With the uncertainty in the world regarding the coronavirus, it’s important there be effective tips for dealing with anxiety.
This anxiety is a real thing.
If you go to Google Trends and type in “Coronavirus Anxiety,” you’ll see a sharp spike in interest:
You’ll also see a lot of breakout regarding anxiety and the coronavirus:
Because of this pandemic, many people have turned to online forums for help dealing with anxiety. Namely Reddit. There’s one subreddit—a much smaller and more intimate subreddit. It’s called r/Covid19, and it’s purpose is to offer emotional support.
It’s a place where people can deal with the anxiety they’re feeling in a safe and supportive way. Because make no mistake: we’re all dealing with this anxiety in some way.
People who are dealing with anxiety find a lot of comfort in having empathetic ears.
In this post, I am going to give some practical tips for dealing with anxiety not only for this pandemic but also in general. So, let’s begin!
Dealing with Anxiety: Stop Being Negative and Increase Your GABA
Some people are better at suppressing unwanted thoughts than others.
In a recent study, participants were asked to NOT recall a certain thought. They were monitored with equipment that detected blood flow and chemical changes in the brain.
They found that people who had the highest concentrations of GABA in their brain were best at blocking unwanted thoughts or memories.
What is GABA?
GABA (or Gamma-Aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid produced naturally in the brain. It acts as a neurotransmitter, facilitating communication among brain cells. It also acts as an inhibitor because it blocks, or inhibits, certain brain signals and decreases activity in the nervous system.
According to the study:
Intrusive memories, images, and hallucinations are hallmark symptoms of psychiatric disorders. Although often attributed to deficient inhibitory control by the prefrontal cortex…arising from dysfunctional GABAergic interneurons.Hippocampal GABA enables inhibitory control over unwanted thoughts
In other words, people who had sufficient levels of GABA were able to control (or block) certain negative and persistent thoughts. While those who didn’t have sufficient levels suffered from many psychiatric disorders.
Low GABA activity can also result in the following:
- Chronic stress
- Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
- Muscle pain and headaches
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
How Do I Get More GABA?
More GABA in your diet is a practical way to deal with anxiety. Check out these resources in your GABA hunt:
Dealing with Anxiety: Know Your Triggers
Harvard recently published a set of interwoven studies that showed the common reason for addictive behaviors, primarily smoking. The emotion that led to more smoking? Anger? Stress? Digust? Fear?
Nope. It was sadness.
They found that sadness in a person increased cravings, frequency of smoking, volume of puffs, and also predicted smoking relapses, even decades later.
The first study traced a national survey of 10,685 people over 20 years. The study found that self-reported sadness was associated with being a smoker and with relapsing back into smoking two decades later!
An emotional trigger caused their sadness, and their sadness caused their addiction.
How do I find my triggers?
Finding our emotional triggers is effective in dealing with anxiety.
What is an emotional trigger? According to Psychology Today:
An emotional trigger is any topic that makes us feel uncomfortable. These emotional triggers are telling us which aspects in our life we might feel frustrated or unsatisfied with…it can vary in each person because we are all struggling with something different.
An emotional trigger could be a scary movie, being criticized, being challenged by someone, being overlooked, a certain word in a conversation, or nonstop negative media.
There are many ways to spot emotional triggers (journaling, taking stock of feelings, etc.)
The best I can recommend is asking God to show you what they are and why they are. David said,
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)
Sometimes the best way to find yourself is to look outside of yourself. Just like the best way to see yourself is in a mirror; the best way to see your internal self is through the mirror of God’s Word and through His eyes!
God made you, and He knows you better than you know yourself. The Creator intimately knows the inner workings of the created. If there was anybody who can help with hidden emotional triggers, it would be Him.
When the apostle Paul got ready to describe a winner mentality, he described someone who stopped looking back to keep pressing forward:
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)
And then he warns about having another mind—anything less than the winner mind. But the good thing is if we do have it, God will reveal it to us:
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.Philippians 3:15 NKJV
Key Takeaway: Until you know your triggers, you can’t control them. Be aware of them. But also go to God! He knows you better than you know yourself!
Dealing with Anxiety: Control This and Control Your Life
There are estimates that the average mind thinks between 12,000 to 60,000 per day and that 80% are negative. And research has shown that 85% of what we worry about doesn’t happen.
I believe our negative thoughts are a result of the fall and people turning their hearts away from their Creator:
Because that, knowing God, they glorified Him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened.Romans 1:21, ERV
The Bible is VERY clear about controlling our thoughts:
Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.Proverbs 4:23 (GNT)
Rather than focusing on the negative thoughts, choose to focus on positive thoughts—or God’s thoughts:
Key Takeaway: You are going to have negative and anxious thoughts. That is a fact. But most of them won’t happen, and the ones that can happen, you’re equipped to deal with them.
That being said, you can choose what you’re going to focus on. Focus on the most positive thoughts you can—God’s thoughts.
Dealing with Anxiety: Learn to Meditate the Right Way
The practice of meditation has been popularized over the last two decades, but the concept itself is not new. The Bible has taught meditation for some time.
The difference is God’s way of meditation is VASTLY different from the world’s way of mediatation. The first God spoke about mediation, He gave the command to a new leader named Joshua:
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.Joshua 1:8 (KJV)
The word “meditate” is the Hebrew hagah (הָגָה). Hagah is used around 25 times in the Old Testament, and it is translated as “meditate” 6 times in the King James Version of the Bible.
Hagah means “to moan, growl, utter, speak, muse.” So, in Hebrew, there’s a verbal and a mental aspect to meditation. It’s about pondering and thinking, but it’s also about saying.
Popular meditation encourages the emptying of the mind; God encourages us to fill it up. With what? With Him and His Word:
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners,or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.Psalms 1:1-3 (NLT)
For more clarity check out this awesome video from Joseph Prince:
Key Takeaway: Mediation is important for emotional and mental health, but it has to be God’s way of doing it. Rather than meditate on the negative, which brings anxiety, focus on God’s Word that deals with anxiety.
Dealing with Anxiety: It’s Not About You
According to Psychology Today:
Moreover, individuals with an anxiety disorder are “afflicted” with self-absorption not because they’re selfish or insensitive to others (as are narcissists), but because they’re locked into bothersome, repetitive thought processes reflecting fears both about their personal adequacy and how others might (adversely) see them.
When we become anxious, it’s because we are overly obsessed with “us”: our needs, our wants, our desires, our wishes, etc.
And true, we do need to focus on our needs, but there comes a point when focus on us can have a negative effect. Selfishness can destroy marriages, relationships, etc.
Have you ever meet someone new, and all they talk about is themselves? You leave saying, “What a jerk!”
Life was never meant to be self-focused. The Bible says it clearly:
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.1 Corinthians 10:24 (ESV)
In fact, one of the largest studies on happiness was conducted by a group of Harvard researchers who followed a large cohort of people over a period of 75 years. What they discovered was that fame and money were not the secrets to happiness.
Rather, the most important thing in life was having strong and supportive relationships. In other words, when we move from narcissism to connection (which is found in service), we’re the most fulfilled.
We will always find the greatest fulfillment when we look outside of ourselves and decide to serve others:
QUICK STORY: We all know about megachurch pastor Joel Osteen. What most people don’t know is that his mom, Dodie, was diagnosed with an incurable cancer in 1981. She was told by doctors that she had months to live. It was so bad that her son who was studying to be a doctor cried uncontrollably when he read the diagnosis.
If she were like most people, she would’ve become depressed, suicidal, anxious, and despondent. But to spoil the story, she is still here 39 years later and is completely cancer free!
So, what did she do?
- She and her husband, John, prayed and believed that she was completely healed.
- She found every Scripture on healing and proclaimed them every day—several times a day.
- She thanked God repeatedly that she was healed.
- She kept her mind focused on health—she would take old photos of herself healthy, put them in a prominent place, and focus on them throughout the day.
- She ministered to other sick people by helping and praying for them!
Did you get that last one?
She was helping sick people while she was still sick. She ministered to others when she herself needed ministering to. That’s unreal!
God has so designed it that when we help others, we help ourselves. Helping someone else is effective in dealing with anxiety. So, what can you do now to take your mind off of you and your problems? Glad you asked:
- Turn off the news.
- Get out of the house and do some exercise. Go for a nice walk.
- Create a list of things you can be grateful for, and thank God for them repeatedly.
- Find someone who is anxious and encourage them and pray for them.
- Send an enouraging text to someone.
- Use this time to discover your purpose.
- Get some good sleep.
Key Takeaway: Over-focusing on yourself is not a good thing and can lead to anxiety. One of the best ways for dealing with anxiety is to focus on others and serve.