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Unpacking Anxiety (Part 2)

Written by Ryan Berg on

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


In Part 1 of our series on anxiety, we explored one tool for noticing the presence of anxiety: paying attention to how anxiety shows up in our bodies. Our bodies are often the first place we will notice the presence of anxiety; however, there are other places where you can learn to notice anxiety as well. Author, pastor, and anxiety expert, Steve Cuss, refers to this tool as the “four spaces of anxiety” (Managing Leadership AnxietyThomas Nelson, 2019).

The Four Spaces of Anxiety

  1. The Space Inside You: This is where 90% of all anxiety management is done. Working on yourself and taking responsibility for your part in anxiety-inducing situations is the most powerful part of the work you will do in managing your anxiety.
  2. The Space Between You and Another: This is where you catch and spread anxiety (yes, it’s contagious!). This often happens in a conversation. Learning to notice anxiety coming at you and noticing when you are pouring it out can help with anxiety management.
  3. The Space Inside Someone Else: This is when your brain has tried to cross into someone else’s brain. You are thinking about what someone else is thinking about! This is the one space that you cannot change. It is holy ground because only God can change a person. The goal is to notice when you have crossed into the this space, pause, and give that person and situation to God. What someone else is thinking is none of your business until they make it your business. You cannot worry another person into change and thinking about what they are thinking about will never lead you to peace.
  4. The Space Between Others: The space between others or the space in a group is the space that already exists before you walk into a room or the space that changes when someone else enters the room. Most of us infect every space we enter with an anxious or non-anxious presence, so learning to be aware of the existing space and how a person changes it can be powerful.

Noticing Patterns of Anxiety

When you start to notice anxiety in any or all of these four spaces, you will likely see patterns emerge. You’ll find that your anxiety repeatedly arises in similar circumstances, which will help you better understand how to name and address that anxiety.

Use the questions below for a deeper dive to see how the four spaces apply in your life. Some of these questions are best processed with a specific anxious experience in mind.

  1. Which space am I most attuned to?
  2. Which space am I least attuned to?
  3. Where is the anxiety coming from, and who is catching it?
  4. How do I know when I am catching it?

Learning to notice anxiety in these spaces is one step in the process of managing your anxiety. Pray that the Lord will help you be more aware of the anxiety in these four spaces so you can make progress towards mental and spiritual health.

In the next article of this series on anxiety, we will look at naming the anxiety you have learned to notice in your life.

If you are battling anxiety, 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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