Friday, February 21, 2014

The Age of Anxiety

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

 Scott Stossel is  editor of The Atlantic magazine,which means he has a responsible job, functions at a high level and contributes to society in a meaningful way. He has also suffered from often paralysing fear, phobias, and anxiety since he was a child. He decided to write what proved to be an excellent article in The Atlantic in which he "outed" himself. His willingness to do so has proved  to be a gift in its honesty. Many people who know Stossel well, including those who work at the magazine had no idea how severe his anxiety can be. He has also written a book called My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind.

I saw an excellent interview with Stossel by Charlie Rose in which Scott speaks eloquently about anxiety in personal and general terms. He points out that while he grew up in a home where his mother was loving and overprotective, there is plenty of evidence that anxiety is in the genes.

There was a recent Maclean's magazine article on the "worry epidemic" which addresses the increasing incidence of anxiety in our society.

I have lived with anxiety all through my adult life and I have found ways to manage it for the most part. I have usually worked in very active pastorates with lots going on all the time. I like that, and my wife Ruth knows that my notion of the "kiss of death" is a quiet little congregation with not much in the way of challenge. But stress and anxiety can be exhausting and six years ago I took several months away from work to "restore my soul." My physician wisely decided that I didn't need to be medicated but I did need to step away and by God's grace and the help of friends I found a truly quiet farmhouse in the back-of-beyond where I roamed, read, and renewed. I found that the majority of my congregation was incredibly supportive and a handful were idiots. Not kind I know, but true. Some Christians aren't, and perhaps that's why so many are anxious about being outed as anxious!

I find that when I exercise, pray/meditate, and practice the Sabbath I am able to be present in the moment and live hopefully. When I fail to do so I feel myself drifting back into bad patterns which are unhealthy and soul-destroying.

Of course over the years I have spent lots of time with folk who are affected and even incapacitated by anxiety. Lots of them are young and are juggling a multitude of responsibilities and feel the anxiety rising like flood waters. Some of them are in later middle age and find they just can't cope the way they once did. Others have always been anxious, and maybe it is in the genes.

What are your thoughts about anxiety? Have you been able to find your way toward health, if you are anxious? Does your faith help? Remember folks, there is always hope, and God loves you.


Judy Mcknight said...

That verse at the beginning, from Philippians ALWAYS helps ! Faith in a God who truly cares for us is the only way to survive !

Laura said...

Had been thinking of a very busy friend today and tried to make contact to find that she was unwell. Crazy routines, demanding work and lots of "unfinished business" wear her down to unwell regularly.
As I walked my dogs in the glorious sunshine this afternoon I felt saddened that my friend's life had become so busy and difficult. Church, once a part of her family's life has been squeezed out. Really almost too busy for friendship anymore. She does so much for others, yet hasn't the time or support infrastructure to care and strengthen her own spirit. i think this is a modern problem.

The sunshine, and relative warmth of recent days has encouraged me outside again, away from my to-do list and work in progress even for a few minutes and I am reminded of the restorative power of exercise, pets and fresh air, and after a morning of spiritual journeying with teens and my church family, I feel blessed and mostly recharged to embrace the busyness of another week and a busy season ahead.

And now I am pushing my teenagers out the door with their dogs, away from homework and tv, to restore and refresh themselves (whether they want to or not)in hopes of teaching them good coping skills for this oft stressful journey of life.