There are many times I have experienced a fight-or-flight response. Occasionally the response is triggered from an actual threat, but most often (thankfully) the response is triggered by something that was only a perceived threat, not a true danger.
A common experience for me: Hearing a crash in the living room in the middle of the night that jolts me awake in fear, only to discover the noise was made by my mischievous cat knocking down knick-knacks from a bookshelf.
We all have fight-or-flight instincts when we think we’re in danger. Our sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, triggering an acute stress response that prepares our body to fight, flee or – when fight or flight aren’t effective options – freeze.
This past year has caused a lot of us to be in sustained fight, flight and freeze responses, and for many of us, they have not yet gone away.
In recent weeks, I have heard a lot of people talk about seeing a light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic. For many, vaccination has flipped a switch from fear to freedom, and the latest CDC update stating that fully vaccinated folks can resume pre-pandemic activities has been a long-awaited joy.
However, others of us become anxious at the thought of gathering in a group or galivanting maskless around Target. Even if we choose to continue to wear a mask as a courtesy to others, to protect vulnerable people unable to get vaccinated, or to adhere to store mask mandates, how do those of us who continue to be fearful let go of the crippling anxiety of the last year?
It’s not an easy task when our bodies have been on high alert for so long in an effort to protect us.
Truthfully, the only answer I have right now, as one of those anxious people myself, is to take one step at a time, honor your body’s natural protective instinct to fight-or-flight – and, if you are going to flee, flee to Jesus.
Pray for God’s peace, cast your fears on Christ, call on a friend who will test the waters of hope with you. Throughout the Bible, God tells people not to be afraid and for those who are weary to come to him.
I hope that whether or not you’ve been wearied by this pandemic, you will flee to the one who says, “Come to me all who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), and discover the God who asks for us to cast our anxieties on him (1 Peter 5:7).
If we’re honest, most of us have gained some wounds from the past year or so. For those who claim faith in Jesus Christ, it is by his wounds we are healed. May we find healing for our own through him.
Rev. Stephanie Dion is the associate pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton. LowcountryPres.org