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Learning to Live Above Severe Anxiety: Slowing Down
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.

A Smooth White Seashell

My calendar has a beautiful quote on it by an unknown author:

“Today is a smooth white seashell; hold it close and listen to the beauty of the hours.”

It reminds me to slow down. To live in the present. To stop the rush, the hurry, the worry, the freneticism.

The only day you have is today.

The only time you have is now.

Slow down. Treasure the moment. “Listen to the beauty of the hours.

The Importance of Breathing

Is breathing important? Obviously! But when it comes to dealing with anxiety, breathing takes on a whole new level of significance.

My counselor taught me to practice deep breathing, particularly at any time when my anxiety level was going up. That means breathing from the diaphragm, taking a full breath, holding it for a few seconds, and releasing it slowly. Concentrating fully on the mechanics of breathing. Often repeating phrases along with each breath such as “Breathe in … breathe out … relax … slow down …”

Why the importance of deep breathing? Several things are going on here:

  • First, deep breathing counters your body’s physical stress reactions. Among other things, it helps slow your heart rate, relax your muscles, and lower your anxiety.
  • Second, by focusing on the mechanics of breathing, you are distracting yourself from the situation that is causing you anxiety, thereby lowering your feelings of anxiety.
  • Third, as you repeat helpful positive affirmations, you are reminding yourself of important truths that will help you deal proactively with the situation, rather than reactively from anxiety.

Tension mounting?

Breathe deep. Slow down.

A Sensible Use of the Senses

Anxiety level going up? Tension mounting? It’s time to make use of your five senses. Pick up a rock or a seashell – feel the texture. Sip a cup of tea – taste it and smell the aroma. Turn on a relaxing CD – listen to the music. Go out into the garden – indulge in the array of color.

This practice is called grounding. Focusing on the input from one or more of your five senses lessens anxiety because it physically distracts you from your mental spinning. It reminds you to live in the present – in the now. It pulls you back to reality and away from an imagination run amok.

When anxiety strikes, focusing on your senses may literally help you come to your senses.


Anxiety often breeds an unremitting sense of hurry, at least for me. I have had to reclaim important territory in my journey into wholeness and healing, and that territory is the wonderful place called “Nothing.”

Doing nothing can be hard. It’s not watching TV or reading a book or going shopping. Doing nothing is exactly that: doing nothing. Just relaxing, being content just to be, watching life unfold … at least until my eyelids begin to lazily close, surfeited by the lovely sense of nothing.

The tasks can wait – they’ll still be there when I get back.

People and phone calls can wait – they’ll still be there when I get back.

Even my favorite books can wait – they’ll still be there when I get back.

Because sometimes, it’s important to spend time doing a whole lot of nothing.

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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