Anxiety is rooted in fear of perceived danger, in the perception that something is about to go wrong or will go wrong in the future. But what Jesus teaches us is to come back to the present moment — to be where your feet are because tomorrow will have enough trouble. Although it is okay to be concerned about the future, we shouldn’t worry about it.
There is a difference between experiencing anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. Anxiety becomes a mental health concern when it starts interrupting your day-to-day functioning — when the distress is taking away from your ability to engage with people as a friend, or to engage in your job or any role you might have.
Not all anxiety is bad. For example, if you are going to confession, you may experience some anxiety, which is normal. Negative thoughts are normal, too, but not helpful. But just because we “think” something may happen or is happening does not make it fact. We have to identify and observe our thinking. We always have thoughts, but not every thought is accurate. Accepting a self-induced anxiety as reality can impact not only ourselves but also how we interact with others.
Many times, self-care can be hijacked by the marketing industry, encouraging you to “treat yourself,” (and spend money on distractions). That is not what self-care is. Self-care is what feeds your soul — what fuels you and gives you energy.
What self-care is really depends on your personality. Asking yourself, “What do I need?” might be seen as selfish by some, but it is actually selfless and important; we cannot give when we don’t receive. We cannot pour out from an empty cup. It needs to be filled first.
Our thoughts impact our perspective and our emotions. In turn, our actions are affected because our emotions are lived experiences within our bodies.
What does God tell us about anxiety? God tells us, “I will take care of you.”
Consider starting your day by spending time with the Lord — setting aside some time for uninterrupted prayer to a means of feeling better. Grounded in the reality of Christ, we are able to encounter all the daily difficulties and be reminded that grace exists in the present moment.
One of the beauties of Catholicism is the grace we can encounter in the present moment. Our faith teaches us that while carrying our cross, Jesus gives us the grace to encounter difficulty. No one is happy all the time, no matter what social media tries to convey. Emotions are experienced all day, every day. They impact our thinking, decision-making, behavior, learning, creativity and performance. There is a physiological response to emotions. The more we try to get rid of them, the stronger they become. Being aware of our emotions helps us to be able to be more intentionally present. Emotions are meant to be indicators, and identifying your fuel is what will enable you to not run on empty.
So, become more self-aware, identifying and observing your thoughts. As the saying goes, “name it to tame it!” Seek helpful tools and resources and be grounded in truth.
Struggling and suffering are very real, so if you need help, reach out to a professional therapist, or call your diocese or archdiocese to discover helpful resources within the Church.
Melissa Alvarez is an assistant associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and Ministry with Persons with Disabilities in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.