Education Week: Overcoming anxiety through faith

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In turbulent times, it is important to use the tools given by both modern psychology and The Gospel of Jesus Christ in overcoming anxiety.

In a presentation at BYU Education Week, Utah psychological counselor and musician Carrie M. Wrigley discussed the increasing prevalence of anxiety, and how to overcome it.

“This is 2018, we need this, and we are going to find some answers today,” Wrigley said. “Look around. If you have ever felt alone, remember this moment.”

Wrigley began her presentation by discussing the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She shared a story about how she received revelation earlier that year that she and her fellow counselors should focus more on anxiety, which wasn’t a common issue at the time. In the months after the World Trade Center in New York City fell, Wrigley noticed a dramatic increase of anxiety in her clients, her personal life and in the media.

She credits increasing violence and unrest in the world for what she called “an anxiety epidemic.”

Wrigley also said social anxiety the most common reason Mormon missionaries are returning early from missions. She believes this is because of the current generation’s reliance on mobile devices, and that technology is actually increasing social isolation.

“When you are constantly worrying, you cannot feel the spirit,” Wrigley said. “Fear is the opposite of faith.”

She sang a song she had written for her firstborn child called “Held in Reserve,” hoping to inspire the class to realize their spiritual strength.

Pulling from the words of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint prophets, Wrigley also said the way to overcome fear and anxiety is to look to Jesus Christ like a lighthouse in the storm.

Wrigley advised the audience that this technique is more effective when combined with modern psychological techniques.

“If we understand what generates these problems, we can understand what conquers them,” she said.

Wrigley discussed a three-step process to combat the two most common causes of anxiety. She said these triggers are not knowing what other people are thinking, and not knowing what the future holds, or “Mindreading” and “What ifs.”

According to Wrigley, step one is to look at the possible explanations in a situation — the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario, and the likely scenarios. Step two is to analyze the evidence and probability of each scenario. Step three is to develop coping strategies.

Wrigley also said the most common contributors to anxiety are poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, constant stress, debt, excessive media and social isolation.

She suggests limiting media, ministering to others, and making lifestyle changes to promote wellness and stability to minimize contributors’ effects.

According to Wrigley, the key to overcoming anxiety is learning to change one’s mindset to focus on Jesus Christ rather than the trials and turbulence of the current world.

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