With fall approaching and anxiety at an all-time high, life has taken a toll on both my mental and physical health, but thankfully counseling and reflection have uncovered a few culprits.
Let’s start with the Pandemic. For many, life has returned to normal, but we’re far from it; research reveals a significant impact on our mental health and well-being.
From fear, isolation, remote learning and work, illness, and losing loved ones, to fractions between family, friends, races, churches, and political parties, our lives look very different than pre-2020.
Yet most of us don’t acknowledge the Pandemic as a significant stressor in our lives.
However, John Eldredge, author and counselor, begs to differ, as he writes in his #1 best-selling book, Resilient; Restoring Your Weary Soul in These Turbulent Times:
“We are now in the “cascade effect” of the past two years…experiencing the…effects of exhaustion, mental fragmentation, irritability, and something I want to call “apathy creep”…
“Life is asking 100% of us. Most of us have way less than 100% to give these days. (Right?) So we make it through another day, another week, but when we get home we don’t have the energy to rally for anything else.
“It’s not necessarily apathy creep in a pure sense. We still care about things, we just don’t have the energy to care about things enough to see them through. Getting out of commitments feels like relief right now.”
Realizing I was experiencing apathy creep, I began implementing changes to ameliorate the continuous cortisol pulsing through my brain and body.
I’d like to share my discoveries, not because they’re profound, but understanding others’ anxiety management strategies has benefited me, and perhaps these will inspire investigation into potential anxiety triggers for you.
I’ve highlighted a few of these in past posts, and although simple, these have alleviated cognitive load, leading to a bit more peace.
1. I kicked my phone out of bed.*
There is too much research on the effects of phone use, worst of all, in bed. “But I use a meditation app before I fall asleep,” I argued.
The issue? Meditation before sleep was causing anxiety! I ignored it for months, reminding myself of its benefits.
But how ridiculous to continue a practice, no matter how beneficial, if it’s anxiety-inducing. So, my phone goes to bed in the kitchen, and I’m better for it.
2. All notifications are silenced except texts and group text notifications are silenced.*
While identifying anxiety triggers, I created a list of decisions related to each notification received:
- Is this important enough to answer?
- If not, when should I answer?
- Is this person expecting an answer directly?
- How should I respond?
- How does what they said make me feel right now?
- What will they think of my response and when I choose to send it?
Though not an exhaustive list, I realized each notification drained cognitive reserves in the form of decision-making.
We make roughly 35,000 decisions daily and discovering the negotiable ones impacting cognitive load was worth investigating.
For me, the number of vibration alerts at work (and even home) correlates to spikes in anxiety, so this was a game-changer.
3. I am working to improve sleep hygiene.
I’ve recently learned sleep outranks all other health parameters. (Yes, that includes diet and exercise—while important, they’re second to sleep.)
As I’ve been struggling with sleep for years, I’m ready to get serious about improving sleep quality so I can live well in—and remember—the silver years.
4. Being a black tea lover, I now quit caffeine by 3:00.
Caffeine’s ½ life, although varying from person to person, is roughly 5-6 hours; it stays in my body much longer than I realized! Another small step toward better sleep.
5. I turn on my phone 30 minutes after waking up most days.*
Answering texts while getting ready for work was a bigger time thief than I realized. Now mornings are less harried as I try to make it out the door. I’m not perfect at it, but attempting to streamline morning routines has helped with anxiety management.
6. I have a great worship playlist (thanks to my daughters) helping me start the day with the best mindset: a hopeful one.
A greater impact than I imagined, finding music that resonates with my deepest longings has been soul-enriching. I’m amazed how much more peaceful I am throughout the day.
7. I attempt at least 10,000 steps a day.
Gone are my pre-pandemic days of 14-18,000 steps. Perpetual exhaustion and chronic injuries have scolded my body into submission.
Now, 2-4 daily prayerful walks content my body and soul while communing with God and His creation, staying present and appreciative for His goodness.
8. I sit on my patio a few times a week.
The research is conclusive regarding the benefits of being in nature, and flowers make me happy. With the outdoor fan humming, I cop a 15-minute squat in the shade and soak up the glory of God’s Creation: a water fountain and wind chimes complete the ensemble of soul-nourishing delights.
Is there something you can implement, change or discontinue to create a more peaceful you? Maybe a hot bath after a long day, less time scrolling to stay present with loved ones, or a few moments in God’s glorious Word?
Pray this week about one step you can take to curb stress in your heart and home and meet me back here for more stress and anxiety management strategies!
God, you did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart… Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life. Psl. 56:12-13
*After listening to a great podcast, I’ve delineated some of these practices as healthy boundaries. More to come on that next time!