“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”…Psalms 23:4
We are facing a crisis that most of us have never experienced before. The arrival of the Coronavirus Pandemic, also known as COVID-19, has impacted every area of our daily lives, not just in America but all over the world. For most of us, we are being called upon by our governing officials to make changes in our lives that significantly impact our normal routines. There have been school and church closures, workplace disruptions and we have learned a new term called ‘Social Distancing’ that is encouraging us to purposely withdraw from others.
It is likely that these changes will trigger an emotional response of apprehension or worry as we try to make the necessary adjustments to our normal routines in ways that protect ourselves, our families and our communities. In order to maintain a healthy emotional response and ensure that normal apprehension does not become full blown fear or panic, it is important to have a plan for managing stress and anxiety as it relates to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Following are a few suggestions from a Christian faith perspective that can help instill a sense of peace and faith versus panic and fear.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.”… Philippians 4:6-7
RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF STRESS AND ANXIETY
Stress and anxiety impact the whole person – physically, mentally and spiritually. No two people experience stress the same way. In situations of real danger, it is our stress response that can prepare us mentally and physically to engage in appropriate survival mode strategies to overcome real threats to our lives or the lives of others. While anxiety can prepare us for life-threatening situations, experiencing stress too intensely and too frequently can have an adverse on one’s overall health and quality of life. Poor stress management skills can contribute to more serious health issues such as high blood pressure, heart issues, cancer, alcohol and drug abuse, panic attacks and other preventable maladies. It is important to identify and deal with all stress, real or imagined.
Following are some cues that may alert you that you are experiencing stress and anxiety. This list is not exhaustive and is not meant to be a medical diagnosis. If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms and they are keeping you from doing necessary daily functions, please call and consult with your medical doctor or a mental health professional.
From a medical perspective, Anxiety is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs, by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it”. Physical responses of anxiety may include racing heart, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea, stomach aches or other gastrointestinal issues, sweating, dry mouth, muscle tension or pain, restlessness, shakiness or inability to relax.
Psychologically, one may experience racing thoughts, irrational and excessive fear or worry, poor focus and concentration, poor memory, irritability, confusion and difficulty sleeping.
The Bible describes anxiety with terms that include some of the following: fret, concern, despair, weighed down by cares, lack of peace, distracted, troubled, distressed or worried to name a few. Spiritual anxiety can be caused by disbelief in or disobedience to God and manifest in our lives as guilt, shame, hopelessness or withdrawal from others. Anxiety can cause us to be so focused on our fears that we cannot relax and enjoy life or others.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”…Jeremiah 17:7-8
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”…1 Peter 5:7
As Christians and people of faith, the Word of God encourages us many times to not worry, to not be anxious and to not fear. When facing the storms of life, here are a few practical things you can do to care for yourself & others, stay calm and get through this situation:
- Pray & Meditate on God’s Word: the Bible is full of stories of people facing all types of crisis situations and how God delivers His people. There is much encouragement to be found in the scriptures. As Christians, we know there is power in prayer. Pray for yourself and others who are impacted by this crisis and have faith that God hears your prayers and will calm the storm that will eventually pass.
- Know the Facts: Get informed from trusted resources and health officials the facts about the Coronavirus. Knowing the truth about a matter can be a huge source of calm, comfort and having sense of control to make good decisions on how to cope in these difficult times. Try to avoid listening to the constant all-day news reports and myriad of opinions and misinformation often in abundance on social media. Possible trusted sources of information may include State and Federal Authorities such as the US HHS (Health & Human Services Faith Opportunity Initiative), the CDC (Centers of Disease Control) and your State’s Department of Health and Human Services.
- Practice Self-Care: In addition to getting adequate rest, nutrition, exercise and connecting with others by phone or video chat, here are 5 practical ways to protect and minimize our risks of contracting or spreading the Coronavirus:
1-HANDS-Wash them often
2-ELBOW-Cough into it
3-FACE-Don’t touch it
4-FEET-Stay more than 3ft apart
5-FEEL sick? Stay home
(Taken from the World Health Organization)
If you are experiencing symptoms of the Coronavirus (similar to the flu), please DO NOT go to your Doctor or to the Emergency Room – DO CALL them first for instructions on how to get the appropriate help and attention.
- Practice Community Care: Love your neighbor as yourself and choose behaviors that do not put others at risk. Many states are limiting gatherings of 50 or more people. We are being told to practice ‘Social Distancing’ and keep at least 3 feet between us and others or just stay home all together. Seek out ways that you can show the love of God to those who are being impacted by the virus.
- Choose Faith Over Fear: While we can’t control all the thoughts that come into our mind and some things will trigger anxiety, we do have control over what we do with worrisome thoughts. I encourage you to ask God to help you have His perspective, the mind of Christ and His wisdom and I trust that you will experience God in a way that will deepen your faith and your ability to effectively manage all fear, stress and anxiety.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”…Luke 12:22-24
GOD IS IN CONTROL, HE LOVES YOU AND HE IS STILL ON THE THRONE