The current pandemic has left me anxious and concerned for myself and my family as days turn into weeks and months with no end in sight. I’ve lost several friends to COVID-19; others have been furloughed from their jobs, and their families have been left vulnerable and without a sense of security. What can I do to get rid of the pervasive sense of unease and frequent panic attacks I’ve been experiencing? I know that as a person of faith I should be doing better, but I seem to be spiraling downward and would love to get your perspective.
We are very sorry to hear about the anxiety you’ve been experiencing. Yours is not a unique occurrence. Many have expressed feeling helpless, anxious, even depressed with the pandemic causing sickness, death, and despair all over the world. Your response is normal, even as a person of faith.
In fact, Elijah—an Old Testament prophet—was extremely depressed and anxious for his life (1 Kings 19) after being threatened by Queen Jezebel, despite his recent victory against the prophets of Baal by God’s intervention (1 Kings 18). So even people who believe in God and have a close relationship with Him may at times experience anxiety.
During those anxious moments it is helpful to take slow, deep breaths and spend some time stretching, as well as devoting time to studying the Word of God and spending moments in prayer and meditation.
Reading Bible passages such as the following could be helpful in mitigating those feelings of helplessness: “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his descendants begging bread” (Ps. 37:25).*
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3).
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:25, 26).
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6, 7).
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
In the process of alleviating your anxiety you must also take breaks from upsetting content on television, social media, or any other electronic platforms you access for information. In addition, take care of your body, remembering that it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. As such, it is important to exercise regularly and vigorously; get plenty of sleep by being consistent with your bedtimes; eat healthful and well-balanced meals that are high in fiber, low in sodium, and preferably plant-based. You will also want to talk with people you trust about your concerns and feelings and remain in contact with your loved ones, which will enhance both yours and their mental health. When you feel overwhelmed, seek help from a trusted mental health professional.
Always remember that God is in control of everything—including the pandemic and your well-being. His promise is: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
* Bible texts are from the New King James Version. Copyright ã 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Willie Oliver, Ph.D., CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist and certified family life educator, is director for the Department of Family Ministries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, LCPC, CFLE, a licensed clinical professional counselor and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org or at HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.