11 Ways of Dealing with Anxiety: Roundup

Anxiety is excitement without breathing. Fritz Perls

So here we are: 11 Ways of Dealing with Anxiety. It took a while!

Here’s where we have been:

  1. Breathe
  2. Feel into this body
  3. Meeting with stillness
  4. Prayer
    Pause
  5. Talking
  6. Writing
  7. Walking and Nature
  8. Doing the dishes
  9. Identifying fallacious reasoning
  10. Suffer the child
  11. The next step

Here are some things I have learnt in the course of writing and listening to people talk about anxiety:

  • I feel anxiety more than I realised.
  • ‘Dealing’ is entirely the wrong word. I would rather say ‘meeting’ or ‘welcoming’. We are not supposed to ‘deal’ with ourselves but to live, with kindness.
  • The feeling of fear or anxiety points us towards an area of personal growth. The question is less, “How can I deal with my fear?” and more like, “What do I need to do that I am avoiding?”
  • My suggestions do not make a comprehensive list, but it is my list. These suggestions can be used with any strong, visceral feeling: anxiety, hurt, fear, physical pain, grief, anger, joy, excitement… It is fundamentally about grounding in this body in the here and now, founded on kindness, compassion and forgiveness towards ourselves.
  • Life is difficult and risky and (while there is so much we can control about our lives and much of what we fear never comes to pass) very few things are certain. What would life feel like if you were to accept that this day is not yours to control: you don’t know what is going to happen, and although this is scary you will, nevertheless, walk out into the day trusting you can handle it?
  • There are times when anxiety is so strong that it can undermine, hide, or overwhelm the felt sense of the presence of God, and of oneself. At these times God is not absent, but we experience God as absent.
  • When we open ourselves to that which bigger than ourselves, then we see from a broader perspective and we are no longer alone. Anxiety, taking its place in a bigger frame, is reduced.

On one particularly difficult day I found the beginning of the second verse from Blake’s And did those feet going through my head.

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land

For a few moments, this felt like a great way to approach life. Although we have to undertake some planning ahead, life can only truly be lived in the present. We never know what is going to happen from one moment to the next. Anxiety is an ineluctable aspect of being a creature. It is best, therefore, to sally forth into life, to remain open to whatever comes and treat each happening as a gift.

Anxiety, given a few deep breaths, is not far from lively excitement.


(NB: There are some people, perhaps some who are reading this, whose lives are blighted by circumstance – by war, poverty, imprisonment, living conditions, political regimes, serious illness. I am fortunate not to have experienced these things directly in my life. I do not presume to talk into these situations that are beyond my limited capacity to understand. Forgive me if I have trespassed here.)

4 thoughts on “11 Ways of Dealing with Anxiety: Roundup

  1. Julian don’t apologise for those of us who are seriously ill, your words have really helped. I needed this right now and maybe will help me to stay strong.

  2. Thank you, Julian for this series which I worked through at a gentle pace – sensitive and full of wise insights – as I always experienced you as a director. I have shared some of these posts with one of my directees.

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