I don’t know if something is in the air, or if it is just time to blog about anxiety again. Over the last two weeks, at least six of my sober friends have shared their experience with this condition, based on faulty thinking and fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.
Can we talk anxiety? You know what I mean: that roiling inner whirlwind, the blinding, gut-wrenching, confusion-making state of being that takes over our hearts and minds from time to time.
When anxiety’s got you in its grip, it’s hard to avoid worrying about tomorrow. Anxiety works on a very primitive level. It has a physical component, which we can counteract by applying a physical remedy. Several years ago I learned that there’s actually a right way to breathe to reduce anxiety and stress. The Harvard Health Blog calls it breath control. The technique has certain similarities with prayerful meditation, and since it’s completely compatible with faith, I personally call it “breathing prayer.”
Try this: Close your eyes and inhale slowly, imagining pulling the feeling of love in so fully that it fills every pore of your body. Make sure your stomach expands; you want to be pregnant with peace. Exhale slowly through your nose.
You can pray the Serenity prayer while you do this (though if you’re anxious when you start, you probably won’t think of it until after a few breaths, when your head starts to clear). I use to say to myself: “Breathe in God, breathe out fear.”
If you practice when you’re not in the throes of wild anxiety, it will be easier to pray this way when you are. But “breathing prayer” is a good addition to any regular prayer time. Anything that clears the head and calms the body frees us up to hear God better. And that’s what prayer is all about.