This past term, we’ve been looking at anxiety, what it is, and how we can take some steps in managing it. I would like to conclude with some simple thoughts on reducing anxiety by managing our environment. Bret Moore points out that chaos is a good friend of anxiety, and suggests that organizing our space and tidying up at the end of the day sets us up for a better start the next day. We’re all being constantly bombarded by tasks. Trying to juggle family, work, Church, social, community and personal life all take their toll on us. We become overwhelmed, our brains struggle to remember everything, and we start to get anxious. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to help us remember things. Making a list (whether on paper or electronically ) of the tasks we need to do gets things out of our heads. Prioritizing them benefits us, as does actually doing them. Moore warns against procrastination: “Procrastination makes easy things hard, and makes hard things harder.” How true! That would make a great poster!

Often people who suffer from anxiety have difficulty feeling heard by others. It’s good to develop some assertiveness in communication style. At home, delegate suitable tasks to other family members. Being specific about exactly what’s to be done and then following up afterwards ensures that it’s more likely to be done.  There’s a lot of evidence now that our lives are too noisy and that too much noise can lead to distress. Turning off a TV that’s not being watched or a sound system when nobody is actually listening goes a long way to reducing unnecessary noise in our homes. Turning off notifications on our phones (unless absolutely necessary) benefits us too.

Some folk avoid things that cause them anxiety. Unfortunately, doing this often makes the anxiety worse, and we are better off facing that anxiety head-on.  This applies, particularly with our children. Encouraging them to do those difficult and scary things helps them learn to manage issues at an early age.

One question I often ask people is what they like to do for themselves or for fun. Sometimes we’ve been so busy with raising children and work commitments that we’re not actually sure what we like to do for fun. Over the school holidays might be a good time to ask yourself, “What do I like to do to relax or energize myself? What’s something that I really enjoy doing?” Leisure and holidays don’t have to be expensive.

Uncertainty creates anxiety in people, and one thing 2020 has given us has been uncertainty in buckets load. We’ve all faced – both personally and in community – a year unlike any other. We’re still facing it as we wonder what Christmas is going to look like. Those with families interstate wonder if they’ll be able to get together for Christmas. I think for me one of the big lessons of 2020 is that we don’t have as much control over our lives as we’d like to think we have. As a Christian, I have had to remind myself more than once that God does know exactly what’s going on in my life (and the lives of loved ones) and that He is in control.  Even in the midst of uncertainty, we can still trust Him. In fact, reminding myself of that fact helps greatly in reducing anxiety. Why not google – “Bible verses on Anxiety”? The Bible has a lot to say about anxiety. Philippians 4:6 states:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” That’s definitely the best advice I could give you.

I wish you and your family a blessed and safe Christmas.

Source: Bret A Moore, Taking Control of Anxiety: Small Steps for Getting the Best of Worry, Stress and Fear. APA, 2014.