Weathering anxiety

I returned home to Southern Florida in March when my internship was shut down due to COVID-19. I spent hours outside in the yard watching as the news seemed to get worse every day. I noticed that I felt anxiety about my future and how much life had changed during the pandemic.

As I sat outside, I admired the two huge palm trees at the start of my mom’s driveway. We planted these two palms trees when I was an infant. Today, they tower over 20 feet and have survived countless hurricanes over the past 25 years.

Every June to November is hurricane season. To prepare, my mother stocks up on nonperishable foods, bottled water, and emergency first-aid supplies.

If a hurricane is on the way, we board up the windows with large slabs of plywood and huddle inside until the storm passes. The storms can last several hours with seemingly endless rain and winds blowing over 100 miles per hour.

After a storm, the streets are littered with debris and fallen trees. We have lost many trees over the years, with one even falling on our roof. However, the two palm trees have remained standing year after year, undamaged.

I started to wonder…what is it that these palm trees know about weathering storms that I don’t?

Unlike regular trees, palm trees have a spongey fiber in the trunk, not a wood-like texture. This allows them flexibility and the ability to bend without breaking in strong winds.

One of the greatest tricks to dealing with anxiety is to remain flexible. Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn, leaving us stressed and upset. Flexibility means that we can change or adjust. Bending to accommodate the circumstances of our situations can help us stay hopeful and happy, even while feeling nervous.

Palm trees have long, beautiful green fronds with slits between the leaves, allowing wind to pass through. They are aerodynamic. How could you use this idea in your life? What would it feel like to let the insignificant things slip away and stop trying to do everything at once?  

Anxiety can be a sign that we need to take care of ourselves or change our focus. We can change the pace by spending time with family and those we love, praying, taking a break from social media, serving others, and doing an activity we enjoy. Don’t forget humor. It’s another way to let tension and anxiety go.

Just like palm trees, we are designed to weather storms. We will all go through experiences that are so anxiety-inducing we feel we cannot take another step—do not give up! Sometimes all we can do is breathe and wait for the storm to pass, but it will.

And of course, remember Jesus Christ, who is always there to help you. Philippians 4:13 is a great reminder: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Like a beautiful palm, you are designed to bend but not break and sway but not fall.

*Important Note: If your anxiety is affecting your life so much that it is difficult to function, please reach out to someone you love. At times, we need a little extra help to learn how to manage stress.

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