As a clinician in private practice, one of the phrases that I hear myself saying over and over, often in this way is this: “Remember, anxiety is a body event.”
So what does this mean?
First, this statement, “anxiety is a body event”, reminds us that when we feel anxiety, it is made up of physical sensations. While you may not have all of the symptoms, people often describe an increased heart rate, sweating, tingling fingers, chest tightening, chest pain, nausea or pain in their stomach, feeling hot, and changes in breathing that usually show up like quick, short breaths.
I saw it again while I felt a steadying breath against my chest, the rising, filling, the exhale and falling into my arms, tiny thin hair brushing my face, tiny fingers on tiny hard wrapping around my shoulder.
We were in church this morning, a church where we have been since my own two children were small enough to hold in my arms. I remember holding them in my arms while the voices around us, breathing, inhaling and exhaling, collectively held the tune of the hymn.
The occasion this morning was the Sunday after the Epiphany, a celebration in the…
As a clinician in private practice, one of the phrases that I frequently hear myself saying is this: “Anxiety isn’t good with statistics.” Usually, this phrase pops up when I am talking with someone about their worry that “x” is going to happen even though they know that it is statistically unlikely.
While there is the temptation to argue or rationalize about the mathematical probability of “x” event happening … that is not a generally accepted or therapeutically useful approach.
So I’m wearing a mask in my office full-time at this point and have been for about a month. We had our own COVID19 scare in my family as the cases were climbing in my home state. Although the test itself was not exactly enjoyable, the wait from testing to results for me and my family member was worse.
I don’t want anyone else to have to go through testing and waiting and worrying, especially if me wearing a mask can help.
That is how I think … but then there are others, the anti-maskers.
Many of us feel exhausted by the events demanding our time and concern. Far from confined to a calendar that deludes us into thinking that was 2020 and this is 2021, the creeping tendrils of political and social unrest, economic anxiety, and COVID-19 extend out to us …, reach into us …, wrapping themselves around our hearts and minds.
We can only attend to so much at one time.
There is only so much “crisis” we can tolerate.
If there was ever a year for a blue Christmas, this is the year. Many of us have been challenged by external struggles with the chaos that we see in our world and in our nation. But then that conflict has also been internal, between family members and communities and at times even inside our own selves.
And as our anxious minds are apt to do, we begin to worry about what could happen next . . .
My wife’s friend was graciously posting an interview she had conducted with my wife and me about our recently released book on anxiety. As of late, Cassia had been writing toward self-care during difficult times. Accurately she intended to write the phrase “world gone mad” … except what I read as I reviewed the post was “world gone made”.
I tried to stay out of the fray. My instincts have been honed through my work in the church and years as a therapist. I’m typically pretty good at moving back to what is actually important, avoiding “straw man” diversions or attempts to bait me into an argument.
My default is to return to the relationship between us versus simply trying to be “right”.
But that part, about being “right”, is where I got stuck recently.
The context was on someone else’s Facebook page, a post about hydroxychloroquine's ineffectiveness against COVID-19. This was immediately followed by several people posting responses…
We do not know each other yet; we have not dared to be silent together.
Keep open the door of thy heart. It matters not how many doors are closed against thee.
from Howard Thurman’s The Inward Journey
Our circle now meets underneath a large old tree behind the church, next to a labyrinth formed of large stones. For group spiritual direction, we had been meeting in the church library, with air conditioning, a couch, and cushy chairs. Our chairs are now foldable, camp-style, toted from our vehicles to the space where we sit together, in intimacy, but “socially distant”.
When profound changes happen to us we often find ourselves mouths agape and struggling to understand what this change is. What we had is now gone. An anticipated future will be dramatically different. Our present is a sticky pause where our self is unsure what to do next. The breath moving in and out of us fluctuates between quick and shallow as if we are getting ready to run or fight … and then a long and deep signaling that this is a time to stop, … to rest, … and to wait.
As have many with whom I sit…
clinical social worker, spiritual director, author, husband, father, son, runner in Georgia, co-author of When Anxiety Strikes from Kregel Publications.