What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear which can be mild or severe. We all feel anxious from time to time if we have a job interview or a medical test for example. But for some of us feelings of anxiety can become more constant and can get in the way of our everyday activities.
At stressful times like the one our nation faces at the moment with Coronavirus it is not unusual or wrong to feel a level of concern or anxiety. If you are feeling some anxiety rising up within you at the moment you are not alone. However, if this is becoming all consuming, if you are experiencing panic attacks or palpitations, if you are struggling to rest or to sleep, then we would advise you to speak to your GP.
We would also encourage you to keep reading. The Bible talks a lot about anxiety. God promises to be with us and help us. There are also lots of practical and simple things we can do to help our bodies and minds cope with the stresses we face. The following resources are for everyone and include simple tips and strategies to care for ourselves – body, mind and spirit.
What Does The Bible Say?
God doesn’t want us to worry and fret. He wants us to bring our worries and concerns to him.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6
Some of us aren’t sure how to ‘pray’. But prayer is like talking to a friend or a family member. Either out loud or in your head you can talk to God and tell him how you’re feeling. It’s as simple as that. We don’t need special words or phrases. We can talk to God in exactly the same way we talk to anybody else. We don’t need to hold back or save face with God. He knows what we’re thinking anyway! But it really helps us to share it with him.
The difference between talking to a friend and talking to God though, is that God is able to make a difference to our situation when we pray. He might not always fix it right away. We will still go through hard times and struggles. But God promises that he always hears us and he always answers us. Most of all he promises to be with us.
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
Our experience is that God loves to draw close to us and reassure us in tough times. We hope you will allow him to do that for you through this crisis and beyond.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:1
Our prayers don't need to be long-winded or articulate for God to hear. Here are some example of prayers you could say. There are others, including prayers for different times of the day, on the Rhythms of Prayer section of our website.
Crying for Help
'God, help me!'
Prayer for the Way Ahead
'O God make clear to us each road.
O God, make safe to us each steep;
When we stumble, hold us;
When we fall, lift us up.
When we are hard pressed with evil, deliver us;
And bring us at last to your glory.
An Encircling Prayer
This can be used when we don’t have words or we can’t focus. Imagine yourself or another being encircled by God’s love and presence as you pray. Insert the person’s name and change the words as appropriate.
'Circle ………. Lord.
Keep comfort/health/strength near
And discouragement/sickness/fear afar
Keep peace within and turmoil out. Amen.'
Practical Tips For Keeping Calm & Emotionally Healthy
- Eat well and stay hydrated. Whilst the temptation might be to settle in with a huge supply of alcohol, chocolate and pizza, it's not going to help you feel better about everything!
- Engage in self-care activities. Self-care is anything that feels restorative and helps you connect to who you really are. It can be anything you do normally but that you do with the intention of being kind to yourself, and helping your body be at rest. This can be anything from doing a puzzle, taking a bath, writing a letter to a friend, doing some stretching or finding a new recipe to make, reading a book or tidying your home. It is always a great idea to have a list of self-care activities that work best to you.
- Connect with those you care about. This could be through the phone, email, text messages, video chat, or letter writing. Taking the time that you would normally spend on your commute, or out with friends, to pour into your relationships can not only help you express your emotions but also remind you of the parts of your life that are meaningful, rich, and not doused in fear or stress.
- Get outside and experience nature. Listen to the birds sing and the leaves rustle in the breeze. Watch the waves lap the shore. God is present in our world and we often find him in creation.
- Focus on what you can do to limit your risk, not what you can’t. Wash your hands well and be clean.
- Have breaks from social media and the news, and mute/avoid content which might be triggering. Often it can be good to get an update, but sometimes we don’t stop there, and we keep watching/listening to/reading media that ends up making us feel more anxious. Try to limit what you are taking in, especially just before bed!
- Try to keep track of where your thoughts go. When they go somewhere disturbing, fear-based, or anxiety provoking, try to take a deep breath, and refocus your thinking on something in front of you, or around you. Mindfulness practices are great at helping train our brain to stay here and not go into nightmare or hypothetical scenarios.
- Find ways to express your emotions in a positive way. Talking, writing, art, or dance can be great ways to process how we feel.
More detailed advice and support are available from MIND.
Prayer & Mindfulness
The Christian tradition holds a wealth of resources for mindfulness, meditation and prayer. There's introductions to some of these, and links to other resources, on our Prayer and Mindfulness pages here.