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Breaking the Anxiety Boomerang

Anxiety is everywhere. I’ve bought three books that reference anxiety in the title in the past month. The pandemic prompted dramatic increases in anxiety in teens and adults. Anxiety is everywhere. Like a boomerang, anxiety keeps coming back.

My strategy for handling anxiety used to be breath prayers. Breathe in peace, breathe out the anxiety. Receive the loving presence of God, release the anxious thoughts into that loving presence.

And that was kind of effective. For a bit. And then the anxiety was like a boomerang, flung far away and then smacking me in the chest on the return. 

I listened to a podcast series with Steve Cuss and Ruth Haley Barton recently. They talked about anxiety and family systems and leadership. And one of the things they mentioned was inviting the Spirit of God into the anxiety. 

Not releasing the anxiety or shoving it away, as if it was God’s job to deal with it and I could be rid of it immediately. Rather, asking God’s Spirit to come into the anxiety and stay a while. To help me understand where it was coming from. And why it was sticking around. And how I reacted to it. To notice the spinning mind and the racing heart and the clenched gut. To notice the disproportionate anger or fear or sadness. And to invite God to be there and help me understand it, detach from it, and respond differently.

So I am noticing more and more anxiety within myself. And I am all the more aware of God’s gracious willingness to be with me in that anxiety. But I am also trusting that God’s presence there will eventually lead to a deeper and more sustaining peace.

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