Realize that although things around us may be spiraling out of control, there is a peace in knowing that God is in control. When my son passed away, my world was suddenly turned upside down and spinning out of control. It wasn’t until I surrendered my pain to God that I was able to begin having some form of peace and hope for the future.
As a part of my series about the the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Hanna-Verrett.
Born and raised in Florence, SC Vanessa Hanna-Verrett draws from her purposeful life story when writing about the experiences of losing a husband and a son 3-years apart in her debut book Pursuing Hope: The Story of Justin Emanuel Hanna. Through her reflections about parental love, unimaginable loss and the pursuit of hope and restoration Vanessa hopes that readers will increase in faith and trust the healing process. Her passion for coaching those who have suffered loss is one that drives her. Alongside her husband Leon, Vanessa co-facilitates grief support meetings for the community through her church in South Carolina. She and her husband are also the creators of the podcast, The Struggle Is Real In Grief which is available on Itunes, Spotify, and other platforms. Vanessa has Completed Grief Recovery Facilitator training and is currently enrolled in Dr. H. Norman Wright’s Grief, Center. She recently began working with TAPS-Tradegy Assistance Program a national non-profit organization serving families, friends and military service members who have been affected by a death in the armed services.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Sometimes loss can be the catalyst for something we never imagined. Although I have journaled for years, I never made a conscious decision to become an author until after the death of my youngest son.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My most interesting story since becoming an author is less about being an author and more about how I rewarded myself for having accomplished the publishing of my first book. My husband and I decided to get away on a little ski trip. My husband has been a skier for years and I’ve been wanting to sew some wild oats and give it a try. We packed ski gear and headed to the NC mountains. I had a visual of how I would look in my ski outfit and how I would glide on the snow, just like roller skating. Well, my husband skied, and I slid around, twisted my knee and declared “I’m done! I only meant until my knee felt better. I’m persistent and resilient and determined to take a professional lesson the next time.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
I would advise other authors:
- Set mini benchmarks and award yourself along the way
- The brain is made up of 75% water. So, be sure to give it what it loves everyday to keep those creative juices flowing at maximum speed.
- Eat a healthy diet and get sufficient sleep to stay physically and mentally fit.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Hire people who are more than skilled; people who align with the mission of your organization. Then, empower them to do the job that you hired them for while also allowing for fun, creativity and work/life balance.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Happy Women Live Better by Valorie Burton. It came to me during a time when I was sad, lonely and in the process of rediscovering who Vanessa is after loss.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Realize that although things around us may be spiraling out of control, there is a peace in knowing that God is in control. When my son passed away,my world was suddenly turned upside down and spinning out of control. It wasn’t until I surrendered my pain to God that I was able to begin having some form of peace and hope for the future.
- While there are certain things that are out of your control, take action to manipulate/control the things that you can in order to contribute to your serenity. Ex. form a prayer life where you talk to God as you would your best friend, read comforting scriptures, sing cheerful songs. Turn off the news for blocks of time. Physical distance but connect with family and friends emotionally by utilizing technology. These are all examples of things that contribute to a positive attitude which is an important vehicle for resilience and bounceback. John Hopkins article, The Power of Positive Thinking..People with a family history of heart disease who also had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years than those with a more negative outlook.https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-power-of-positive-thinking
- Be determined not to be controlled by FEAR. Fear can take on physical manifestations (Blood pressure increases, palpitations, headaches. It can really be paralyzing. Many times fear is False Expectations Appearing Real. Ex. Everyone is going to get sick with Covid19…Well, if you mask up, wash hands, physical distance, there is a good chance that you will not be plagued with Covid19. Be open to combatting fear with a more positive acronym such as Face Everything And Recover (FEAR)
- Exericse outside when you can…Exercise in general is a great stress reducer and being able to take in some fresh air and sunshine at the same time is an added bonus.
- Do some journaling. Be sure to be intentional about looking for things to be grateful throughout the day, jot then down and reflect on them. There are journaling apps but writing long hand tends to slow me down and helps me to write more thoughtfully. It seems that I have more on an emotional connection to my writing when performed in longhand than when using a keyboard.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
One of the big things is being able to help them normalize what they are feeling. Ex: There’s a lot going on in the world around us. Feeling a bit anxious is normal. However, what’s not helpful or healthy is becoming fixated on the thing that is making us anxious. So, what can we do?
- Share comforting scriptures such as the following: God doesn’t promise a problem free life, but he does promise always to be with us in every situation and God cannot lie. He assures us, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just remain calm and confident in me.” (Ex. 14:14 NLT). Our job is to relax and watch how God works things out.
– Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. — Isaiah 41:10NLT
- If the person is a non-believer, offer something that they may be able to identify with, such as directing them to nature school. Ex: Look at the blue skies, at the stars, the sun and the moon. None of these are things that we as humans could create. They point to a God who is intentional, creative, and cares enough about His creations that he creates the sun to provide light, vitamin D stress reducing abilities; He gives it enough distance not to consume us. What about our own bodies? We are marvelously created! If He cares enough to be so detailed, we can rest assured that no matter what happens He is in control and has our best interest at heart.
- Share personal testimonies of how God has provided for you during anxious times in your life.
- Be a non- judgmental listener. Sometimes allowing someone to give voice to their fears works to deactivate some if not all of their anxiety.
- If the person has a serious anxiety situation, acknowledge the concern and avoid stigmatizing. Dismissing their feelings could contribute to making them feel more anxious. Dr. Alice Boyes suggests: Being matter of fact about their limitations without excessively shaming them or insisting they should pursue becoming “normal” is often the best strategy.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
- Consider talking with someone that you trust.
- Consider talking with a professional counselor.
- Consider combining one or both of the above with The N.E.W.S.T.A.R.T. Program: Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Temperance, Air, Rest, Trust in God.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
That is how I was able to travel from pain to power. Hope in the God of all Comfort; the God who knows my name, knows what I’ve done and still loves me the same. “Hope is being able to see there is light despite all the darkness. (Desmond Tutu) Keep Hope Alive!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
God is not the enemy reformative Movement. This would be a feeding program…hungry people don’t listen well.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
YouTube: Verrett Ministry
FB: Vanessa Hanna-Verrett
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!