There was a big article in the Times recently headed ‘Panic nation – why we are all anxious all the time.’ Researchers in the USA that found anxiety levels are so high that they recommended all under-65’s should be screened for symptoms. How they would address those symptoms isn’t discussed, though the article does mention cognitive behavioural therapy.
Anxiety is as high in the UK as it is in America – I daresay it’s the same all over Europe, if not the world. We are living in very uncertain times, and the baseline definition of anxiety is an inability to live with uncertainty. Yes, there have been times as rocky as these before, but without the amplifying effect of social media, television and the press.
Much of it is put down to the Covid pandemic and all the losses that that brought. Even though the threat is retreating we don’t seem to have emerged into a new ‘normal. People are re-evaluating their lives and prioritising values in a way that they didn’t before. Many are choosing to step off the stress travelator for a less competitive worklife even if it means lower earnings. (That may change if the economic crisis worsens.)
But anxiety levels were pretty high in the UK even before the pandemic. A big study by researchers at University College London, published in the British Journal of psychiatry, reported a huge surge in anxiety levels, particularly in young people.
Anxiety is one of those negative emotions that can spiral and strengthen and become part of the person’s mind-set. Sometimes it’s not the result of a difficult circumstance or a feared outcome, but a feeling that persists all the time. There’s a syndrome called Generalised Anxiety Disorder(GAD), where people are anxious most of the time and struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. Worry patterns have become engrained and repetitive. It responds to cognitive behavioural therapy but it can be hard work changing that embedded automatic negative thinking.
The article made me think of one of the chapters in ‘Worshipping with Dementia’, a book of simple daily devotions. This chapter begins with John 14:27, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
God can give us a supernatural peace that banishes anxiety. I know people in quite dire situation, (some in Ukraine) that are living with this. So how to apply it and live with it?
The longer you live the more you see the reality – the when-the-rubber-hits-the-road reality that what the Scriptures say is true. Scripture itself is powerful medication for the soul. ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12)
I love Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.’ God is in charge of our lives.
If you are anxious, write this verse out on post-it notes and stick them where you will come across them during the day. Inside a cupboard door, or at the bottom of your computer screen. In your purse or wallet. Choose to believe it. Anxiety is believing in things that haven’t happened, but believing Scripture is leaning into the truth. Just do it.