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Unpacking Anxiety (Part 1)

Written by Ryan Berg on

The information below is based on the book Managing Leadership Anxiety, by Steve Cuss, and a workbook resource with Capable Life.


It’s 4:45 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. You’re finishing up the work week and feeling excited for the weekend. Then your computer dings, and you have a new email from your boss:

John,

I’d like to meet with you in my office first thing Monday morning. I will see you then.

– The Boss

Has this ever happened to you? How did you feel after you received that email? What was going through your mind the rest of the weekend? One thing you probably experienced was anxiety. Anxiety has become a prevalent issue across the globe in recent years. In fact, anxiety is the number one issue that the College Park Soul Care Ministry has received counseling requests for in the last two years.

Although anxiety can feel like an all-consuming issue at times, you can follow a simple three-step process to manage your anxiety in a healthy, biblical manner.

  1. Notice anxiety.
  2. Name anxiety.
  3. Diffuse anxiety.

In this article, part one of a series on anxiety, we will cover one tool for noticing anxiety.

Tool 1: Listen to Your Body

Noticing anxiety is the first step in managing your anxiety. It’s been my experience, both personally and as a counselor, that many people struggle to notice the presence of anxiety and, as a result, don’t recognize its damaging effects until they’re already in a challenging place.

The first tool for noticing anxiety is to listen to your body. God designed human beings with bodies that often alert us to the presence of anxiety long before we recognize it cognitively or conceptually. Anxiety tends to show up in your body in one of four ways.

  1. A Spinning Mind – This is when you find yourself unable to think about anything other than whatever is causing you to be anxious. You might find yourself replaying conversations that took place which didn’t go well. You might also rehearse conversations ahead of time in your mind, attempting to anticipate any conflicts that could arise.
  2. A Racing Heart – This is just what it sounds like. Your heartbeat might increase in speed, and you might experience palpitations. One counselee described it to me as the same feeling they got when they went skydiving for the first time. The anticipation of whatever is making you anxious is kicking your adrenaline system into overdrive.
  3. Tightness in the Body – Tightness can occur almost anywhere in your body as a physiological response to anxiety. However, it most frequently shows up in your gut, your chest, your jaw, or your shoulders. It’s almost as if you’re bracing yourself for a blow, trying to not let whatever you are anxious about hurt you.
  4. Nausea – Medical studies have shown over and over again in recent years that your gastrointestinal system is affected by anxiety. This can manifest as nausea, constipation, or any number of GI-related issues. I once heard someone say that the “butterflies in my tummy turned into flu-like symptoms the more anxious I became.”

Paying careful attention to your body is wise for many reasons, including as an important tool for early recognition of anxiety’s presence. Listen to your body and see what it may be trying to tell you this week and notice when anxiety is tied to your physiological experiences.

In the next article of this series, we will look at another tool for noticing the presence of anxiety.

If you are battling anxiety in your life, College Park Soul Care is available to support and come alongside you with biblical counseling.

Ryan Berg

Ryan serves at College Park Church as the Assistant Pastor of Soul Care. He is passionate about helping people see Jesus in the midst of sin and suffering. In his free time, Ryan enjoys being with his wife, Carol, and two kids, Sydney & Elliot.

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