Walking Our Faith: Create your own plan for easing anxiety | SummitDaily.com

Walking Our Faith: Create your own plan for easing anxiety

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

I wake at 7 a.m., go downstairs and let Kiki and Buddy, my Newfoundland dogs, outside. I return to my bedroom, make my bed and get dressed in clothes suitable to be seen in public, usually a pair of sweatpants, a sweater and a turtleneck. In the kitchen, I make myself coffee, eggs and toast, and I feed the dogs.

After breakfast, I sit in my big chair for devotions. Some mornings it’s Mass or morning prayers of the Divine Office or a guided meditation based on Scripture. I finish by writing a gratitude list, a page of journaling and a to-do list.

I work at my computer from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., taking breaks for lunch and to walk the dogs or join my online knitting group for an hour. At 5 p.m., I join another online group for evening prayer, and on Wednesday’s it’s Bible study at 6 o’clock.  

The structured part of my day ends here. I’ll make dinner while I listen to classical music or an audiobook or watch the news. Then I’ll read and knit until I go to bed at 9, ending my day with night prayer.

During the first two weeks of quarantine, I didn’t have a daily routine. Instead, I turned on cable news at 7 a.m., and it remained on until I went to bed at midnight. There was a day or two when I didn’t get out of bed until noon and one day when I went to bed at 5 p.m.

I felt afraid of the future. Getting into bed and staying there seemed like the best way to cope with my anxiety. But in bed, my thoughts about the future ran rampant, and I became paralyzed with anxiety.

For someone like myself whose depression is always lurking, isolation and inaction are the surest ways to increase the possibility of slipping into a full-blown depression.

When we feel helpless, the idea of getting into bed and staying there, or opening a bottle of wine at noon and drinking all of it, or baking a chocolate cake and eating it, feels very attractive. And in the short-term, it might even feel comforting. But do we want to come out of quarantine depressed, feeling unhealthy and having a drinking dependency?

For me to cope with my anxiety, I had to create daily routines to control my life in tangible ways and help me feel anchored. But what would those daily routines look like? And what do I want to accomplish by doing them? If they didn’t have personal meaning, they wouldn’t last.

So I asked myself a few questions:

What do I want my life to look like when quarantine is over?

I encourage you to spend 20 minutes today thinking about the life you want. What does your day look like? Grab a piece of paper and write it down as if blocking it out from sunrise to bedtime.

Here’s my ideal life:

  • Goal: I am a successful faith writer.
  • Obstacle: I love writing about faith, but I want to deepen my understanding of spiritual matters and deepen my walk with God.
  • Solution: Daily devotions bookend my days, and I read more books on religion.
  • Goal: I love the freedom of working from home.
  • Obstacle: I have a job that allows me to work from home during this time, but I want to keep regular hours.
  • Solution: I start work at 10 a.m. and finish at 5 p.m.
  • Goal: I want a healthy mind and body as I age.
  • Obstacle: I eat well, but I still love bread and chocolate.
  • Solution: I create healthy meals but still enjoy dessert. I gave up wine for Lent and have continued to not drink because I feel better without it. I exercise daily. I might still be a chunky monkey, but I feel great.

Your turn! What do you want your life to look like from this day forward? Does your life reflect your values? What parts of this ideal life can you put into daily practice right now? Daily is the key component. You build a new life with daily steps.

Here’s my example: I always wrote about morning devotions and spent 10 minutes doing them daily. But I was going through the motions. Now, I give myself an hour in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. This new daily practice has lifted my mood and awakened a deep hunger for God and my faith.

How would you feel if you were living your ideal life?

Jesus said to his disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Peace is a perfect antidote to anxiety and anger and fear. There is so much we cannot control, so many things that are out of our hands. Will we have jobs, savings or health when all of this is over? We might not be able to choose whether these things happen to us in the coming weeks and months.

But we can choose how we spend our days. When we choose, we empower ourselves. With God’s grace, we create the hope we so dearly need. It begins with choosing how we spend our days.

We can find God’s peace in prayer, in online meetings, in reading the Bible and other spiritual material, especially when we make it a daily part of our lives. I’d like to suggest we begin by reading Psalm 27 out loud each day and know that God is with us right now.

Giving myself more time with God, and creating structure in my day, has given me purpose and hope. I believe it will for you, too. God will bless you as you begin.

Let’s get started on living lives of our own design.

Resources to get started

Spiritual support

  • Visit your local church website for online Sunday and midweek services.
  • My favorite apps for prayer, guided meditation and Bible reading:
    • Holy Bible app: free
    • Hallow app: free for the first three months
    • Dwell app: free church access until June 8

Mental health support

Educational resources

  • Summit County Libraries: Get a free library card and download books, audiobooks and magazines at SummitCountyLibraries.org
  • Explore Your Future: Discover, design and develop your career. Four-part series on April 20, 23, 27 and 31. Email info@mountainscareers.com.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.

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