How can I overcome severe anxiety?


Full Question

I am constantly worried about my daughter and her family. I know Christ told us not to worry about tomorrow, but how do you stop worrying? How does a believing Catholic go about shedding severe anxiety?

Answer

First off, if one is suffering from clinical anxiety, one ought to see a professional who specializes in such psychological difficulties. But for the rest of us, there aren’t enough hours in the day to worry about all that is wrong. Happily, we have the anti-worry, anti-anxiety antidote: Good Friday. I suggest that you spend quality time daily, reflecting on the Passion of the Lord and how vulnerable he made himself. His vulnerability is our shield against vulnerability. Naturally speaking, the worst thing that can happen to us here is that we die. But by his death, our death becomes a birth. He is shoulder to shoulder with us in our human journey. I suggest that you look at a crucifix (before the Blessed Sacrament if possible) and reflect on his agony in the garden—which was really the agony in his mind. Anxiety is a mind thing. He suffered it to the point of sweating blood. He is with you in this and he can put your mind to rest. Then reflect on and thank him for enduring the betrayal by Judas, the denials by Peter, and the abandonment by the apostles. Thank him for enduring the arrest and the cruelty of the guards and members of the Sanhedrin. Thank him for enduring the endless interrogations and that long night. Thank him for enduring the brutal scourging which robbed him of blood and strength and left him with a pounding headache that remained with him until death. Thank him for enduring the mockery and crown of thorns that caused such pain—and the rejection at the praetorium. Thank him for carrying the cross which caused such extreme shoulder pain—and for falling onto the filthy stone streets with the cross on top of him—and getting up each time. Thank him for receiving the nails into his hands and feet. Thank him for struggling to push down on his nailed feet to raise his body in order to fill his lungs with air as he hung on the cross once it was raised into place. Thank him for enduring such agony for three hours until his strength gave out in that eternal moment when he gave up his spirit and died—giving us his life. This whole ordeal, but especially his time on the cross (where he couldn’t even scratch his nose) was a lesson on releasing control and submitting to the Father. Such awareness puts our lives into perspective.


Fr. Vincent Serpa O.P.