone. For you, it may be a run, a warm bubble bath, a trip to the beach, a manicure, daily time with scripture, or some prayerful meditation. Speaking of prayerful meditation…
- Mindfulness, Meditation, and Prayer: Mindfulness is something that helps to bring us into the present moment. Anxiety does not live in the present moment. Anxiety can come from our past experiences or our worry about the future. When we focus on bringing ourselves into the present moment we can start to quiet those nagging thoughts and voices running rampant in our heads. When we are talking to God about our anxiety, those anxious thoughts can often get in the way of us listening to what He is telling us.
One easy tool to utilize to try to bring yourself into the moment is some intentional breathing. I like to use the 4-4-4 breathing exercise because it is easy to remember. For this exercise you just focus on your breathing, counting slowly to four as you breathe in, it will feel like a long time. You then hold the breath for the same slow, four-count. You then exhale for (you guessed it) a slow four seconds. Then repeat this process. The four-count forces you to be intentional and focused on your breath, take your time, do not rush it.
If you are looking for resources to help with mindfulness there are lots of great apps and websites which provide guidance, but you can also find a ton of helpful videos on YouTube for free. Plug “mindfulness” into the search bar (along with other words that might help you narrow down your searches like “anxiety” or “Christian”) and start exploring to find videos that work for you.
I also find it helpful to choose some scripture to meditate on when I feel my anxiety level rising. Here are just a few scripture verses that help me:
Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:7 – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
- Establishing a Routine- One of the major side effects of the current situation is that most people found their normal routine was tossed out the window. We hear a lot these days about the “New Normal” and establishing and sticking to a routine or schedule can help us to feel like things are under control. The routine does not have to be super detailed, and you can be flexible, but having a routine that includes physical activity, good sleep, healthy food, and self-care can go a long way towards helping cope with everyday anxiety.
- Connections- Connecting with people can be more difficult these days but finding ways to connect with people in meaningful ways can be helpful in dealing with anxiety. Connections with family and close friends can often help ease anxiety. It is especially important to be intentional about connecting with people during this time where a lot of normal connection time is not happening or is happening in less frequent or significantly altered forms.
Connection with God is also important during this time. Anxiety comes with lots of irrational and negative thoughts, and while there are some great tools for challenging irrational thoughts, the best tool for fighting those thoughts is listening to the voice of Truth.
- Get Creative- Have some fun! Expressive Arts is a great tool that we utilize in counseling. Things like art, music, and dance can not only help us to express ourselves, they can also help us to manage our anxiety. One great resource in this area comes from First Aid Arts. They released some of their tools and resources to the public for free as a service during Covid-19. You can get this Mini Toolkit that uses “science-based First Aid Arts activities to address stress, boost your mental and emotional immune system, and build resilience!” You can access the mini toolkit for free at this website: https://www.firstaidarts.org/covid-19 (you do need to input an email address to receive the toolkit)
The important thing to remember is that you do not have to deal with anxiety alone. If you find that you are unable to manage your anxiety on your own, we have counselors available who can help you examine the sources and triggers of your anxiety and can work with you to develop the tools and coping strategies that work best for you. You can reach Northland’s Counseling Referral Line at 407-949-7204 or CounselingReferral@NorthlandChurch.net for more information or to set up an appointment.