Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. – Philippians 4:6
As I contemplate the above scripture, I hear and experience comfort, and also acknowledge the reality and extent of the discomfort surrounding anxiety. Let’s consider the facts. “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” 1 In addition, children are impacted by anxiety. “Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old.” 2
With these statistics in mind, let’s go back to Philippians. The scripture says we should not experience anxiety, and if we do, we should just pray and it will all go away, right? Yes, of course through God that is possible. However, the statistics above demonstrate that even though that scripture is truth, the human condition is one of significant anxiety. So, let’s dig into the reality of anxiety and the reality of how God uses others to support healing. I propose there is more to the “how” in God’s desire to heal those suffering from anxiety.
Let’s consider the scripture on the multiplication of the fishes and loaves. This gospel captures the essence of the “more” to the story. Remember the question posed by the disciples, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.’” (John 6:28-29). I propose the reality of spontaneous miracles and acknowledge that God wants us to be in community as these miracles emerge.
For example, the account of the fishes and loaves is such an important concept that all four gospel accounts include this story. Now consider how and through whom does Christ perform this miracle? He engages with another. In the Gospel of John, there is mention of a young boy with two fish and five barley loaves. Through Christ’s engagement with the disciples and from the young boy’s gifts, Christ models that the resources are here in our midst as a platform for miracles to exist and continue through community.
Now, let’s return to anxiety. Based on the statistics above, I will assume someone reading this blog has a personal experience of anxiety or knows someone that suffers from anxiety, so I want to offer a few helpful tips, and certainly not an exhaustive list, on ways to control the symptoms of anxiety.
· Breathe – Imagine you are holding a rose and smelling its beautiful fragrance while breathing in, to the count of four. Now imagine on the out-breath that the flower is now a dandelion and when you blow out to the count of six, you are blowing a dandelion into the wind. Do this at least four times. This type of breathing can help decrease worry and panic.
· 3/3/3 – When anxiety is high, it is time to ground yourself into the here and now. Take a look around and notice three things you can see. Next, notice three things you can hear right now. Then, notice three things you can touch. For example, you might touch the chair you are sitting in, pick up the pen on the desk and feel your feet touching the floor.
· Vibrate the vagus nerve – Sing, hum, or gargle. When you vibrate the vagus nerve you will experience relaxation faster.
· Cold water – Hold a cold bottle of water up to your face or splash cold water on your face. Cold activates the nervous system and allows it to move from a stressful state to a more positive state.
As we encounter each other in this blog, God is using this community to open up the conversation on handling anxiety. Just as Christ desired to connect the young boy’s gifts of the loaves and fishes to the multitudes following him while he walked this earth, Christ desires to connect us to someone with the particular gifts needed to help those burdened with anxiety. Let us all reach out to God in our prayers, asking for healing, and also for the clarity to see the person in our lives that can help us, through their gifts, to overcome our burdens. It may be a spiritual director who can help unlock an understanding of God in the midst of troubles when God seems far away, a counselor who can help uncover and unlock the fear underneath the anxiety, a priest in confession allowing a release of the sins manifesting as anxiety, a friend with a discerning heart, or all of these. God desires we make our requests known in prayer to guide us on the path to healing. So yes, God will answer our prayers that we, collectively and individually, be free of anxiety. However, God works in mysterious ways that may not meet our desired timetable or understanding of freedom from anxiety. Let us work to align our will with God’s desires and work to build relationships supportive of yielding to the journey.
In closing, if you are experiencing a mental health crisis and are considering suicide, please immediately reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish. 800-273-8255.
Remember Mental Health Matters!
Author: Eileen Borski, National Certified CounselorM.Ed. Clinical Mental Health Counseling