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Learning to Live Above Severe Anxiety: Recovering Time
By Paula J. Marolewski

The following journal entries were written as an adjunct to the book Fire in My Mind: Personal Insights and Practical Help for Severe Anxiety, a Bible study on severe anxiety. Here, you will find additional information about my personal experience with severe anxiety, focusing on what I have found particularly helpful. My prayer is that these entries will help and encourage you if you or someone you love is struggling with severe anxiety.

Hurry and Worry

“More, better, faster.”

That has been my mantra for too long … I must produce more, I must do it better, I must accomplish it faster. And so I hurry through each day, in an endless race against myself, always living five minutes in the future and completely missing out on the joy of living in the present.

What do I get in return for my hurry?


Anxiety that gnaws away at my mind, soul, and body. Tension that mounts in my neck. Tightness that ties my stomach in knots.

It’s time to let go.

Time to embrace what I can reasonably do, and not expect the unreasonable from myself.

Time to release striving after perfection, and simply be and do my best.

Time to slow down, live in the present, enjoy the moment, and engage in life.

No more hurry.

No more worry.

Intelligent Scheduling

We’re all given 24 hours each day. But somehow, I keep thinking I have 30. At least, you’d think so if you looked at my calendar. Meetings, projects, phone calls, housework, shopping … the list each day goes on and on.

The problem, of course, is that with an endless list, I never reach the end. So my anxiety level goes up. So I try harder the following day to get everything done for that day plus all the stuff I didn’t get done the previous day. And to do so while all the stuff for the next day is breathing down my neck.

And I wonder why I’m stressed.

There’s only one solution, but it’s a tough one. And that is, I have to engage in intelligent scheduling.

Intelligent scheduling means recognizing that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that you can’t work during all of them.

Intelligent scheduling means prioritizing what has to be done, and focusing on each item in turn: giving it full attention, not racing through to try to cross it off the list and get to the next thing in line.

Intelligent scheduling means planning less, doing less, and promising less … because I’ve been planning too much, not getting it done, and promising what I can’t deliver.

The bottom is simply this: Intelligent scheduling means being committed to not becoming overcommitted.

A Moratorium on Multitasking

We live in an age where multitasking is expected, praised, and often demanded. How many things can you do at once? Talk on the phone, check email, pet the cat, flip through the mail, check a website, work on a project, watch the news, drive the car … we frequently combine two or three tasks at once.

Well, for myself, I’ve declared a moratorium on multitasking.

I found that multitasking, because of my issue with severe anxiety, is a definitive problem. When I multitask, my stress level goes up. When my stress level goes up, my anxiety goes up. When my anxiety goes up, I try harder to get things done faster, so I multitask even more. So my stress level goes even higher. So my anxiety gets even worse. And so on, and so on.

It was, and is, a tough decision to live out. No multitasking. None.

And this is what I found:

  • I get more done now than when I tried multitasking, because I can focus and concentrate better on each individual project or task.
  • I enjoy what I am doing more, because I can really dig down into it and experience it to the full, instead of having half my mind somewhere else.
  • I can relax more easily, because my mind isn’t always working at mach 10.

Don’t let society dictate how you work and how you live. Decide for yourself what is best for you.

Remember Your First Word?


Every child learns that short but powerful negative very early on. But sometimes, we forget it as adults.

“Can you lead this committee?” Yes, of course.

“How about meeting this Friday?” Sure, I can swing that.

“Do you mind taking on one more project?” Glad to.

But you’re not glad to, you can’t swing it, and you never should have said “Yes” because you were already overcommitted. And you knew it, too, but one little word stuck so badly in your throat that you couldn’t wrestle up enough courage to get it out.


It’s time to remember your first word, and start using it wisely. Not as a child, who pouts and fusses and refuses willy-nilly – but as an adult, who makes wise choices about what you can and cannot reasonably do. And here’s the key:

It’s okay to say “No.”

Repeat that aloud: It’s okay to say “No.”

“No” can mean that you politely decline, that you arrange to reschedule priorities, or that you delay until a later date. The point is, you have options, and “No,” in any of its variations, is a valid one to use.

Will people be surprised or upset if you say “No”? Less often than you think. People respect people who make good decisions, and “No” is often a very good decision. Occasionally, someone will be upset if you say “No.” And that’s okay, too. You can’t make everyone happy.

What you can do is do your best to keep yourself healthy. And part of that formula is that tiny word:


Copyright © 2009, Paula J. Marolewski. All rights reserved.
The above article may NOT be reprinted.
Fire In My Mind Cover

Interested in learning more about severe anxiety?

Read Fire in My Mind: Personal Insights & Practical Help for Severe Anxiety. Fire in My Mind is a unique and deeply moving Bible study on severe anxiety, providing personal insights, practical advice, and profound scriptural meditations on eight key aspects of anxiety: racing thoughts, fear, shame, irrationality, doubt, anger, exhaustion and loneliness.

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