To celebrate National Nurses Day a health care education company offered me one free continuing education unit toward keeping up my RN license. They promised to train me in self-soothing techniques in an online video.
Their suggestions became more and more removed from reality as the training went on.
Their recommendations to reduce stress and anxiety fell into four categories: meditation on our own bodies’ responses to a memory; physical self-soothing, such as rubbing our own faces, or rocking back and forth; giving thanks to ourselves; and even talking to an imaginary friend.
The training included a segment where a New York City nurse describes the distress and despair she feels working in an ICU with COVID-19 patients who are suffering and dying daily. I wept when I heard what she faces.
It reminded me of what nurses and advocates in pregnancy care centers have been facing for years.
You see a little baby on an ultrasound one day, and the next day you find out the baby has been painfully killed through abortion. You look at the statistics of deaths from abortion, which dwarf the deaths from the coronavirus, and wonder if it will ever end. You lovingly talk for hours with a woman to keep her from the pain of abortion, but she does it anyway.
Is mindfulness enough to keep you engaged, caring and hopeful? Will meditating on your toes, rubbing your arm, praying to yourself or talking to an imaginary friend keep you from anxiety and despair?
The world is bombarded with the mindfulness message as a way to cope with pain, anxiety, fear and death.
But God has something much better for us.
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Instead of meditating on ourselves or the earth, we should meditate on the truth of the Bible. There is nothing wrong with imagination and remembering good days, as long as it doesn’t drive us to become self-absorbed.
The book of Philippians gives a beautiful list of things to think about.
It says to think about what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, anything of good repute, excellence or worthy of praise. It even says to keep dwelling on these things. Our dwelling is where we live. When the stresses get too great, we can ask ourselves, “Where does my mind live right now? Am I dwelling on God’s thoughts or something else?”
A source of anxiety for the New York City nurse, and for all of us, is that we cannot help as many people as we want. We also wish we could do more for each person. But we don’t have unlimited power within ourselves.
Jesus knows this and says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30).
He does not ask any of us to overburden ourselves. And He does not ask us to sooth ourselves, instead He calls us to His side where He will comfort us, take away our heavy burdens, give us His light burden and carry it with us.
Jesus wants us to come to Him in prayer, not to ourselves.
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If we pray to ourselves, we do not have the power to answer! But God hears and answers.
The Bible promises that if we make requests to God, and thank Him (not ourselves), He will guard our hearts and minds with peace (Philippians 4:7-8). When there is so much turmoil around us, we need that supernatural peace. God loves to show compassion to us whenever we come to Him.
Do we need to invent an imaginary friend to talk to when we have a friend in Jesus?
The New York City nurse feels she has no one to talk to about what she is experiencing. She feels others wouldn’t be able to handle hearing about it. But Jesus is called the Man of sorrows. He knows all the griefs of all mankind for all time. Nothing shocks Him. He can hear our darkest, saddest thoughts and help us manage them.
God provides us with human friends as well. Even if they don’t completely understand us, they somewhat understand, and they care. God gives us other believers within our church to help build us up and to pray for us.
People working on the front lines of the pro-life movement need prayer support. Asking friends to pray for us as we serve will help us keep going with joy and hope when situations look bleak and hopeless.
Mindfulness techniques and ideas might make us feel better for a while, but they are not based in reality or Christian principles.
During the video the instructor rang a bell and said that in coming to the end of the meditation participants would “come back into this space.” In other words, she had guided them to leave reality. Being out of touch with reality is a definition of insanity.
Again, there is nothing wrong with imagination, but letting someone guide us out of reality in an altered mental state is spiritually dangerous. It will not solve any real problems, or give genuine relief from anxiety and stress.
If we use self-soothing techniques, who are we going to for help? Ourselves. If we give thanks to ourselves, who are we centering our prayers on? Ourselves. If we have an imaginary friend, who are we talking to? Ourselves.
We have a real God who is much higher than our human selves. He is more able to help us in time of need than any other force.
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God offers many ways to help us handle stress. He’s given us prayer, His Word, His friendship and other Christians. We do not need to turn to our limited selves when we know an unlimited God.
Editor's note: National Nurses Day is celebrated on May 6 each year to raise awareness of the significant role nurses play in society. It marks the beginning of National Nurses Week, ending on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale. Pregnancy Help News extends gratitude to all nurses for their service to the healthcare profession each and every day of the year.