As the coronavirus crisis intensifies, so do fear and anxiety. People are not doing well. Our world seems to be unraveling in front of our eyes. Everyday people are laid off work and confronted with empty grocery stores, financial woes, and concerns about contracting COVID-19. A spirit of fear has gripped our culture and is trying to choke us to death.
I’m far from an expert on mental health, let alone on how to stop the spread of a virus, but I have personally experienced a peace during these difficult times that surpasses my understanding. In what follows, I want to share with you five ways I believe you can also experience peace. I want to be as practical as possible because I believe you can increase your joy and overcome anxiety during this craziness.
People are scared and hurting. I don’t want to downplay the reality of this crisis, but I don’t believe worry is the way forward.
Here are five things that have helped me stay calm:
1. Turn off your television and news feed.
I have not read or watched one single thing about the coronavirus. Nothing. I know many people will consider my actions negligent or foolish, especially in light of having a wife and five daughters at home. People who make that claim may be correct; however, I have not felt anxious or believed the world was coming to an end once. I’m just not worried.
Although I do believe news programs can keep one informed, I’m afraid that during this crisis the information provided has driven people to fear more than cool-headed concern. I’m assuming the information has been flowing nonstop. Just turn it off! Turn off your television and news feed and be free.
2. Reflect on God’s goodness.
God is a loving and gracious father. Throughout the history of the world, God has moved mountains to be with His people. He sent His son into the world to rescue them from sin and death; He faithfully led them out of slavery in Egypt; He parted the Red Sea so they could pass through safely; He sent His Spirit at Pentecost so they would be empowered for ministry and life in His kingdom. God cares about the creatures He created. He cares about you and I deeply.
Reflect on God’s goodness but don’t feel like you have to stop at Scripture. Reflect on the ways God has been faithful to you personally. How has He led you through the journey called life? Think about a time when God showed up in a powerful or miraculous way. How did the outcome make you feel? Hopefully you were full of awe and gratitude. Reflect on such things.
3. Stay connected to people.
In a time when social distancing is heralded as absolute truth, staying connected to people will be challenging. I believe there is some wisdom in distancing ourselves from larger groups, but don’t lose touch with people in your life who make you more like Jesus.
We were designed by God for relationships and community. Don’t equate social distance with social absence. You need to be around people who can encourage you. My wife and I have been tremendously blessed by friends who have made a point to stop by and pray with us and our children. Our children have been sick for 4 months. We have needed the support.
4. Find ways to practice generosity.
We haven’t practiced generosity as much as we have been the recipients of it. A few days ago, a friend of ours dropped grocery bags at our front door containing bread, lunch meat, peanut butter, syrup and pancake mix. What a blessing!
Jesus says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Our friend received the bigger blessing. I believe he experienced a lot of joy by serving our family in the way he did. I want to be like that. I want to give to families in need.
During this crisis, the church has one of the greatest opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ I have ever seen. How are we doing?
5. Do something active outdoors.
I went for a bike ride this week and didn’t see any coronavirus. I say that tongue in cheek. But being outside can greatly increase our joy as we realize the fear of the virus stems more from our internal state than our external world. As far as I know, the coronavirus doesn’t travel through the open air.
Get outside and enjoy God’s creation. There are so many health benefits to staying active and being outdoors. Furthermore, getting your heart rate up will decrease your anxiety.
In closing, we do not have to be afraid of the coronavirus. We serve a God who is far bigger than any crisis. He promises to never leave or forsake His people (Hebrews 13:5). Test these five practices and let me know the results. I believe they can work for you. I believe you can overcome coronavirus anxiety.