There’s a number of things that I find I do when I’m anxious that have proven over time to be, I think, quite helpful. Before I talk about those just to—sort of a foundational comment about anxiety: I’ve found that the way that anxiety tends to work is that it moves us from the present and it takes us into the future. And it sort of entraps us there. It it moves us from being engaged in the moment to being future-minded, and we tend to be paralyzed or disengaged, disconnected. And so that tends to be what anxiety does. A way tha that sort of just sort of played out for me individually over the past few months is there was a time, probably a month or two ago when we had this expense that was unexpected and it was beyond what we were able to accommodate at the moment, and so we had to charge it. And then all of a sudden, I just remember that very night, after that expense had hit us and we had to scramble. I just found that I was sitting at my desk and my mind was going a mile a minute, and it was into the future, and it was spiraling into things like “I’m never gonna get out of debt” and “I’m never gonna be able to retire,” and just things that are unlikely, but your mind just keeps going there. So that’s just an example of what anxiety does: it moves us from the present experience to a hypothetical reality of the future. We get stuck there.
So three things that I find that I do, I try to do. One is I try to pay attention to my breathing, and that may sound simple or strange, but because we’re flesh and blood, if we pay attention to what’s happening in our bodies in the moment—we exist in time and in space and I have to be then be brought back into the present. If I’m paying attention to my inhaling and my exhaling, I have to be in the present. I can’t be over here in the future. And so as that, that becomes an anchor, and as I’m pulled back into the present, it also allows me to ask the next question of myself. And that is, or to do the next thing, which is pray. The present is a reality in which God is there. I don’t live in a Godless reality. And so as I bring myself out of the future and this perseverating spiral of thoughts into the present, I’m able to consider what it means to have a personal God who engages with me. I can call upon him. I can remember what he says to me about his promises.
And so as I move from the future to the present, as I call upon a God who lives in the present, the next step is really to then participate in the present. And so for me on that Wednesday night at 7:00, it meant I had obligations and I had responsibilities, and I had relationships that God had put in front of me and I was called to, that meant washing the dishes and helping the kids pack their lunches. And it meant going up and reading books to them, and it meant talking to my wife. And so that movement from moving into the present, finding an anchor, calling upon God, and then engaging and participating in the present. It’s a helpful way that I have found that not only—I don’t extinguish anxiety, but I’m able to weather it and I think faithfully engage God and his kingdom in the midst of it.