Let’s continue developing the topic about anxiety in the midst of the pandemic. If you haven’t read our previous post, please take a moment to read it. This post is a continuation of it. The line that divides the destructive and constructive levels of anxiety is very fine and often, it is hard to identify it, and this is when you have problems. Let me show you some examples: Destructive anxiety paralyzes, the constructive anxiety motivates. The destructive one reduces your creativity, the constructive one increases it. The destructive one produces an anxious restlessness, the constructive one produces a calm approach. One tries to control the future and the other one tries to improve it. One fears the worst, the other one hopes for the best. One distracts the mind from what is important, and the other one directs the mind to what is important.
It is not difficult to understand that, in the case of the disciples with Jesus before the storm on the lake, they manifested destructive anxiety by having experiencing anxious restlessness, thinking that they would perish. On the other hand, Jesus manifested constructive anxiety. It would be good to ask ourselves, what message did the disciples’ anxiety try to give them in the middle of the storm? Maybe they needed to understand their need to depend more on Jesus and less on their own strength. Their anxieties showed that even though they were close to Jesus, they did not trust Him to solve their crisis.
So, we can conclude by saying that anxiety itself is not a sin because it is a natural reaction to stress. Being anxious becomes a sin when it stops being constructive and becomes destructive, and you start to get desperate, using your human skills to deal with your stress. That is why Jesus, in Matthew 6:25, said to His disciples: “be anxious for nothing.” As Christians, we are called not to live in a state of anxiety and simply to see anxiety as a messenger who wants to help us see what is important in our lives.
I must also clarify that many people suffer from anxiety disorders as a product of traumatic experiences that they have had in their lives, and for them, anxiety is a pathological problem. In these cases, saying that this person is sinning because they are living in a state of general anxiety is not correct. For these people, trying to manage the cognitive part of their mind is not an easy thing to do and they need therapy and often even medication.
Five tips for managing anxiety in the midst of a pandemic.
I want to leave you with five tips to manage your anxiety in the midst of the pandemic.
See your anxiety as a messenger, not as your enemy: Your anxiety is your natural reaction to stress. Do not kill the messenger. When facing stress in life, anxiety is that messenger that tells you what is important to you. Try to communicate with your needs so that you can meet to them. For example, perhaps in the midst of the pandemic, you feel anxious and the message your anxiety is giving you is that you should trust God more and depend less on your strength. Or, perhaps the source of that anxiety is an emotional trauma that you have not yet resolved in your life and you need to pay attention to it.
Develop a relationship with God and practice Christian meditation. God has a promise for every stressful situation you may be experiencing in your life. He also tells you that no stress has overtaken you that you could not bear. Connect with God and take time to meditate upon His promises.
Eliminate negative inner voices. What you say to yourself determines your reality and how you will live in that reality. Save your mind from toxic thoughts, so you can manage your anxiety more effectively. Thoughts are like seeds that we sow in the garden of the mind. Set your mind on everything that glorifies God.
Practice relaxation exercises to reduce your anxiety. One of those exercises is diaphragmatic breathing. You can do between 5 and 10 breaths and abdominal exhalations, slowly and deeply from the diaphragm. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth and focus on completely emptying your lungs before taking another breath. Another exercise you can do to manage your anxiety is to walk at least 30-45 minutes every day.
Get enough sleep. Set a stable schedule to go to bed and to wake up. If for some exceptional reason (for example, on the weekend) you stay up longer than expected, do not get up too late the next day. This way, even if you are sleepy during that day, you will not alter the sleep cycle to which your body is used to, and you will be able to function normally for the rest of the week.
Today, I invite you to trust in a powerful God who takes care of you and if He is allowing you to go through this pandemic, He has everything under control and this crisis will come to an end some day in the not too distant future. It is time for you to ask yourself what your anxiety is revealing about what is important in your life.