According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of the population experiences physical symptoms associated with stress on a regular basis, 33% report living with extreme stress, and 48% say stress has a negative impact on their personal and professional lives. I’ve been among them, experiencing crippling panic attacks for a year after my family moved to Manhattan. I cried out to God for relief, and he granted overwhelming peace. I wrote a book called You Are Free, and traveled the country speaking about freedom from panic.
And then last year, seven years after experiencing that sweet relief, panic struck again as I found myself locked in a confined space, my cell phone dead, with no one around to hear my cries for help. After escaping my panic-inducing predicament, devastation set in—I thought I had found freedom from these dreadful feelings, but here I was again. I felt defeated, hopeless. But I heard God whisper:
You can focus on the fact that fear came knocking, or you can focus on the fact that I always make a way of escape.
As long as there is darkness in this world, we’ll be tempted to disengage or give in to anxiety and fear. But over and over, Scripture tells us not to fear. As Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
Through study and experience, I’ve come to understand four rhythms that help us replace stress and anxiety with life-giving peace and purpose. They help us nurture and sustain lasting emotional health. These rhythms aren’t complicated, but they do take practice. Practical acts like fasting from media (Rest), exercising (Restore), sharing a laugh (Connect), or recovering an old talent (Create) can help us break the anxiety-inducing cycles of the world around us and bring balance to our otherwise hectic lives. They can help us cultivate the spiritual and mental space needed to allow God to bring us through complacency and fear and into freedom.
We are restless when we rest less, and we weren’t created for the nonstop pace our society has normalized. We were designed in God’s image, and even God himself rested. As recorded in Genesis, after creating the world, God set aside the seventh day to rest. Rest doesn’t come naturally to many of us. There are so many practices we can gradually implement—such as taking a technology detox or observing a Sabbath—that will help us experience the rest that God intends for us.
Once we embrace a consistent rhythm of rest, we find the potential to be restored. Restoration replenishes us physically, fortifies our mental health, and enables us to engage emotionally.
To restore is “to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor, to put back to a former place, or to a former position,” and we can’t do that by ordering a new body, mind, or spirit from Amazon. Practices that restore our bodies, minds, and spirits include eating healthy, pushing ourselves physically and mentally, indulging in adventure and play, and sharpening our minds.
As we establish rhythms of Rest and Restoration, we automatically move to the rhythm of Connection. We can’t help it. Once we’ve got something to offer, we’re ready to give it away. The power of relationship is a healing balm unlike any other rhythm in my life. We were created for connection, and when we are closely knit within our community, we are at our best, flourishing and full of life. But in our cultural moment, this takes work, planning, courage, and commitment.
Having rested and renewed ourselves, and then engaged the first output rhythm of connection, we’re fully charged, ready to go into the world and create. When we’re full of life, how can we keep from creating? When I say create, I’m talking about using your specific talents, skills, and callings to live deeper into your God-given purpose, to create something that blesses him and the world around you. Acts of creation should be rooted in the life of God, and as a result, they should bring us peace, life, and rest. Take the time and intention to rediscover your dreams and passions, and create from those places.
Let’s live into these blessed rhythms. Let’s quiet inner chaos and make room for flourishing. Let’s establish daily habits that keep us mentally and physically strong. When we do, we take charge of our emotional health and cultivate the vibrant life we were meant to live.
Rebekah Lyons is a national speaker and bestselling author of You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are and Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning. An old soul with a contemporary, honest voice, Rebekah reveals her own battles to overcome anxiety and depression—and invites others to discover and boldly pursue their God-given purpose. Alongside her husband, Gabe, Rebekah finds joy in raising four children, two of whom have Down syndrome. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN, Huffington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, and more.