The Emotional Roller Coaster: Five Ways to Overcome Stress and Anxiety
The deeper we go into this COVID season, the higher our emotions run. Each week brings new challenges as some face health issues, unemployment, or even a loss of hope.
Research shows that:
“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder." (National Alliance on Mental Illness. Anxiety Disorders. 2017)
“An estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults.” (National Institute of Mental Health. Major Depression. 2017)
"How you respond to a life crisis will profoundly influence your ability to overcome the overwhelming - 100% of the time." (Christian Counseling today,
Kenneth W. Nichols, Psy.D.)
I have spoken to a few friends who were doing well two or three weeks ago, but this week find themselves struggling. It's okay to not be okay. We are human after all. We hurt. It's natural. Especially in this time of uncertainty. It can feel overwhelming. Yesterdays rain didn't help. Let today's sunshine bring a brighter day.
When our lives are running on overload, we can become overwhelmed. We need to organize our lives to relieve some of that stress and anxiety and the disarray that is making our lives heavy and disorganized. Our anxiety tells us that we are not in control and that we are not safe. When our guard is up all of the time and our anxiety or stress has taken over, we may be unable to take care of ourselves, to eat, sleep, or enjoy life at all. Although anxiety can signal us that something is not right in our lives, it can also blind us to true dangers.
Anxiety distorts our perception bringing an element of a past traumatic event into the forefront of our mind. It causes us to think what happened in the past could happen again. It can be difficult to reject the idea that what happened once, won't happen again. We cannot be certain of what will happen today or tomorrow. Most often associated with anxiety is stress. One way to alleviate these intense emotions is to live in the present and not allow the past to control our future. Be mindful in the moment. Focusing on the here and now enables us to begin to bring a new perspective into our future, balancing decisions anchored on positivity.
The decision to focus on the present and the positive have to be intentional. Being intentional also allows us the opportunity to respond to a situation without immediately reacting to it. A reaction is instant, which drives our beliefs, biases, and prejudices. A reaction is survival-oriented and on some level a defense mechanism. A response, on the other hand, is processed more slowly and is based on information we receive from both the conscious mind and unconscious mind, which yields a wiser decision. (Matt James, PhD, Psychology Today, Sept. 2016).
If we allow our negative thoughts to clutter our minds, they will shatter our relationships, affect our physical and emotional well-being, and even cause us to question our faith. Each negative thought will send us into a spiraling web of emotions until we lose hope.
Stress and anxiety can push us to depression. To overcome these emotions we need to focus on the positive, make a difference in the lives of one another, get organized, and realize that this season is not personal, permanent, or forever.
Five Steps you can take today to begin to alleviate overwhelming emotions are:
Take Action: Doing something, can help us move forward as we begin to take control of our circumstances.
Positive Outlook: Change negative thinking and focus on positive strategies to manage emotions, such as praying, reading scripture, and journaling. "A joyful heart is good medicine." Proverbs 12:25
Physical Activity: Being active, such as exercising, walking, and dancing, not only promote health benefits, it energizes us, elevates our mood, and improves our sleep.
Self-Care: It's essential for us to take care of ourselves, whether it's pampering ourselves with a facial, a massage, or a good book. Self-care can also include having a routine, setting boundaries, getting outside, or having a pet.
Stay Connected: We were created to be in community. In a season of social-distancing, this may look different. We can stay connected with family and friends with virtual events, such as game nights or watch parties, or by joining a virtual club, or other community that will help us stay engaged with each other. This can also mean volunteering in some way, even virtually, or donating toward an organization where you can make a difference.
"When life gets hectic and you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to focus on the people and things you are most grateful for. When you have an attitude of gratitude, frustrating troubles will fall by the wayside." Dana Arcuri
What tangible action step can you take today?
How are you taking care of your needs?
Are you investing in the lives of others?
As the rain falls and the dark clouds overshadow, remember you are not alone. The rainbow looms in the horizon. "Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7