A note from Kelly King: Today is the last of Kaye Hurta’s series on Advent. In today’s article, she gives some helpful advice in seeing the difference between depression and anxiety. Anxiety is the opposite of peace—an attribute we all seek in our lives and in our culture. Read closely as she gives you some helpful ways to come beside someone who might be struggling with anxiety.
The two sides of the same coin are wounding and wonder or pain and promise, if you prefer. In this life, we all hold both of these in one hand; they are two sides of the same coin. We hold this tension year round, but it is far more pronounced during the holidays—especially Christmas!
We have entered a season on the church calendar called Advent. Advent is celebrated in the church during the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Traditionally there is a wreath that holds five candles. One is lit each of the four Sundays, and the fifth is lit on Christmas Day. The first candle represents hope, as proclaimed through the prophets. The second is love, as demonstrated in the manger when Love (Jesus) was birthed. The third candle represents joy as announced through the shepherds. The fourth represents peace as heralded through the angels. The final candle is the Christ candle which represents Him as the light of the world.
Last week we took a glance at the third theme of advent, love. This week we will look at the theme for the third week of Advent and then flip the coin over and see it through the lens of someone in pain. It is my prayer that it will help you lead and minister to those who are hurting through the holidays.
Go ahead a light a candle (literally or figuratively) to represent Peace.
Last week we took a close up look at depression. A close relative to depression is anxiety. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States affecting 40 million adults over the age of 18. It is highly treatable, but very few seek treatment. There are many types of anxiety disorders which we will not discuss in length. However, it is helpful to remember anxiety isn’t simply about trying to “worry less.” One hallmark of anxiety is feeling out of control with excessive worry. Given the current state of our culture, is it any wonder that anxiety is common?
Here are 7 common signs of anxiety:
- Excessive worry, feeling out of control
- Sleep disturbances (and as a result of lack of sleep, feeling physically exhausted, foggy brain)
- Panic attacks
- Muscle tension (wringing hands, clinched jaw, stiff back or neck)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Flashbacks (Something may trigger a painful memory and cause anxiety; this is common with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.)
- Social anxiety (shutting down in large or unfamiliar social settings)
The flip side of the anxiety coin is peace. Philippians 4:6-7 outlines a biblical promise for controlling anxiety, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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” (NIV).
A word of caution: while I believe in the healing power of Jesus over ALL disease, including mental illness, simply prescribing this verse to someone with an anxiety disorder would be harmful. Unless you are a mental health professional, the best approach for coming alongside someone with anxiety (or any mental illness) is this:
- Normalize. Reassure the person they are not alone in their struggles.
- Stabilize. Encourage deep breathing and focus in the moment while you…
- Seek professional help. If the situation is out of control, call 911. If not, make referrals to counselors and psychiatrists.
- Love does. Without crossing personal boundaries, sometimes an offer to go to an appointment with someone is the key to them getting help.
At Christmas it can seem like the whole world is singing of hope, love, joy, and peace. For someone who is hurting this can be extremely lonely and isolating. As we lead and serve, let’s commit to an increased awareness of the potential pain around us. Let’s pray for wisdom and opportunities to engage with women in their stories. Let’s listen well, love well, and be ready with appropriate referrals and next steps. Above all, let’s pray. Pray that the God of all comfort will pour Himself out on those who are hurting this season.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.