EDITOR’S NOTE: Across the globe, many are dealing with the effects of COVID-19. The city of New Orleans, where The Restoration Initiative for Culture and Community (the parent organization of The Restoration Institute) is based has recently declared a state of emergency after a number of confirmed cases. Dr. Ashley Brooks, Institute Fellow and President/Clinical Director of Restoration Counseling in New Orleans, has put together this list of resources for those of us dealing with the anxieties connected to the current state of affairs.
In light of the increased presence of the coronavirus in our city, I wanted to talk with you about how to handle the stress and anxiety that is naturally associated with this concern. Anxiety is the natural emotion we as humans feel when we feel threatened. So let’s take a second to acknowledge the fact that if you are feeling some anxiety over this matter you are indeed feeling a normal human reaction.
What we do with this anxiety is the part that can be either health or unhealthy. Right now I want us to focus on how to have some healthy ways of managing this increased stress and anxiety. Scripture tells that that we don’t have to be anxious about anything, but with prayer and petition with thanksgiving, we can make our requests known to God. And God’s peace, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts (emotions) and minds (thinking) in Christ Jesus. While there is a lot in this verse that we could unpack, I want us to focus on the last part. God’s peace can guard our emotions and our thinking. This means that God cares about both what we are feeling and what we are thinking. This means we need to care about what we are feeling and thinking.
Here are a few things we can do in the midst of this time from a wholistic standpoint:
- Pray. Let the Father know what you are concerned about (prayers). Let Him know your requests (petitions). Then thank Him for what He has already done. Thank Him for the times he has brought healing to your body in the past. Thank Him for the times He has seen you through difficult and stressful times. Remind yourself of who God is and what He has done.
- Be Mindful. Choose what you are thinking about. Take 5 minutes (several times per day) to clear your mind of the worries and concerns that are clouding your mind. Turn off the TV. Turn off the music. Be silent. Take some deep breaths and say Psalm 62:5 either out loud or silently to yourself: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.”
- 20 Second Hug. Over the next few days and weeks we may begin to see some restrictions on our ability to be in community. But we were created for connection. This restriction will only work to increase our feelings of stress and anxiety. I want to encourage you to implement the 20 second hug into your daily routine over the next few weeks. A 20 second hug will increase oxytocin in your body and decrease stress. Oxytocin is the “love hormone” that helps you feel connected. It not only helps you feel connected but it will decrease the feeling of stress. It actually will cause your body to relax. Hug each of your family members and count to 20 during the hug. See if you can feel the difference. If you are single, find a safe person that can be your 20 second hug friend. Check this article out for more information on how this hug can impact your body.
- Identify Your Emotion. Did you know that just by naming your emotion, you can decrease the intensity of the emotion? Our emotions just want to be acknowledged. So by naming it, we acknowledge that the emotion is there. Then we need to find the meaning behind the emotion and locate it in our body. When we feel anxious, we are feeling threatened by something. “What am I feeling threatened by?” and “Where am I feeling that anxiety in my body?” are good questions to ask ourself when feeling anxious. Take these emotions to the Lord. Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” He cares about our emotions because He himself is full of emotions. He gave them to us. We can trust that they are good and we have them for good reason. But if we don’t listen to them, we can get into trouble. So ID your emotions and be curious about why they are there. Then hand them over to the Lord (so that the peace of Christ can guard your heart.)
- Creatively Connect. As I mentioned before, it is possible that over the next few days and weeks we will be restricted in our ability to connect. But connection is really important, so find creative ways to connect. Talk to the people you normally connect with via phone or text. Take a walk outside with your family or friend. Spend some time with your family or roommates playing boardgames or cards. Make choices to connect in healthy ways rather than isolate. The 20 second hug will work in this area too. It not only helps you physically decrease stress, but it works to increase connection too.
You may begin to feel you are limited in what you can do and where you can go, but remember that you have a choice as to how you are going to handle this. Making good choices to stay wholistcally healthy will help to make this stressful time more enjoyable and psychologically healthy.