“Jesus loves me this I know, for he gave me Lexapro.”
Yes, this is a song I sometimes sing when that fluttery feeling in the pit of my stomach threatens to rise. I don’t want this feeling to surge or surface as I think about COVID-19 and the inevitable end of social distancing, but sometimes my fear gets the best of me.
Now that the timeline to end social distancing as we know it is said to end sometime in June, I question what it means for fear and anxiety that has embedded itself into the deepest recesses of my heart and mind.
There are so many what-ifs. What if we are lifting the stay-at-home orders too soon and everyone I love gets sick? What if I have to go back to work, but my kids can’t go back to school this fall? What if our world economy collapses? What if the coronavirus is the end of all of us??
If you have social anxiety over social distancing relaxing, you aren’t alone. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with clinical anxiety or you’re simply filled with worry about the end of social distancing, here are five ways to combat fear.
Lysa TerKeurst nailed it when she wrote, “Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn't mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift… called self-control.”
And so it goes with anxiety. Anxiety is an indicator, not a dictator.
When feelings swirl inside of you, don’t ignore them. Address it.
It’s normal to feel anxious and worried during a national crisis. After four months of being in quarantine—it’s normal to question whether or not the world outside your front door is safe.
Talk to someone about your feelings. Journal about it and bring it to God in prayer.
Anxiety is a persistent feeling of worry. Sometimes it is constant, while other times it rushes over you all at once. When dealing with anxiety, it’s important to assess your emotions and bring them to light.
When we shed light on our fears, they lose their power. Light always overcomes the darkness (John 1:5). Darkness cannot overcome the light but light always overcomes the darkness just as “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1st John 5:4).
Have faith the world will become safe again, despite not having all the answers. You have the choice to meditate on what could go right or what could go wrong. So empowering!
We have no control when quarantine sanctions end. We have no idea if we will get sick. We don’t know what the world will be like after COVID. We’ve never done this before.
This is the first time in recorded history that we have socially distanced ourselves worldwide. Let that thought sink in for a moment.
The firsts in life have had an element of fear for many. Like riding a bike, what if I fall? Or saying “I love you,” what if she doesn’t feel the same? When it comes to social distancing, we question, what if we need more time?
Remember we have the CDC and the WHO monitoring the virus. We can trust they have our best interests in mind. In the meantime, we can daydream about the things we want to experience when this ends.
Picnics with friends. Coffeehouses, hair salons, worshipping with your community at church, camping trips, or shopping inside a real store. There are so many wonderful things, activities, and people we miss. And we can slowly begin to incorporate each activity one at a time. Just because social distancing will end doesn’t mean you have to do it all at once.
There are precautions you can still incorporate to maintain a healthy immune system. Continue to wash your hands, remember to bring sanitary wipes for shopping carts, and when someone suggests a hug or high five, suggest an elbow bump.
Chances are you likely won’t be the only one feeling concerned or wanting to be cautious about engaging in social behaviors.
But Ecclesiastes 5:18 is a great reminder God give us this life to experience goodness and joy in all we do. “Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”
Life before COVID was a blur of work deadlines, shuttling kids from one activity to the next, fixing supper, piles of laundry. At least for mothers anyway.
Your life pre-quarantine may have been a blur of other activities too and the common denominator may have been negative coping habits such as binge-watching Netflix, massive amounts of brownies and wine.
Chances are if you listen closely, numbing out on Netflix and sugar isn’t what our spirits crave.
The slower pace of life has allowed the dust to settle. It’s allowed us to reflect and truly hear what our body, mind, spirit and soul are speaking to our hearts.
The beauty of COVID has been this: the entire world has been allowed to go indoors to rediscover joy, peace, patience, and love. We’ve been given the gift to rediscover what life looks like when we live in rhythm with God. We’ve been given the gift to be replenished from the inside out.
We sleep more, eat better, and have time to soak in God’s Word. We’ve been given the opportunity to cultivate a rich prayer life and move our bodies through exercise.
This form of self-care is substantial and intentional. And when our front doors are opened to the whole world post quarantine, we can continue to rely on these God-given practices to adapt.
This season has given us the tools to care for ourselves and our loved ones better.
Holding onto these excellent habits will help you in so many ways—one of the biggest ones being able to face anxiety-inducing situations like quarantine ending.
We were never meant to carry burdens alone. Jesus reminded us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
The gospel—and all of Scripture, for that matter—reinforces the truth that we were created for community. Despite this truth, we have been conditioned by our culture to believe our feelings are not meant to be shared, and we are better off by ourselves nor do we need the help of others.
It’s okay to need help. It’s more than okay to get the support you need. We are going through a tough thing!
Seek extra help or support if you need it. Lean on your friends and faith community. Consider tele-health or e-health services, online support, and online or app-based self-management tools. God also gives us the gift of medicine, technology, and community to combat clinical anxiety and depression.
Some signs that you may need extra support include, but are not limited to:
Your anxiety interferes in your daily life—for example, you have a hard time going to work or being in public spaces even when the risk is very low.
You can't think about anything other than coronavirus or the COVID-19 illness.
You feel hopeless or angry about the situation.
You have a hard time eating or sleeping well.
You experience physical symptoms like frequent headaches or an upset stomach.
You isolate yourself from others when it isn't necessary.
Prayerfully consider what kind of support you need to get through this tough time to be the best for God, yourself, and others that you can be.
The mind is a powerful thing. It also happens to be a battlefield.
We are reminded to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. And When the battle to stay positive and focused on Christ begins to fail, dance it out.
Yes, that’s right, throw on some of your favorite upbeat worship music and dance!
Music is such a powerful tool to help us stay uplifted. Science all but confirms that God hard-wired humans to respond to music.
Studies also suggest that someday music may even help patients heal from Parkinson's disease or a stroke. In fact, scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.
Psalm 150: 1-6 reflects the power of worship, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!”
The Bible reminds us God actually lives and dwells in our praises. This is the mystery and the power of music when we worship. It ushers us into His presence.
Every person is created to be a worshiper. God dwells and, I believe, manifests Himself in the praises of His people.
When we worship, we affirm the truth of God’s Word, and it is being rooted deep in our hearts. When you fear begins to creep up on you, turn on your favorite playlist and praise the Lord.
Although we have never gone through a quarantine like this before—or come out of one for that matter—we are in this together, with God faithfully by our sides.
Heather Riggleman is an author, national speaker, former award-winning journalist and podcast co-host of the Moms Together Podcast. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 21 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of Mama Needs a Time Outand Let’s Talk About Prayer and a contributor to several books. Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman and Focus On the Family. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.