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I n the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt like we were all in some bad social psychology experiment. But, it wasn’t. The grief and reaction to COVID-19, both personally and as a society, is something we hadn’t experienced in a LONG time. For some of us, maybe it was the first time we’d experienced widespread fear. Many people’s mental health took a dive, and we witnessed drastic increases in catastrophic group think, learned helpless reactions, and “misery loving company.”

The following practices helped me and others through the pandemic, and I offer them here to help folks feel more grounded and at peace any time they are feeling anxious.

Ways to ground yourself when you are feeling anxious

I offer these Christ-centered psychological skills to get grounded through faith and positive psychology.

Start by breathing deeply. Do it now. Breathe in deeply (through your nose, expand your torso, and breathe out through your mouth). Affirm that you are okay (because most of us are), and keep breathing deeply.

Now, turn your attention to God. Emmanuel, God with us, is right here; he loves us and provides us with everything all of the time. Practice a simple breath prayer. Breathe in “I thank you, Lord,” and breathe out “I trust you, Lord.” If you do this for just one minute, you WILL feel better and more grounded.

Allow yourself to give thanks for one thing at a time. Mindfully notice and give thanks for what you might touch, see, hear, taste, and smell in this moment. Continue by giving thanks for people, places, things—any blessings that come to mind as you breathe in (again, just give thanks for ONE thing at a time).

As you breathe out, let go of what I call the “O” zone—others, outcomes, old stuff. About 99 percent of the time, we are stressed out by something going on in the “O” zone of others, outcomes, or old stuff. Think about the times when you feel stressed. Where is your head? Are you even aware what is going on in the present moment, or are you having negative thoughts about others, outcomes, or old stuff? Are you mindful of your one precious life—the gift of life that God gave YOU and his constant provision for YOU—existing and functioning well in many ways in the precious present? Usually not. We cannot control the “O” zone, and we lose so much of our lives when we obsess about others, outcomes, or old stuff.

God invites us to pray about all of those “O” zone concerns, to encourage each other, to fix our eyes on him as we manage the one life that he gave us, and always to participate in joy. The apostle Paul writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:4-9 NIV).


This is part 1 of 2. Click here to read part 2.

Heidi Vermeer-Quist

Dr. Heidi Vermeer-Quist leads the clinical staff of Heartland Christian Counseling near Des Moines, Iowa, is a member of Meredith Drive Reformed Church in Des Moines, and serves as a regional mental health consultant for RCA Disability Concerns.