Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright…

a blog about anxiety

Tiger - digital art
Last Tuesday I turned a corner and came face to face with a wild tiger. You can only imagine the pounding of my heart as a million butterfly cocoons hatched in my stomach, my hands started shaking and my breath came in ragged gasps. OK, it might not have been an actual tiger hiding between the shelves of a restaurant supply warehouse, but that’s exactly how my body responded. If you had been there, YOU might have seen a difficult, four-hour national exam waiting for me to sit down at the computer (and, yes, it was actually in the back of a restaurant supply store). It’s the first time in several years that I have been so anxious, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you a few things that were helpful to me.

  1. Breathe. Taking three deep breaths helped reset my respiratory system for a few minutes, at least. I did this several times during the four hour testing period. It seemed to help my concentration, as well.
  1. Pray. Praying not only gave me access to the only Person who could possibly help me under the circumstances, but it also reminded me that there is a much bigger picture than the one staring me in the face at that moment.
  1. Stretch. My stomach muscles were bunched and painful, not only during the exam period but both before and afterward. Standing and stretching provided some temporary relief and helped me calm down a little bit.
  1. Accept. The biggest change in my Tuesday experience, compared to anxiety reactions I’ve had in the past, came from my tolerance of it. Instead of worrying about how the anxiety would impact my exam results, growing frustrated at my inability to extinguish it or shaming myself for it, I told myself that I would just be anxious for a while and that was OK. A little anxiety is helpful in academic settings, and even if mine was over-the-top, it would eventually subside, and I could let it be.

I sometimes tell clients that the important thing is not to get rid of all your fears (not a very practical goal, either) but not to let them stop you from doing the important things you want to do. Jesus was not without anxiety before He went to the cross, but it didn’t stop Him from completing His mission. In a way, I think I feel better having faced the tiger of anxiety and surviving it intact than I would have if I’d never faced it at all. It’s not courage if you are never afraid, is it?


Related Resources:

Anxiety Handout

How God Can Use Anxiety for Good – Christianity Today

A Prayer about Anxiety – Scotty Smith

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