So how does one do it? How do you free your anxiety at a time like this? Staying inside with the TV on to a news channel or constantly looking at your phone will only build one’s anxiety.
Well, what did Jesus do when stress and anxiety built up around Him? He headed to nature.
Jesus and Anxiety
The Gospels tell us that after Jesus learned that his cousin John the Baptist died, He wanted to be alone. But instead of finding time alone, the crowds pressed in on Him. They wanted to hear from Him, and they wanted to receive healings. Jesus met their needs. But after a long day of preaching, the people were hungry. When Jesus saw they had no food, he met that need too and fed the 5,000.
What a long and stressful day that must have been for Him. The Gospel of Matthew records what He did next, “Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” (Matthew 14:22-23)
Wow! When Jesus needed time to de-stress and pray, He headed to nature. The Gospel of Luke says Jesus frequently visited nature, “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)
Ministry puts a lot of stress on someone and Jesus in human form most likely felt stress. Being wise, He knew how to get rid of it and went to the outdoors and prayed.
Head to the Outdoors to Free Your Anxiety
Today, health experts and government authorities tell us we need to “social distance.” The outside is a great place to exercise social distance and as Jesus shows us, it makes for a great place to free your anxiety.
The good news in this day of bleak news is that the trails in most state parks and nature areas remain open. And as I write, this still includes hard-hit states like New York. Be sure to check your local information before heading out.
The latest research shows that getting outside relieves anxiety by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Even spending a short amount of time outside helps.
Five Ways to De-Stress Outside
Even with social distancing, there remains plenty of things to do outside to free your anxiety.
- Go for a hike. Walking reduces stress. Being in nature reduces stress. Combine the two for an enjoyable outdoor experience and a great way to free your anxiety.
- Go for a walk. If you can’t get to nature, walking anywhere outside reduces stress. This includes walking in your own neighborhood or at a local park.
- Take the dog for a walk. This gives us the same benefits of going for a walk and just being with our pets helps lower our stress. Petting animals also lowers cortisol levels, so make sure you stop and pet the dog while you walk.
- Grow a Garden. This is the perfect time of year to start a flower or vegetable garden. Spending time in a garden reduces stress.
- Go for a bike ride. Bike riding is a good way to exercise. It gives us a feeling of freedom and it keeps us at distance from others.
- Bring your Bible and Pray. Not only does the Bible say prayer reduces stress, so does science (funny how that works). Shane Sharp, a Northern Illinois University sociologist who has studied prayer, said people can manage negative emotions through prayer. Sharp says “People, when they pray, it makes salient in their minds that God loves and cares for them.” God does care for us and call us to pray just as Jesus did. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So, both the Bible and science tell us that getting outside and praying reduces stress. And best of all, Jesus serves as our example. Let’s take that expert advice and get outside and pray. What a great way to free your anxiety!
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Pasquale “Pat” Mingarelli is a professional photographer, Christian speaker, and writer. He writes and speaks on experiencing God in and through His creation. Pat blogs daily on his site the Visual Bible Verse of the Day, where he combines God’s Word and His creation to encourage and inspire people in their daily life. Learn more at VisualVerse.TheCreationSpeaks.com
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