Gratitude: The Antidote to Anxiety
Alicia Reese
November 8, 2023

“Anxiety magnifies our deficiencies, deficits, and inadequacies.
Gratitude, where the spiritual life begins, is the antidote.”
– Anthony B. Robinson from Your Life, Better, 20 Ways to Live Through Anxious Times.
Anxiety is one of those emotions that has the ability to evolve--and not in a good way. It can start out as a simple worry, source of tension or stress and then, all of sudden, become incessant negative self-talk. It can manifest in the body, and even lead to concerning physical and/or mental health conditions. It can become debilitating. I know this from personal experience.

When I allow my anxiety to go unchecked for too long it can lead to a depressive episode. I withdraw from the things and people that bring me joy. Emotions are harder to regulate. My energy is depleted. I become less creative, and can lose perspective on what is most important. It is a shift into “survival mode.” And surviving is not the same as thriving.

When we function from a place of fear, letting our anxiety control us, we are unable to thrive.

I say this to you all because I know these are anxious times. Here at First United, in our country, in our world, and as a community we are just as susceptible to anxiety and its evolutions. So, it is important that we do not let it go unchecked.

Thankfully, as the above quote tells us there is an antidote to anxiety…Gratitude.

I think I have spent my entire life underestimating the power of gratitude. That is something I am trying to remedy. Every day I am attempting to live more gratefully by not only thinking about the things I am grateful for, but writing them down or saying them out loud, which easily turns into prayer. Most especially, I am working to express gratitude for others and the gift they are to me. When I do this, I feel closer to whoever I am sharing that gratitude with, which helps me not feel so lonely or isolated. Gratitude is a spiritual practice.

Since the news of my resignation was shared with the whole community of First United, each day I find myself able to breathe a little easier. This is how I know I have made the right decision for my well-being. But goodbyes are not easy. There is a bittersweetness to them, but they are often filled with gratitude. The goodbyes I have shared with this community have been overflowing with gratitude, from you to me and from me to you. I already feel healing taking place.

I want that for you. I want this community to experience healing and I want this community to thrive. So, do not underestimate the power of gratitude. Practice it regularly and often as a community. When you feel anxiety creeping in, threatening to zap your energy or creativity, or when you begin to lose sight of what is most important, shifting into “survival mode,” don’t give in. Dive into a pool of gratitude. Let it wash over you. Float in it. Let it hold and support you. Think of things you are grateful for. Say some out loud, make a list, and express that gratitude to and for others in our community. Send a quick text or email. Write and mail a card. During Passing the Peace or coffee hour after worship, thank a couple of people for whatever they did or are doing that you are grateful for. More than likely, your words will be a balm to them as much as the practice of expressing gratitude will be a balm for you.

With gratitude and love, this is my prayer for you.