I’m an anxious person. It is a common trait, especially in grad school—professors as well as students. Anxious people tend to spend considerable time ruminating through “What if…” questions along with shoulda, coulda, woulda thinking. We worry about our past failures coming to light and whether we’ll be up to the challenge the future presents.

Sound pretty negative way to live? It is. The only way we differ from depressed people is that we still hope our worry will save us from disaster. As you can imagine, such worry robs us of joy. It keeps us from enjoying the present or seeing God’s gracious hand on our lives. And we compound our problems by then shaming ourselves for failing to follow God’s command, “Do not be afraid.”

The Five Minute Antidote

Part of the problem with anxiety is that we are trying to control/manage every possible outcome in order to avoid future disaster(s). Fearful people know that the answer to their anxiety will not include,

  • Just not caring anymore. We’ve tried that…it doesn’t work.
  • Making sure we get it RIGHT. Tried that too. Didn’t work.

So, what might work? Try this on for size,

What is God’s plan for me for the next five minutes?

Most of us have no clue what God is planning for us next year or even next week. But, I suspect most of us can discern what we need to do right now…for the next five minutes,

  • I need to make dinner
  • I need to read this assignment for school
  • I need to attend to my child’s homework
  • I can call a friend who is grieving

Do the one thing you can do for the next five minutes. Do that with as much focus as you can.

Here’s what you are likely to discover: your anxiety decreases, or at least does not increase. When we stop ruminating and the internal conversations, our anxieties decrease and our ability to be present increases. So, when you find yourself in an anxious stew, try to ask yourself, What is one thing I can do for the next five minutes or What does God want me to do for the next five minutes? Consider this your method of living out Psalm 131, where you are stilled and quieted like a weaned child, content with what He has for you for the next five minutes.

Oh, did you think this will solve all your anxiety problems? No, of course not. But where God does give you something to focus your attention, call that a success. Part of the Christian life is repetition–repeated worship, repeated repentance, repeated obedience, repeated trust. So, do pray for God to remove your “thorn” but look for five minute relief. Notice when it works and then ask God for another five minute focus on the thing he has for you RIGHT NOW.

Phil Monroe is Professor of Counseling & Psychology and Director of the Masters of Arts in Counseling Program at Biblical. He also directs Biblical’s new trauma recovery project. You can find his personal blog at www.wisecounsel.wordpress.com.



0 # kim 2013-05-12 07:15
Thank you! :-) :-)
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0 # Louise 2013-05-12 08:51
What a great "little" suggestion. Be sure I will share it with friends and clients. Love your blog!
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0 # Christine Labrum 2013-05-14 08:15
Love this. Thanks Phil.
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0 # E 2013-05-15 21:46
I did not find this post helpful. May I suggest that you read the anxiety material from CCEF? I fail to see how your advice would help with the fear of flying, or the fear associated with loss.
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0 # Philip Monroe 2013-05-17 13:58
E, I too value the work of CCEF (especially Ed Welch's book on anxiety). I think you may misunderstand the value of what I wrote. It is not the final solution for all or even any anxiety. It is not intended to probe the theological or faith roots that exist in any anxiety. Far too often we understand anxiethy from the big picture but fail to give individuals something to do in the moment as they battle anxiety. Scripture calls us not to fear. But if you are afraid, and you don't want to be, it isn't always so easy to figure out what to do in that very next moment after you pray. This is one example of what you *could* do.
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