Anxiety: An Invitation to Slow Down

“Parang malalim yata ang iniisip mo?” (English: “Looks like you’re thinking about something deep.”) 

As a child, my anxiety was perceived as deep thinking. When anxiety takes hold of me, it consumes my thoughts, and often blinds me to the promise of God’s tender and infinite care for me. 

When I was an undergrad, I vividly remember walking to take an exam I was unprepared for. I could not control my body. I was sweating, trembling, hyperventilating, and experiencing chest pains. I was having an anxiety attack. As I sat in my chair, a friend saw me. “You look lost in your thoughts. Are you ready to take the exam?” As my friend waited for my response, my mind sped up, and I thought of a way to hide my anxiety: I had to lie. I was ashamed. 

In anxiety, my mind and emotions go to multiple “what-if” scenarios, stealing the joy of the here and now. Anxiety is a thief, but I’m learning perhaps it can offer something else. 

Matthew 6:26-28 says: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?… And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” (NIV, emphasis mine) 

We often interpret these words as a reminder that if God cares for the birds and flowers, we know He cares for us. But as I continue to learn how to befriend my anxiety, I now see an additional truth. Anxiety is an invitation to slow down. In telling me to look at the birds and consider the lilies, I am asked to be present at the moment and truly consider God’s creation—I am asked to be still. The passage invites me to be grounded and mindful of my surroundings. Not surprisingly, grounding is a therapeutic technique for anxiety that re-establishes our sense of being in the here and now. 

When I genuinely stop to look at the birds, I can see how they flap their wings. I notice the colors of their feathers as they gracefully glide through the air. I hear their melodic chirps. As I stop and consider the flowers, my eyes see their vibrant colors contrasting with their environment as bees and butterflies surround them. I can smell their beautiful aroma. Through the birds and the flowers, I am reminded of God’s care for me.

If and when anxiety comes, I have grown to recognize it as an invitation to slow down and be with the Creator, considering the birds and the flowers. I hope to accept the invitation. 

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