I have a confession: I usually hide my worries pretty well, but with COVID-19, sheltering in place, and “homeschooling,” my children have turned into 24/7 truth-tellers, picking up on my stress.
I was sitting on the couch one day, scrolling through my phone, when eleven-year-old Caleb came over and said, “Mom, what’s wrong? You look so upset!”
“I am?” I said, switching to my nothing-is-wrong voice. “No, I’m not upset.”
“Yeah, you are. Did I do something wrong?” He looked at me with concern.
I was caught red-handed. I was overthinking. I was replaying my problems like ticking off a grocery list, except everything I was ruminating about was not good for the soul. The chaos of my thoughts showed on my face.
With each week passing with COVID-19, not knowing what’s going to happen next, we are all absorbing a lot of chaos – not just in our homes, adjusting to changes, or the news – but chaos in our hearts and minds as we overthink.
But God can bring order out of our chaos. We know that when He first created the world, He started in a place of darkness of chaos and then brought order into it.
With God’s love, we can shelter in peace as we shelter in place.
The coronavirus isn’t the only thing we need to be saved from. We need rescue from our overthinking. We need God’s peace.
Today, I’d like to share a soul care tip to help you stop overthinking and stop the cycle of rumination. It’s one of forty practices, based on science and inspired by God’s word, that helped me heal from anxiety as I shared in my book Whispers of Rest. I know it will help you too!
Here’s the tip: One way to experience God’s peace is to do something with our hands.
The part of our brains that ruminates, overthinks everything, and replays problems we can’t solve (that’s why we obsess over them) triggers the fight-or-flight response. It’s actually the way God created our brains to protect us. When we have a problem, our minds kick into a mode where we think about the problem until it’s solved. So, it’s working the way God designed our problem solving skills to work.
But when we’re processing something that can’t be solved, because it’s unknown or uncertain, that’s when anxiety kicks in. Our bodies respond with heart-pounding anxiety and overthinking.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, like not being able to sleep or simply feeling anxious. But we can break that rumination by doing something with our hands.
Our nervous system can only handle processing a certain amount of information before we are overwhelmed – kicking our body into the fight or flight response of stress and anxiety. So, the repetitive motion of creating things with our hands, whether drawing, playing music, gardening, or photography, returns calm to our system.
So, what is it that returns calm to you? God can use it to save us from the chaos in our minds and hearts.
God’s developed in you some passion or interest that you enjoy. You don’t have to be great at it. That’s not the point. The point is that God wants to bring peace and joy through simple things you enjoy making with your hands.
So, when you feel you’re overwhelmed with the news and you worry about your loved ones or whatever is happening, give yourself permission to do something with your hands. Researchers find that when we do things in repetitive motions, we enter a state of flow.
Have you heard of “finding your flow”? Finding your flow is similar to meditation. Your body returns your heart rate and blood pressure to a state of rest, as in meditation. So, maybe you’ve never thought of it that way, but the interests God has given you is actually a gift of meditation. You can meditate through doing things that you enjoy!
Finding your flow activates dopamine, which eases stress and increases happiness. It’s God’s natural mood enhancer! One study showed 3,500 people with depression found 81% reported feeling happy once they started knitting.
So, don’t minimize the things that give you rest and joy. They’re often the first things we start letting go of when we’re stressed, but they may be the very ways we can experience God’s peace in the midst of anxiety.
As you practice this soul care tip, your soul will be refilled and you will be able to offer the peace you experience to those you love. In response to my son’s concern, I hugged him saying, “You haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve been working too hard, thinking about too much stuff. Everything’s okay. Let’s take a break and do something fun!” God’s peace surrounded us, and we rested in each other’s embrace.
What is something you enjoy doing that brings you peace or rest?
Want more practical tips to shelter in peace and lower anxiety? Sign up for “7 Prayers & Promises to Calm Your Soul” & my Weekly Soul Care Tips! You can download this free resource to use to pray and receive what God promises us. Sign up here! To help encourage you, I’m launching a Whispers of Rest Book Club on May 11! I’ll cheer you on! Join here.
Soul care tip for anxiety in a pandemic: Find your flow and free your heart. Make something with your hands. -@thebonniegray: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I enjoyed your post and agree that “finding your flow” helps with a certain degree of overthinking or ruminating. If, however, you find the overthinking and ruminating becoming debilitating (extreme anxiety sets in along with depression) it could be signs of a mental illness called OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Everyone thinks of OCD as being obsessiveness in cleaning or maintaining order. It is much more complicated than that. People who suffer from OCD find themselves obsessing about all sorts of disturbing thoughts (all of them with negative outcomes). This is a sign that there is a chemical imbalance in your brain and it can be treated with medicine and behavioral therapy. I know, I suffer from severe OCD. It’s like being a worry wart on steroids. There is help and there is hope. Crises like this pandemic can trigger obsessive thinking. Don’t suffer in silence…find medical help.
Bonnie Gray says
Thanks for sharing this and adding this thought to this community of sisters here, Bev!
Michele Morin says
There is so much wisdom in simply doing what needs to be done. Here, it’s been a season of tending to “routine” chores that somehow never find their way to the top of the list in ordinary time: cleaning out closets, organizing, and even doing some writing to record the details of this pandemic for the young men who call me Mum. My favorite coronavirus inspired activitiy has been the daily story time with our grandchildren via Zoom.
Blessings to you, Bonnie, as you trust to let “the peace of Christ rule in your heart.”
Bonnie Gray says
aw.. that is SO precious! beautiful memories being made with your grandkids! what a blessing, Michele!
Christy Frampton says
I love the idea of reading to grandkids on Zoom, I have been thinking about asking to do that also!
Michele Morin says
Oh, you definitely should! It gives your kids a 10-15 minute break as your grands are riveted to the screen, and, for us, it has kept the connection between us and our littles warm and familiar.
During this time, I find myself drifting back to the past – mistakes I have made and the way that I wish things were different. While I do ultimately need to deal with those things, I like the idea of having another tool in my toolbox. Now, I just have to figure out what to do!
Bonnie Gray says
What a healing insight and ah-moment, Elizabeth! Yes, it gives our hearts the reprieve and break, to fill us up to then have grace and space to move through the things God’s prompting us to talk through and work through with Him.
Bonnie – This was much needed. I loved how you explained that our brains are made to problem solve and when they cannot solve because of the unknowns involved – how long is this going to last, what are the facts and what is fiction, etc. then our brains get tired and anxious. I’ve been feeling those things as well. A lot. I do have things to keep my hands busy and yes, it does help. Thank you for sharing from your heart. I love reading your thoughts. Blessings to you.
Bonnie Gray says
I’m so happy to hear your ah-ha moment that is encouraging you!! thank you, Barbara!
Darlene Slon says
Thank you for your post Bonnie and sharing your heart! To admit our weakness is big! I love to craft and create and I tend to be a person who overthinks as well! I often have used my crafting as a way to “ settle “ my mind from constantly overthinking. I always thought this was a cop out and never realized it until you have shared it this way that it is a gift God has given me! A way to meditate and relax. I am often the most happy when I am creating! Thank you for sharing this and giving me new insight!
Bonnie Gray says
I LOVE that connection between crafting and God’s gift to you for meditation and relaxation to refill with His peace!! YES! praise God!
Christy Frampton says
Thanks for that reminder, our crafts and skills are God’s gift to us, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time to work on those things! I’ve been crocheting every chance I get and sometimes when I should be working on something else but it’s all good. 🙂
I have MS, so stay at home is what I need to do. Our official order of shelter in place has been lifted, but having a compromised immune system, I still need to stay home. My sister brought some flowers and tomato plants to me. While planting these beautiful things, I forgot about what the world is fighting. You are right! Working with my hands did give me a peaceful feeling. I know now that “finding my flow” is what I need to do. Keep my hands busy. Thank you so much for helping me to find something that will get me through this mess!
Bonnie, what an incredible and well-timed story! I have a rare lung disease, among other coexisting illnesses, so like Peggy above, I stay at home. Our order was lifted, and some places are open for business.
I find that when I’m writing, sending cards, or cooking, my hands are busy. These are all things that are therapeutic for me but helps others, too.
Oh, Peggy, I was planning to have my hubby get me a few too to plants over the weekend and forgot. Your comment just reminded me. I have several friends with MS, and I can understand how difficult this stay at home Is as it continues for us. Take care of yourself.
Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing, I never thought of this soup step. XOXO
Ruminate is one of my favorite words when it comes to Bible study. (I teach a women’s study and they always smile when I use that word because it is such an old word that people don’t use much any longer.) Your devotion gave me a new glimpse into the meaning of this word. I love that! I have always thought of ruminate as just positive way of thinking through different Bible verses. But as I read your words, I saw myself in them. I do tend to ruminate way too much on some things. I love that you connected how our brains work and helped me understand why certain hobbies bring me peace. I grabbed your ebook and can’t wait to read it. Thanks!!
Thank you so much for your words and insight. I have a tendency to worry about things as well and beat myself up for past mistakes. But, I do, do things with my hands. I crochet and read, but, I love listening to sermons and music online from different teachers and favorite Christian music artists. I never liked just “sitting there” listening, so I bought some adult christian coloring books. I listen and color and found myself really enjoying all the different color combinations I could come up with. It’s fun and relaxing. My husband came in my craft room while I was in front of the computer listening to Christian music and coloring. He started to ask me something not related to what I was doing and he stopped in the middle of it and said, “you’re coloring”. I smiled. I said, “I know. I haven’t done it since I was a kid.” He said, “why are you now?” I said, “I don’t know, it just makes me feel good.” So thank you Bonnie, for letting me know why I’m enjoying something usually considered for kids. I get to enjoy my sermons and music and color some pretty awesome pictures! (I printed off your article to show some friends. It’s a blessing to understand how God created us and the science behind why we do the things we do!) 🙂
Sarah M. says
The reason why we put down the things that we love to do first in times of stress, is because Satan loves to hit us in whatever way we can. So, if we stop using our talents that God has given us during these times of stress and anxiety, Satan does a little happy dance. I know. I’ve been there. It’s a conscious effort (sometimes daily) to make sure I DON’T give up those things, and it DOES calm me and refocus me back to God. In November of last year, God gave me the word “Joy” a bit early for my 2020 word! (I have never done a word before, but He knew I needed it this year, so He had me prep for it!). The corresponding Scripture verse is Nehemiah 8:10 – “The JOY of the Lord is my strength.” We are choosing JOY during this crazy time. It’s not always easy, but I’ll tell you what – when I listen to my neighbors and other family members or acquaintances, our home is so peaceful compared to theirs, and I truly believe it’s because God is blessing us with His JOY, as we rely on Him each day.
Thanks for sharing!
Thank you so much for your blog. It touched my heart. I can relate to the anxiety of the unknown and worry about the future. I am currently awaiting the arrival of your book, Whispers of Rest.
I never realized that doing something with my hands would be another tool in my anxiety reducing toolbox. Thank you! A dear friend of mine 14 years ago patiently taught me how to knit when I was on bed rest in the hospital with my first unborn baby. It has been sitting in my closet for a long time and I thought I should pull it out and work on it again. You just reminded me there is another reason why I should pull it out and reteach myself. Thank you! Stay safe and healthy.
William H Gohn III says
Thank You, Bonnie Gray — and those who’ve “Replied”. May I add my bit? I’ve ‘discovered’ how we, God’s children, perhaps most of the time “do” His ‘precious and magnificent promises’ without consciously being aware. I have been writing significant posts (letters that are mailed USPO – whom doesn’t like an actual letter-in-hand?) to family, immediate and extended. I expect nothing in return and hope n’ pray that my heartfelt words somehow lift the recipients, to wit: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth”. (Col.3:2) This DOES get me off of myself, and WITH others (see Mk.12:31; Gal.6:2, e.g.); and, what a lift I get! Surprise, Surprise. ‘Tis more blessed to give than to receive, ‘eh? I very much enjoy writing… with purpose — as J.M.Straczynski informs, “Nobody does anything without a purpose”.
Bishop Sheen begins his seminal book PEACE OF SOUL with these words: “Unless souls are saved, nothing is saved; there can be no world peace unless there is soul peace”. And, as we know, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (Rom.5:1) There are oodles of such written/spoken stuff ‘out there’, yet I take the advice of Glenda (the Good witch): “It’s always good to start at the beginning”. Our blessed creator God is the beginning… Prayers for, Grace to All.
I imagine you and your son had fun doing that something fun after that hug! It does take conscious effort to get out of over-thinking. I’ve been working on moving on an action quicker so not to start over-thinking. It could be as simple as doing the dishes, or tidying up my desk, or petting my cat. Creating is always a place of being fully present for me. I noticed I have to be intentional to not worry or overthink otherwise that furrow will start to developing between my eyes. And I’d rather not deepen it!
Love this Bonnie! Thank you so much for sharing! I love water coloring and taking pictures of nature. ❤️
Judy M Wagner says
I find this message so familiar, I too have always been a worry wart, and over think things, until a few years ago when I retired. I find that I am more relaxed about things when my time is my own and if I don’t get everything done, there’s always tomorrow. But my dad turned 88 yrs. old last month and he seems to have picked up the worrying where I left off. All kinds of little things seems to bother him and with the Corona Virus shutdown and social distancing he is worrying even more now. Things like not being able to go to the bank, but he has plenty of cash on hand and I am available if he needs anything at all. He has plenty of groceries and any other supplies. But he worries about the little things that if I had been worried about growing up I would have been told to stop my “broutzing” — a Pennsylvania Dutch term, that is probably spelled wrong, but means stop complaining and whining! So how do I stop his fears that when food is spilled or he runs out of milk, it’s not a big deal. If he gets junk mail it’s nothing to get excited about, just shred it. The doctor rescheduled an appointment and wrote a new prescription, so that is a worry now too. He seems to find so many little things to worry about that I find trivial now. So I found I let go of my fears to reassure him. But how do I remind an 88 year old man that we will get through this too just like his family got through the Great Depression and wars. God has it all under control and it will be alright. All I can do is pray and and give dad a reassuring smile that it is OK, take it one day at time and we will get through it together.
Caren Heacock says
Hi Judy: 2 things that might be helpful for your dad, that I use on myself. Let him know that it is perfectly OK to state what he feels is worrisome. But then suggest that for every worry he has, he should think of one thing he is thankful for. The thankful thought does not have to be related to the worry thought. He could be worried about not having enough food, and then thank God for the lilacs that are in bloom.
I also find it helpful to sing a silly song. Singing an old hymn or worship song is even better. However, I find that being ‘silly’ can be helpful. Every time he has a fearful thought, he could sing: “Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O. And on this farm he had some FEARS, E-I-E-I-O. With an “Oh-No” here, and a “Watch-Out” there. Run around, falling down, everyone get out of town. Old MacDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O”. This isn’t to make fun of fear, but to help balance it. May God’s peace, power, presence and purpose be breathed in my us all.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Bonnie I have no kids. But I know this with being a Childminder for 19 years. My Sisters having kids. Hearing my late Mum say this as well. You as Mum are meant to strong and not worry about anything and have the answers to all the questions your kids ask you. Plus make them not feel scared or worried. But you as Mum are human yourself. You do get scared and at times go into overthinking. Worry about yourself and your kids. Things like am I being a good parent to my kids. I don’t want them to see I am scared or worried. Stop my brain thinking about this Covid 19. What the further will hold for my kids. I just a parent. Am I doing a good job you will be saying to yourself as well. But I will say this. Every Good parents worries. They will even when their kids grow up leave home. No matter what the reason they leave it. To go Uni to get Married. Even during thie Covid 19. Even when they are young still at home no matter what age they are you as parent still worry about your kids. Especially if they take ill. Let hope that never happens. You as parent worry about yourself as well. You go into overthinking. Only way to stop this is to stop listing too the News as often looking up things on your Mobile as often or the internet on your Ipad or Tablet. Especially in the times we are in to do with Covid 19. Start standing on the Promises in God word the Bible like prov 3 verses 5 & 6 and Prayer. Praying over your Kids and Husband everyday. Saying psalm 91 every day over your life and putting on the Armor of God on Every day in Eph 6 verses 13 – 18 God will be with you. He will help you. I apply this over my life every day so does my Husband. Psalm 91 Eph 6 13 – 18 the Armor of God. I stand on the promises of God word and prayer. With Gods help you can do it. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Linda Schaeffer says
Bonnie… your witness, the truth you share, shines through in your family photo in their faces. Your young son is an empath! I wonder what the boys will remember when they grow up? They will be so blessed to have your books. xoxo
Nancy Ruegg says
Thank you, Bonnie, for “permission” to participate in activities involving our hands–with scientific evidence for the benefits no less. No wonder God gave us the desire to be creative. It’s not self-indulgent–it’s a healthy choice!
Thank you so much for reminding me to set aside some time each day to do the things that bring me joy like listening to my favorite station that plays encouraging, uplifting contemporary Christian music (and singing along with it when I feel moved to do so). I also like to knit and color in adult coloring books. God bless you!
Thank you for sharing this tip! Confirms what I’m already feeling the Lord lead me into – focusing on the option of creating more and allowing myself to do it. You are a blessing!
Beth Williams says
Women are natural worriers. This pandemic has increased fears. We need soul care tips to help us get through this tough time. Our lives & our children’s lives have been disrupted-immensely for some. We need to find a way to calm our rattled souls. Doing something with our hands & for others is one way to keep our minds off the current situation. For me I have been cooking more. Trying new healthy recipes. Also working on two Bible studies-“Fingerprints of God” by Jennifer Rothschild & “Dangerous Prayers” by Craig Groeschel with Proverbs 31 on line. We also need to help our children during this time. Reading to them via zoom or playing games with them. They need distractions for their little souls also. Maybe now is a time to teach them things like how to cook, do laundry, learn new skills. Way to bond with them & make them feel special.