The HeART of Spirituality – 6 Spiritual Ways to relieve stress & anxiety

Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.

Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Jesus Christ

In these times of uncertainty and social isolation fear and anxiety is pervasive. These emotions neurochemically ramp up our stress response. I know, because stress had a massive impact on my health.

Decades ago I was under “professional” stress – treating clients who were angry, depressed, anxious, “social” stress – parents who were in declining health and in and out of hospital, and “physical” stress – my hormones had sent me on a peri-menopausal roller-coaster ride.  I had acclimated to chronically elevated stress levels and I was spiritually bereft.

Ironically, one of my areas of “expertise” was treating clients who had chronic disease and acute illness.  I knew stress was well researched and dramatically impacts our central nervous systems; brains; respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, digestive and immune systems.  Stress can trigger anxiety, depression, headaches, high blood pressure, heartburn, backaches, infertility and a compromised immune system.  I would half-joke that God wanted me to know, not only on an intellectual level, what my clients experienced so I might be a better psychotherapist.  It wasn’t half of a joke, it was the truth.

It took me longer to learn that stress, anxiety, fear and anger impact, not only our physical & emotional well-being, but our spiritual well-being.  

Spiritual solutions to our fears exist.  Here are some basics:

Prayer Card Workshop, Collage

1. Recognize free-floating anxiety as well as

conscious fears.

It’s relatively easy to understand the fear of a unseen virus, anxiety over being isolated, mixed messages from authorities, unknown loss of income, our lives turned inside out.

Fear and anxiety are incompatible with spirituality.  It doesn’t mean to ignore or deny what the threats are.  It means to reach deep into faith and trust, that no matter how painful and difficult tests are, and believe positive change comes from crisis.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6.

Often, we don’t realize we are stressed or, like me, the levels of anxiety & fear we are unconsciously experiencing. There may be unresolved issues, unconscious, free-floating worries that we don’t acknowledge or even understand.  Try to pinpoint gnawing thoughts in the back of your mind that make you feel uneasy, depressed, or unhappy. Acknowledging and facing those issues will start the process of resolving them. 

Prayer Card Workshop, collage

2. Take care of yourself

This admonition is a concept and theological doctrine in Judaism, Christianity, and Sufism, Islam.  “All assert that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. Philosophers and theologians have debated the exact meaning of the phrase for millennia. Following Jewish tradition, scholars such as Saadia Gaon and Philo argued that being made in the Image of God does not mean that God possesses human-like features, but rather that the statement is figurative language for God bestowing special honor unto humankind, which He did not confer unto the rest of Creation.” Wikipedia

In the Baha’i tradition, which embraces the truth of ALL religions, taking care of ourselves not only involves our physical being but living, practicing all the virtues such as love, compassion, justice which God has bestowedIt is a spiritual imperative in times of extreme tests that our responses and behaviors are in keeping with spiritual virtues.

Prayer Card Workshop, collage

3. Laugh

Laughter is Spiritual Relaxation” Baha’i World Faith

  • God has a smile on His face. – Psalm 42:5

  • As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul. – A Jewish Proverb

  • Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer. – Reinhold Niebuhr

Laughter is a wonderful antidote to anxiety. Laughter and smiling release neurochemicals that elevate immune responses.  How can you be stressed when you laugh? When I laugh, I can’t help but be in the moment, and in that moment my troubles are forgotten:

Laughter is caused by the slackening or relaxation of the nerves. It is an ideal condition and not physical. Laughter is the visible effect of an invisible cause. For example, happiness and misery are super-sensuous phenomena. One cannot hear them with his ears or touch them with his hands. Happiness is a spiritual state.Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West

Scientists have proven that laughter and a good sense of humor are powerful stress eradicators. They help us detach from the heaviness of life and see things from a more balanced perspective. Laughter has been shown to have a positive effect on health and mood, so allow yourself some happiness, a bit of joy and some daily laughter.

Workshop Prayer Card, collage

4. Make time for others

Connecting with others can also be a powerful stress buster, provided it happens with those who raise you up.  Connection lets us give and get emotional, physical and spiritual support.  Friends and family can help us navigate rough waters and see solutions we weren’t aware existed.  Connection also reduces the risk of age-related cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease – it literally impacts your brain! Be sure you associate with those of like mind; spiritual, loving and non-judgmental people will lift your spirits:

The company of the ungodly increaseth sorrow, whilst fellowship with the righteous cleanseth the rust from off the heart. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words

We’ve had to isolate and can not physically be together but are blessed with smart phones, social media and the internet which allow us to connect in ways not available not so long ago. It’s an irony that many of us have lamented that these means of connection were keeping us apart.  A reminder for me to look for the positive in all things.

Prayer Card Workshop, collage

5. Use Prayer to talk to God and

Meditation to listen to God

In the holy scriptures of every religion, prayer and meditation hold a sacred position. Turning to our Creator and stating one’s wishes creates the path to resolving issue and the consolation of our hearts.  

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. – Philippians 4:16

Prayer clears the mist and brings back peace to the Soul. – Rumi

Prayer Card Workshop, collage

6. Trust in God

Pray, meditate, and above all else, trust in God that everything will turn out right no matter how hard or scary it is.  

Holding onto an OUTCOME can create anxiety, depression and frustration. Periodically, I still search for physical healing thinking I’ll be fully of energy and happy. Invariably I become more stressed and disappointment. I must remind myself that looking for the outcome I WANT isn’t necessarily the outcome I NEED.  But it’s hard to let go of what I want, a struggle to find the lessons I need.  I must continually remind myself to make the most of the blessings I have.  This helps me to see my situation in a different light and makes it easier to reconnect to my faith & trust.

Think back to all your deepest fears and worries:

  • How many came to fruition in the way you feared?  
  • What did you learn from those past difficult times?  
  • What was the good that grew in the aftermath?

“O thou who art turning thy face towards God! Close thine eyes to all things else, and open them to the realm of the All-Glorious. Ask whatsoever thou wishest of Him alone; seek whatsoever thou sleekest from Him alone. With a look He granteth a hundred thousand hopes, with a glance He healeth a hundred thousand incurable ills, with a nod He layeth balm on every wound, with a glimpse He freeth the hearts from the shackles of grief. He doeth as He doeth, and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-Merciful Lord”. – Abdu’l-Baha, 

Participants at one Prayer Card Workshop

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Jesus Christ

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P.S.  Find more exercises, tips, techniques & HOW-TO’s to diminish anxiety, fear, stress, ways to cope with social isolation and more . . .

Click here:   MAXyourMIND.

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