Wildfires. Hurricanes. Oppression. Political upheaval. And yes, a worldwide pandemic.
Add to that personal challenges and the struggles being experienced by family and friends, and there is a very real temptation to curl up in a corner and hope it all just goes away. It’s no wonder anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues are on the rise.
More than ever before, I’ve recognized that we have to make deliberate choices as to how we’re going to face these tumultuous days.
Keep Our Head Down and Act as If Everything is Fine
Granted, I’d love to live in Happy Bubble Land, but we all know it isn’t a real place—at least not this side of heaven. Still, there are plenty of people who are afraid to look around for fear that they will be swept away by all that’s going on in the world. They do their best to continue on, business as usual. And while it may work for a time, unless we’re living completely “off the grid,” news of the most recent heartbreaking situation is at our fingertips 24/7.
Overextend Ourselves, Taking on More than We Can Handle
Like me, you may care deeply about a wide variety of issues. You wonder what you can do to make things better. You have friends whose passions fuel your own. And then—you overextend. You take up just one more cause. Comment on just one more social media post. Say yes to just one more request. And soon you’re done in. You either work to the point of exhaustion or you leave project after project undone because you just don’t have the wherewithal to complete it.
Succumb to the Temptation to “Doom Scroll”
No matter how many times we tell ourselves we’re not going to read another post about COVID or the online arguments raging on social media or the political mudslinging, it comes across our newsfeed or a family member fills us in on something we’d rather not know. It is important to be informed. However, we can’t do something about everything. And often, too much doom scrolling leads to overwhelm, which leads to ineffectiveness in all areas.
Allow the Anxiety to Get the Upper Hand
I’m not suggesting that overcoming anxiety and other mental health considerations are as simple as flipping a switch. I know full well they’re not. I’ve slept more in the last year and a half than ever before. I’ve watched way more YouTube videos and streamed more TV shows than was wise. I’ve even been on the precipice of panic attacks, something I’ve never experienced before. No judgement here! When mental health issues of any description rear their ugly head, it’s important to reach out and get the help we need. It may be as simple as spending time with a friend, or we may need to see a professional counsellor. It’s important that we don’t let the tide carry us away.
Focus on the Task at Hand While Acknowledging that the Struggle is Real
Do you pick up your phone before you’re even out of bed to see what’s happening in the world? Do you make a long To-Do List every day and then become overwhelmed before you even begin? Do you rehearse the dozen things you still have on your list while you’re working on something else? Although I do make a fairly lengthy To-Do list, I’m learning to focus on the task at hand and celebrate each one that I cross off my list. Am I always successful? Absolutely not. (In fact, I was just notified that I have a message on my phone, and I was tempted to check it before I even finished this paragraph.)
There is one choice that will put all others into perspective …
Become More Prayerful
It may seem obvious, but it’s so easy to “forget” to spend time in God’s presence. We can become so overwhelmed that we can’t formulate a coherent sentence. (It’s okay to simply say, “God, I need you!”) On the other hand, we can be so focused on keeping our head down and accomplishing the task at hand that we don’t make prayer a part of our day.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the tragedies suffered by those in Old Testament times. The Lord often chastened them for not turning to Him when their world was falling apart. He would often wait to pour out rich blessing until they remembered to go to Him in prayer. I don’t know how long the pandemic will last, when the wildfires will be extinguished, or what the results of the next election will be, but I do know that the Lord offers peace and wisdom to those who spend time in His presence.
May He equip each of us to obey the commands in Philippians 4:4-6: “Rejoice in the Lord always … do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We can then hold onto the promise in verse 7: ”And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).