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Emergencies and Stress: Panic is Never a Good Response

January 13, 2021

Published in All About Seniors Winter/Spring 2021 Upstate Edition

By Annette Cook, Director of Senior Adult Ministries at

Christ Church Episcopal in Greenville, SC


Emergencies happen to us all and when they do our brains and bodies respond with a rush of adrenaline and we prepare to fight or run away and we don’t think straight. We can make a situation worse with the wrong solutions.  When the emergency ends we return to a normal state of calm in our minds and our bodies. What about when we have stresses that never end? The pandemic or a family situation, for example. How do we know if we are too stressed to make good decisions and to keep ourselves healthy in mind, body and spirit?

We can tell how healthy we are in several ways, one of which is to monitor our first responses.

I had two experiences within a week that showed me that I had neglected myself to the point that stress was in control. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I would read for a while. In the dark I found my phone and my glasses and started to read. Only, everything was much blurrier than usual. I closed one eye and then the other and discovered I could only see fuzz in my left eye. My first panicked thought was that I’d burst a blood vessel in my eye and my second thought was that I had had a stroke. Wide awake now I had to decide: call an ambulance or try to drive to the hospital. Heart pounding I took my glasses off, and promptly stuck a finger through the hole where the lens should have been! No stroke, no burst blood vessel, no lens in my glasses.

No lesson learned yet though, I’m slow. Lesson two came soon after. I took my socks off one afternoon only to find a previously injured spot had turned black. Oh no! An awful infection that could cause me to lose a toe!  I rushed to wash my feet so I could then rush to the doctor. I dried them off and --the black was gone. It had only been sock fuzz. Thank Heaven vanity was stronger than fear and I had washed my feet. Imagine the laughter from the doctor’s whole office if I’d rushed there in a panic claiming to have a bad infection only to have it be exposed as cheap socks!

Why did I ASSUME the worst and panic? Because I hadn’t realized how chronically stressed I was. There had been too few times sitting with God in meditative, silent prayer. Too few prayers where I asked for nothing, worried about no one, and simply enjoyed being with God. There were too few belly laughs, too few relaxing moments.

Faith, friends and family are the ingredients for a less stressful and panic-free response to life. So, take the time daily, even if it is only 10 minutes here and there to sit with God and with someone you love and let go of the doing and the worrying and be content with BEING. Our stresses are put in perspective then and we are healthier and happier no matter what is happening


Annette Cook, a Community of Hope Lay Chaplain, is the Director of Senior Adult Ministries at Christ Church Episcopal in Greenville, SC. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she did graduate work at the University of Georgia and her thesis research on Buddhists who convert to Christianity in Thailand.

Annette Cook
Annette Cook