I have a confession: I usually hide my worries pretty well, but with COVID-19, sheltering in place, and “homeschooling,” my children have turned into 24/7 truth-tellers, picking up on my stress.
I was sitting on the couch one day, scrolling through my phone, when eleven-year-old Caleb came over and said, “Mom, what’s wrong? You look so upset!”
“I am?” I said, switching to my nothing-is-wrong voice. “No, I’m not upset.”
“Yeah, you are. Did I do something wrong?” He looked at me with concern.
I was caught red-handed. I was overthinking. I was replaying my problems like ticking off a grocery list, except everything I was ruminating about was not good for the soul. The chaos of my thoughts showed on my face.
With each week passing with COVID-19, not knowing what’s going to happen next, we are all absorbing a lot of chaos – not just in our homes, adjusting to changes, or the news – but chaos in our hearts and minds as we overthink.
But God can bring order out of our chaos. We know that when He first created the world, He started in a place of darkness of chaos and then brought order into it.
With God’s love, we can shelter in peace as we shelter in place.
The coronavirus isn’t the only thing we need to be saved from. We need rescue from our overthinking. We need God’s peace.
Today, I’d like to share a soul care tip to help you stop overthinking and stop the cycle of rumination. It’s one of forty practices, based on science and inspired by God’s word, that helped me heal from anxiety as I shared in my book Whispers of Rest. I know it will help you too!
Here’s the tip: One way to experience God’s peace is to do something with our hands.
The part of our brains that ruminates, overthinks everything, and replays problems we can’t solve (that’s why we obsess over them) triggers the fight-or-flight response. It’s actually the way God created our brains to protect us. When we have a problem, our minds kick into a mode where we think about the problem until it’s solved. So, it’s working the way God designed our problem solving skills to work.
But when we’re processing something that can’t be solved, because it’s unknown or uncertain, that’s when anxiety kicks in. Our bodies respond with heart-pounding anxiety and overthinking.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, like not being able to sleep or simply feeling anxious. But we can break that rumination by doing something with our hands.
Our nervous system can only handle processing a certain amount of information before we are overwhelmed – kicking our body into the fight or flight response of stress and anxiety. So, the repetitive motion of creating things with our hands, whether drawing, playing music, gardening, or photography, returns calm to our system.
So, what is it that returns calm to you? God can use it to save us from the chaos in our minds and hearts.
God’s developed in you some passion or interest that you enjoy. You don’t have to be great at it. That’s not the point. The point is that God wants to bring peace and joy through simple things you enjoy making with your hands.
So, when you feel you’re overwhelmed with the news and you worry about your loved ones or whatever is happening, give yourself permission to do something with your hands. Researchers find that when we do things in repetitive motions, we enter a state of flow.
Have you heard of “finding your flow”? Finding your flow is similar to meditation. Your body returns your heart rate and blood pressure to a state of rest, as in meditation. So, maybe you’ve never thought of it that way, but the interests God has given you is actually a gift of meditation. You can meditate through doing things that you enjoy!
Finding your flow activates dopamine, which eases stress and increases happiness. It’s God’s natural mood enhancer! One study showed 3,500 people with depression found 81% reported feeling happy once they started knitting.
So, don’t minimize the things that give you rest and joy. They’re often the first things we start letting go of when we’re stressed, but they may be the very ways we can experience God’s peace in the midst of anxiety.
As you practice this soul care tip, your soul will be refilled and you will be able to offer the peace you experience to those you love. In response to my son’s concern, I hugged him saying, “You haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve been working too hard, thinking about too much stuff. Everything’s okay. Let’s take a break and do something fun!” God’s peace surrounded us, and we rested in each other’s embrace.
What is something you enjoy doing that brings you peace or rest?
Want more practical tips to shelter in peace and lower anxiety? Sign up for “7 Prayers & Promises to Calm Your Soul” & my Weekly Soul Care Tips! You can download this free resource to use to pray and receive what God promises us. Sign up here! To help encourage you, I’m launching a Whispers of Rest Book Club on May 11! I’ll cheer you on! Join here.
Soul care tip for anxiety in a pandemic: Find your flow and free your heart. Make something with your hands. -@thebonniegray: Click To Tweet