As you might have noticed in the last few months, our “normal” way of life has been completely turned upside down. Our country (and perhaps the entire world) has been forced to confront the frightening possibility of facing turmoil and challenges that may last beyond our lifetime.
While some may be savoring the chance to slow down, pause from life, and rest, many others are experiencing a major increase in heightened emotional states such as fear, anxiety, depression, and anger.
Let me be the first to admit that I’m guilty of spiraling through each of these pesky emotions. I am someone who loves to be around people, travel to my happy place – Disneyland, go shopping, build social connections, and experience life outside of the home, so I have found it immensely difficult to cope with being isolated.
Most of us thrive in life by keeping our mind occupied, so it should come as no surprise that we run into problems when the ability to do these things has been taken away.
It is natural and human for our emotions to be triggered by uncertainty and fear surrounding these unprecedented times we are in. Since many of the distractions and busyness that usually fill up our lives have been taken away, we are left with much more time and space to feel all of the emotions that we might otherwise bottle-up and ignore.
While these trying times can without a doubt be extremely unpleasant (perhaps downright painful) and grueling to deal with, on the flip side it gives us a moment to take a step back, reflect, and reconnect with our inner-self. In fact, it might be the opportune time to get in touch with how we process or deal with anxieties, fears, stressors, anger, depression, and many other unpleasant emotions that can arise.
We all may be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.
Perhaps you’re like me and have had emotions suddenly resurface that you thought you had dealt with years ago.
Maybe you are circling the darkest drain of depression and are having trouble finding light at the end of the tunnel.
Or perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “We’re all in this together” one too many times and your head is about to explode. Whatever the case may be, you are not alone.
We may all be going through the same storm, but each of us are in different boats.
Maybe you are not treading through raging waters at the moment, but are grasping for any advice or tips in preparation for the worst case scenario. Or perhaps you’re struggling so immensely you are already shipwrecked and are desperate for a lifeline.
We are each going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.
In either case, I am here to tell you there is hope.
It may be difficult to see right now, but each of us will emerge from this storm in our own way and time.
Some might come out of this with a bruised butt from watching too much Netflix or Disney+. Others may develop deep hidden scars penetrating their soul.
It’s important to see beyond biases and not underestimate one another’s pain. Remember, all of us are just looking to survive.
We can be divided by issues and opinions, or we can be united by our pain and tears.
Face Your Feelings Head On
We are all wounded and traumatized in some way or another, albeit to differing degrees. I believe these wounds and traumas predominantly drive our behavior and shape how we view and relate to the world.
Our society does not encourage us to acknowledge, feel, or express our emotions in healthy ways. In fact, it’s engrained in our mind that it is not okay to be wounded and vulnerable. Instead, we are pressured to suck it up, put on fake social masks and appear “happy, confident and successful”, while plowing forward at our usual hasty and unsustainable pace.
I learned the hard way that this way of living blocks us from being wholly authentic to who we actually are, and it almost always inevitably leads to suffering, addiction, and pain.
Several years ago, circumstances beyond my control (health conditions I was born with that have worsened over the years) led me to require the full-time use of a wheelchair.
In a matter of seconds, I went from being an independent, on top of the world post-graduate student, to someone who could no longer perform menial tasks such as getting myself out of bed, dressed, bathed, drive a car, or even use the toilet. What might this have to do with anything, you ask? Keep reading.
As a result of watching everything I worked so hard for shatter before my very eyes and seeing my friends and colleagues move on (without me) with their presumably happy lives, I became very angry, jealous, humiliated, ashamed, depressed, and eventually closed-off from the whole world. I was even resentful to God for robbing me of my hopes and dreams. Grief set in as I focused on all the things I lost.
With great effort, I buried all of my feelings and allowed my bitterness to push away the people that cared about me the most. I swept my pain under the rug, far out of sight, and preoccupied my mind with anything I could find at my disposal (usually hours and hours of meaningless television programs) so I wouldn’t have to confront the truth.
When seemingly necessary, I put on a fake smile and pretended to be okay. Meanwhile, agony and distress was strangling me on the inside.
Without realizing it, I had become another statistic in society’s trap.
The more society instructs us to disregard and suppress our feelings, the more we become consumed by the pain. So often we’re left scrambling for a quick fix (for example, mind-numbing pharmaceuticals or other numbing agents such as over-working, binge eating, smoking, drinking alcohol, phone addiction, TV, etc.) in order to further dissociate ourselves and prevent us from being viewed as weak.
I learned this the hard way.
Sometimes, instead of changing the situation, God uses the situation to change us.
Living in a constant state of fight-or-flight can do serious damage to you physically, socially, and mentally. Very few people in our modern world, including myself, actually slow down, listen to their body, and give themselves the necessary space to fully recognize, feel, and express the emotions moving through them.
Recognizing instead of denying our emotions is the first step in building a better coping strategy.
I believe all of the fears and anxieties being triggered within us right now are parts of ourselves that we swept under the rug perhaps days or years ago that are coming to the surface finally hoping to be healed.
For me, this “stay home” movement has uncovered similar feelings of isolation, anxiety, anger, fear, depression, ect, that I haven’t felt since my accident many years ago. In some ways, it’s easy to feel back where I started, like I’ve lost my dignity and independence all over again.
Realistically, however, that isn’t true. Now that the chaos of life has slowed way down, I’m just forced once again to be alone with the thoughts swirling around in my head, and I’ve succumb to old habits of burying the feelings and emotions that I don’t want to confront.
Truth about Fear: the Invisible Enemy
Today’s society consistently and purposefully subjects us to fear inducing messages and headlines, particularly through the mainstream media, news channels, magazines, Facebook, gossip, etc.
Those of high positions of power know that fear is the most powerful motivator of human behavior. For that reason, they work very diligently to keep the human race in a perpetual state of fear so that they can control and exploit us for their own benefit.
These fears that we are frequently subjected to are deliberate scare tactics used to put misguided psychological fears into our mind; fears that usually have no actual basis of truth.
Often, it’s a premeditated strategic and manipulative play on the one thing we fear the most – the possibility that something bad “might” happen.
Although this type of fear is capable of paralyzing and blinding us in the moment, it’s important to stay grounded and realize that most of the time there is no real present danger.
In order to prevent fear and anxiety from swallowing us whole, we must choose faith over fear, peace over panic, and trust over worry.
We can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it.”
Overcoming our emotions is no easy feat. In fact, it’s a lifelong process. I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me rather than terrify me.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to reach out for help.
For some, that may be in the form of family and friends. Others may need something extra like professional or medicinal assistance.
On our own, it’s easy to feel insecure and pummeled by our fears and uncertainties. We all need support from time-to-time. It’s vital you know that asking or needing help is nothing to ever be ashamed of.
Here are some ways that help me cope:
Allow yourself to detox from news and all media. Most of the news we see, hear, or read is highly negative and fear inducing. In fact, much of it is utilized as a propaganda by the elites to keep us in a state of fear. It poisons our mind.
Begin your day with gratitude.The heaviness of our current situation can quickly weigh us down. If we begin our day bitter and feeling sorry for ourselves, then we have set the negative feeling pendulum into full swing. Before you get out of bed each morning, think of a few things you’re grateful for.
Shifting our focus by counting our blessings and being thankful for the small stuff can have a significant impact on our emotional health.
Get some sunshine. Research has shown that being outside increases one’s sense of vitality, happiness, and energy, which can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. I have found it very refreshing to sit out on my patio for 15-20 minutes a day. You don’t even need to leave your house to get a bit of fresh air.
Eat healthy. What you put into your body will have an affect on how you think and feel. That’s why it’s important to watch what you eat.
During this stressful time when we’re within 30 feet of our refrigerator 24/7, it’s easy to get carried away with snacking. Just remember, the saying “you are what you eat” applies as much to mental health as it does to your physical health.
Reach out to family and friends. While social distancing may have physical benefits at times, it comes with great emotional risks. Humans are hardwired for connection. Isolation and loneliness can exacerbate anxiety and depression.
That’s why it’s important to stay connected as best we can and reach out for support when we need it. Even if you tend to withdraw when depressed or anxious, consider scheduling a regular phone or video chat with friends or family to counteract that tendency. I have found face-to-face video contact to be like a vitamin for the soul.
Social media can be powerful too – but in moderation, paying careful attention too avoid news outlets that instill fear. This is a great tool to help us feel connected to our community, country, and the world, essentially reminding us that we’re not alone.
Choose faith over fear. Everyday challenges can be a test of our faith. Add a global pandemic to the mix and it might feel downright impossible to believe there’s a God that could allow something like this to happen.
Even though everything around us is changing at a rapid speed, God has not changed. He took care of us before this pandemic, and he will take care of us now.
“When anxiety is great within me, the Lord’s consolation brings me joy.” Psalm 94:19
The world wants to rob us of three essential gifts that only God can provide – power to live a life of faith when it’s not easy, love to share and sacrifice when it’s not convenient, and a sound mind to experience peace when everything seems to be going wrong.
When we choose faith over fear, wisdom over worry, and prayer over panic, we can experience the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding”. (Philippians 4:7) In doing so, we become the light of Christ for all to see in a very dark situation.
When we put our faith in God and allow ourselves to not be controlled by fear and the ways of this world, we become liberated from our own bondage and can begin to fathom that there is nothing life can throw at us that we cannot handle.
With everything happening in the world right now, I believe we’ve come to a fork in the road.
The blinders that have been placed over our eyes for so long is beginning to lift for many of us, triggering thoughts and feelings of disillusionment whereby a large amount of people are starting to awaken to the reality that the world is nothing like it seems.
This is our time to make a decision as to which path we are committed to taking – a path of fear and misery, or a path that exemplifies hope, confidence, and peace.
“Transformation happens on the other side of surrender.”