The holidays are upon us, and though there’s a song that says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” the truth is that it can be a time of both joy and anxiety. Besides the stress of busy schedules filled with a myriad of tasks and activities, there can be a heightened sense of uneasiness for those who are experiencing grief, disappointment, or difficulty. Though there are no quick and easy fixes for anxiety, particularly if it is chronic or acute, there are some basic “first steps” (not solutions) that can help to point us in the right direction when we find ourselves in the midst of an anxiety-producing situation. Because I love alliteration and storytelling, I’d like to offer three S’s for addressing anxiety by sharing a recent anxious episode from my own life.
I woke up and glanced at the clock. It was 5:15 a.m., and I had set alarms on both my phone and Fitbit for one hour earlier so that I could get to the airport and catch an early-morning flight home from a business trip. I knew I was tired, but I couldn’t believe that I had slept through two alarms—especially one buzzing on my wrist. I threw some clothes on, ran a brush through my hair, and sprinted out of the hotel as I called out my room number to the clerk behind the front desk and said, “Just email me the receipt!”
The drive to the airport was challenging in the early-morning darkness. Although the WAZE app is usually my friend, it didn’t recognize the difference between the access road and the interstate that ran parallel to it, which caused me to miss the on-ramp and to drive for many miles wondering if I’d ever be able to get onto the road I could see but not access. Oh, the irony of the term access road, I thought to myself with my hands tightly gripping the steering wheel.
I didn’t know if I would make my flight or be able to get another one later that day, and I realized that I had a choice: allow the cortisol coursing through my body to call the shots, or surrender the situation to God. So, I began to pray: “Lord, I have absolutely no control over my situation right now, and I release it to you. Whatever happens, I know you’re with me.” Then I began to breathe slowly and deeply, saying a favorite breath prayer with every inhale and exhale. My prayer was an invitation for God to ease my anxiety and give me His peace. Finally, I found an entrance to the interstate; and for the rest of the drive to the airport, WAZE led me faithfully as I continued to breathe and pray.
This brings us to the first S...
#1: Surrender the situation to God
As I pulled into the rental car garage, I tried to follow the signs to the right company but found myself on the wrong level. Rather than being able to back up or turn around, I had to exit and loop around and enter the garage again, taking even more time. When I finally pulled into the correct rental car area, I jumped out of the car, grabbed my suitcase, and dashed toward the terminal as I called out to the attendant, “Just email me the receipt!” (I laughed at myself as I realized this was the second time that morning I had said those words while running.) Along the way my phone buzzed, and it was a notice from the airline saying that my flight had been delayed thirty minutes. A reprieve! If I hurried, I might actually make it.
I maneuvered quickly through the airport and found my way to the security line. I’m sure I look like a hot mess, I thought as I caught the curious glance of another traveler in line. And then it hit me: something was missing—the weight of my computer bag. I must have left it in the rental car. Exiting the line quickly, I began to jog back toward the rental car garage with my suitcase in tow. Along the way, I stopped just long enough to pull out my phone and send a quick text to my husband: “Please pray. Left my computer in car and trying to get it back in time to catch flight.” I knew God was with me, but in that moment I needed to know that another human being was “in it” with me too. He immediately responded, “Praying…I love you! I know you are tired.” Those few simple words buoyed my soul. I felt seen, known, and loved.
This brings us to the second S...
#2: Share what’s going on with
When I made it back to the rental car area, I found the attendant who had checked in my car, explained the situation to her, and asked if she could help me. She said she would contact the driver who had taken the car to the holding area and ask him to look for my bag. I must have looked at my watch dozens of times in those ten to fifteen minutes that I waited. Yet I knew that if I missed my flight, it would be okay. And even if my computer wasn’t found, somehow that would be okay too. I knew I wasn’t alone and that others were there to help me. When I finally saw a gentleman approaching me with my computer bag on his shoulder, I was incredibly relieved and grateful. He seemed a little surprised when I ran over and gave him a big hug, saying, “Thank you! God bless you!” But as I turned to make my way back to the terminal, he smiled and wished me safe travels. Somehow, I managed to make it through security and get to my gate with a few minutes to spare.
This brings us to the third S...
#3: Seek the help you need.
After boarding the plane and getting settled in my seat, a woman with a service dog stopped in the aisle beside me and said, “Would it be okay if we sat here?”
“Sure,” I said. “What’s your dog’s name?”
“Little Girl,” she answered. I laughed because, as a full-grown greyhound, she was anything but little. The woman explained that she had boarded too late to get one of the front seats where Little Girl would have room to lie down. I learned that greyhounds find it difficult to sit and prefer to lie down, but there wasn’t room for either in our row. So, throughout the flight Little Girl stood cramped between our knees and the seats in front of us, shaking whenever there was turbulence. Her owner and the other two of us sitting in our row took turns stroking her back and speaking softly to her, trying to comfort her.
Though Little Girl is a service dog, not an official comfort dog, she provides both comfort and assistance to her owner. But in those moments during the flight, it was Little Girl who needed comfort. During our extra turbulent descent, I reflected on the fact that all of God’s creatures deal with anxiety, and we need one another in this bumpy journey through life.
As you make your way through the weeks ahead, there may be a few bumps and dips along the way. I encourage you to give yourself and others extra grace by remembering that no one is exempt from stress and anxiety, especially during such a busy and emotionally-charged season. And I hope that the three S’s will be helpful to you as “first steps” in responding to anxiety:
When you start to feel anxious, review the three S's in your mind and ask yourself, "What do I need to surrender? Who is someone safe I can share with? And what help do I need to seek?" Above all, remember that whatever you might be experiencing or feeling in any given moment—from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows—God sees you, knows you, and loves you. He is an ever-present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46;1), and He will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5). If that is difficult for you to believe right now, then reach out to someone who can come alongside you and believe it for you. My prayer for you in this season is that you will know you are not alone.
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Hi, I'm Sally!
I'm passionate about connecting with God and connecting with people, offering spiritual encouragement and companionship. I'm so grateful to be on the journey with you as we walk with God together.