How can I cope with my anxiety?

As we start 2020, one major thing that I am hearing a lot of in conversation (and I am feeling myself) is that many people are struggling to ‘get going’ with both the new year and new decade, experiencing greater levels of anxiety and wondering how they can cope with all that life is bringing. A new year and also a new decade, with so much more uncertainty, it is making us wonder how did we get ourselves here, where are we going and how can I cope?

We are all aware increasingly aren’t we, as someone has said, ‘that the only thing that is certain is uncertainty itself’ and so we are worrying for ourselves, for our family and for those we know:
-our planet….will we have one in the future and what can I do to help bring change?
-our economy….will I have work to live in the future and that will use my talents to make a real difference?
-our politics…will we ever have leaders in the future that we can really trust and who will trust each other?
-our nation…will we ever be able to bring people back together and be more at one with other nations?
-ourselves…what can we do about our often strained relationships with ourselves, family, neighbours and colleagues?

I don’t have any quick answers to sort out all these big problems, but I am encouraged by a few things that can give us good hope to cope better in such uncertainty, have less anxiety and so better mental wellbeing/health.

Firstly, it is good that we are all being a bit more open about the problems we are seeing and feeling, because as it has been said ‘half the problem is being aware of the problem’ so that together we are at least getting more aware of what the problems are and can try to do something about it. Knowing the problem indicates we are potentially at a turning point in our difficulties that we might at least begin to go in a better direction.

Secondly, it is really encouraging that there are lots of people and organisations wanting ‘to do’ something about anxiety and poor mental health and work more closely together – parents, schools, government, employers, institutions, charities and faith communities. As they also say, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ where we are much more likely together to come up with what help is needed, both short term interventions to bring relief, and longer term solutions to bring change in the underlying issues (where prevention is always better than cure).

Thirdly, that in the Christian faith we find many natural answers to help us deal with the anxiety that we often feel as human beings. As society seeks to come up with ‘new’ methods it is good to know that we find can from God (who made us and understands us) someone who has the ‘means and mechanisms’ it takes to help us. In the breadth and depth of age, background and characters in a Christian Community (a church) we naturally have the benefit of:
People – to listen, support and provide counsel to us, and us to others
Promises – of what God has said and in which we can trust 100%
Prayer – of being able to talk with God who can change things

I am not an expert, but it seems clear to me that these things found in the Christian faith are the original versions of what society is beginning to re-discover with slightly different words and language:

People in a Church is about the ‘Community’ we are all looking for to find love and all need to live in to flourish as individuals.

Trusting in the Promises of God is all about ‘Mindfulness’ and of training our minds to be more resilient.

Prayer is about taking time to ‘Meditate’ and learn to trust that our ultimate help can’t come from within ourselves, but needs to come from outside of us in God.

So to finish, may I offer you some promises and words from God, that if you might find time to be mindful of and to mediate on (i.e., think, talk, reflect and pray about) will help you greatly.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“Your heavenly Father knows what you need… first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:25-34

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6v35

Augustine of Hippo said: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its’ rest in you.”

When we put our personal heart’s trust in God and his son Jesus, that is the ultimate and sure way in which our anxieties will be met, we can learn how to cope better and we will find rest and peace whatever is happening in the world and to us.

With my prayers for February and for all the tools you need to cope well in the year ahead.

Revd James Hunt – Rector St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham with Blessed Mary, Upham

9th January 2020

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