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 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
Why the importance of deep breathing? Several things are going
- 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
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
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
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.