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March 24, 2022
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March 24, 2022

Anxiety and the Catholic Woman

By Denise Scott

I’m blessed but stressed!

“Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7, NAB)

Perhaps my anxiety has existed since I was a child. I never had a name for my anxious feelings, but the truth is, I only realised I had a problem with anxiety after the first pandemic lockdown in 2020.

I saw myself swivel out of control, and not be able to do anything about it. Crossing my fingers behind my back no longer worked. It was the tool I used since I was 11. What happened?

Going through the motions and being able to give my experience a name was important and in spite of it all, I don’t see anxiety as a totally bad thing. In fact, researchers believe that fear and anxiety can be seen as our protectors. They trigger the fight-or-flight responses in us and that motivates us to act against perceived dangers in our life.

While we may cast blame on the pandemic for the high reports on anxiety; perhaps we can also be grateful that it has helped to shine a light on the situation and lead us to have more intense conversations as a society on anxiety, particularly in adult women.

As a Catholic woman I discovered a few (faith) tools that have helped me to deal with anxiety. And though prayer alone doesn’t take away anxiety, a lot of these have helped me tremendously.

The Abandonment Rosary:- When my sister introduced me to the Abandonment or Surrender Rosary, it took me a while to accept it, because I had never heard of it before. But once I got into it, I did it all day every day for over a week. I soon realised I was doing it, mostly because it brought me great calm. Just consistently giving it all to Jesus was powerful. It says, “O Jesus, I

surrender myself to you, take care of everything.” Just realising that I did not have to fix the situation on my own helped with my anxiety.

Say a Novena: For me, novenas calm my soul and create a routine that takes my mind off my troubles. Novenas are nine-day prayers said for a particular intention. When I think of one of the earliest novenas in the Bible, I think back to the disciples in the Upper Room where they prayed for Jesus. Novenas have helped me to continually hand my anxiety to Jesus.

Divine Mercy:- Whenever a wave of anxiety hits me, I have started relying on the Divine Mercy prayer, “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Many times, all I have are my ten fingers, but I still say it. The repetition and remembering to count helps to centre me. “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

The Blessed Sacrament: My number one Catholic, anxiety-fighting tool is time spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Recently, I journeyed to the Centre of Peace in Woodbrook just to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Maybe ten minutes in, I was awash in my own tears. I did not know I had so much grief and pain within me, I cried until my mask was filled with snot (yeah, it was that kind of cry) and walked away feeling healed.

It is important to not only use spiritual tools to help with mental health issues. For this reason, we reached out to Royette Williams-James, a practising School Counsellor for the past 12 years as well as an Adjunct Lecturer at Caribbean Nazarene College. She has over 25 years’ experience in the field of education and psychology at all levels. Williams-James is presently completing Doctoral Studies in the field of Christian Counselling with emphasis on sex addiction and trauma, and their effects on children.

These are five suggested skills that can help us to deal with our anxiety.

1. Exercise: Research has shown that physical exercise can play an important role in an individual’s mental health and can relieve symptoms of anxiety.

2. Journalling: Journalling is a simple inexpensive way to assist with your anxiety. In a recent study, researchers have found that a person with anxiety who journalled for 15 minutes, three days a week over a 12-week period had increased feelings of well-being and fewer depressive symptoms after one month.

3. Meditation /Mindfulness: Practising mindfulness meditation can be an effective way to manage your anxiety, and can even be used as a relaxation technique for panic disorder.

4. Deep breathing: Most people take short, shallow breaths into their chest. It can make you feel anxious and zap your energy. Believe it or not, your breath is a powerful tool that can help to reduce your anxiety.

5. The ‘3-3-3’ rule: This is one of my favourite and a very easy way to assist with anxiety. The 3-3-3 rule is : Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm. This immediately helps to keep you grounded.

How do you deal with your anxiety? Please share what works for you at forwomen@catholictt.org