Wise Treebeard’s Challenge: Christian Counseling for Anxiety, Part I
Learning to Relax
Being scientifically trained, I went back to not counting. Even though I wanted to stretch well, and even though I knew what it felt like to relax, it still felt more like a strained tension than a stretch. When I started counting again, I began to relax and could feel my neck slowly dropping toward my shoulder, degree by degree. I was literally stretching. (Want to try it? Sit down and grab the chair with one hand to anchor yourself. Now lean your head in the opposite direction of that hand and then tilt your head as if to look up. Try just pushing your neck into a good stretch for a while. Then try doing it to a count of fifteen).
I was fascinated by this discovery, and searched earnestly for the answer to what was going on. I felt positive that there was a lesson here for my life. That’s just how our beautiful life is here on earth.
Letting go of Anxiety
This reminded me of an experience that I’ve been mulling over. I’ve been developing a discipline of getting up at the same time each morning, right on time, in order to devote time to reading the Word and being in the presence of God. (This applies every morning, not just on the imaginary mornings when I feel rested, aware, well, and propelled out of bed). However, God has shown me several times how I have used this good goal to become legalistic, and to make my relationship with Him into a to-do list.
One day I stopped what I was doing, went into a room, shut the door and said: “Ok Dad, the next ten minutes are just You and me.” And in ten minutes I had heard from God, I had a spiritual experience, I felt blessed, and I grew. This is daily bread for sure! I have spent distracted hours without half this ‘progress,’ and the only way it happened so ‘efficiently’ was when I wasn’t trying to make something happen. I was just ‘in.’ There was no more worrying about my starting late, balancing The Word with prayer time, or anxious concern about the day. Sounds like scripture, right?
Being Rather than Doing
I concluded that the magical element was commitment: being committed to doing something for a specific dedicated time. However, after more reflection, I realised that it is more about being fully present in a particular moment. Instead of indulging in the common foolishness of creating my own well-laid plans and desperately cramming every day and moment to bursting point, I seek to live well. Ever notice how you miss the moment when you’re busy trying to make it last? A camera can save forever the very moment that it stole from you. There is one thing that I know for sure: when I tried to multitask stretching or prayer (when I wasn’t present and ‘in’ the moment) I spent more time getting less accomplished. When I was present to one thing at a time, the results astonished me.
Don’t Be Hasty
Perhaps the problem is the pervasive thought: “Can I fill this with something else?” Don’t we all know the heart-racing feeling of hurry? Not just rushing from here to there, but being split in our attention and frenzied in our own minds. Perhaps there is a reason why the wise JRR Tolkien gave the oldest character in Middle Earth – old Treebeard, ‘the eldest of the species of Ent’ – the mantra “don’t be hasty.” The moral of the story isn’t that we should avoid rushing and making mistakes. Rather, the moral is that you have a soul, and hasty living both robs you of fullness and poisons you with anxiety.
Christian Counseling as an Aid to Living in the Present
If you can identify with my experience and would like to find out how to slow down, relax and live in the present moment, there are resources that can help you to do this. You may be asking yourself: “How can I tell if my anxiety is out of control?” or “How can Christian counseling help me to manage my anxiety?” Or you may simply want to become more aware of God’s presence in your life. Christian counselors are trained to help you identify the causes of anxiety to share with you ways of overcoming it so that you can truly become whom God intends you to be.
Photos from freedigitalphotos.net “Handsome Man Driving His New Car Safely” Stock Photo by stockimages “Female Doing Stretching Exercise” by imagerymajestic