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By Victoria Laurenzi-Jump, MSW, Pastoral Care Associate
During the pandemic most of us are feeling a mix of emotions: fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and joy to name a few. These emotions are natural to experience during times like this. When symptoms in our body start to shift from the reaction to these emotions that’s when we notice the stress and anxiety building.
Defining the differences between stress and anxiety is the first step to learning what coping skills will help you manage their effects. Stress show ups in everyday life. Physical, mental, or emotional factors can cause bodily or mental tension. Some of the causes of stress are: the death of someone close to you, divorce, loss of job or income, moving to a new home, fear, and chronic illness or injury. Some of the symptoms of stress can be: headaches, grinding teeth, upset stomach, low energy, insomnia, and acid reflux or indigestion.
Anxiety sometimes partners with stress on causes and symptoms. When there is an anxiety disorder it usually has recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns that sometimes cause us to avoid certain situations out of worry. Additional causes can range from stressful situations of financial, work related issues, and school, to side effects of medication, and symptoms of a medical illness. Symptoms to watch for can be: feeling nervous like restlessness or being tense, sweating, trembling, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing.
Managing stress and anxiety starts with knowing your triggers. For example, if you have a report due at work in five days, you may not want to wait until the night before to complete the report. When you start to feel some of the symptoms of stress, slow yourself down by taking breaks.
You have several choices on how to cope with stress and anxiety. If one doesn’t work try another until you find several that work for you. Coping techniques that are stay-at-home friendly are: avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, using physical activities like brisk walking, biking, gardening, getting more sleep, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, laughing more, knowing your boundaries, keeping a stress diary, and praying.
The above describes the science and research of managing stress and anxiety. Knowing the causes and symptoms of stress and anxiety can offer you insight in ways to change the process. But, how may our relationship with God help us deal with our stress and anxiety? Our connection with God is through prayer. Turning our stress and anxiety over to God in our prayers can help change our lives. So, how can we do it right now even in the midst of a pandemic? Proverbs 3: 5-6 tell us to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” I encourage you to trust God and open yourself up in prayer to turn over your emotions and concerns. When you begin to experience symptoms of stress or anxiety, keep God in front of you. Remind yourself, “I will trust you, Lord. I do not need to lean on my understanding, but I know You will make a way.” A constant relationship with God that you tend to will be a gift in this pandemic, and beyond.