Anxiety and the Torah

4 months ago Hannah Butcher 0

Anxiety is a common feeling that many of us have experienced. It’s uncomfortable, and the symptoms vary from person to person.  Everyone experiences anxiety differently; for some, their palms sweat, their thoughts spiral out of control, their breathing becomes shallow, or their stomachs tie in knots. The world may seem to spin around us and, more often than not, we feel trapped inside ourselves. But what causes this feeling of hopelessness? And, can the solution and aid for anxiety be found in Torah?

The way I see it, the anxiety some of us may experience, whether it be before a test, presentation, or important decision, is linked to one, specific thing: the outcome of the situation. When we are anxious, we focus our thoughts on what may happen rather than what is happening. For example, if you are anxious about the amount of homework you  receive, you’re probably thinking about the negative outcomes instead of actually solving the problem at hand. You orbit your thoughts around the consequences of not completing the homework instead of the positive benefits of doing so. A chain reaction of thoughts ensues inside of you, most of which increasingly worsen. For example, a person may think the following:

If I don’t finish/do badly on my homework, I will fail the test. If I fail the test, my GPA will plummet. If it plummets, I won’t get into college. If I don’t get into college, I will never find my true purpose…

The key to avoiding this train of thought is to avoid focusing on impending outcomes. The Torah teaches us to live in the moment and savor the present. There is a reason that the great sage Hillel taught us the famous saying: “If not now, when?” We must focus on the moments we are given from the point in which we receive them. If we make a habit of always focusing on the outcomes, we build unnecessary anxieties about the future. As a result, we lose ourselves in negativity and find ourselves wallowing in the “what-if’s.”

We are finite creatures; we can only see what is directly in front of us, and, as a result, we tend to imagine that the events we can’t see are dark and gloomy. However, G-d is infinite. We learn and trust that He has created a plan for us that our finite, limited minds cannot yet understand. As long as we stay focused on the present, He will not let us fall into darkness without a reason.

Trust in G-d’s plan, and your anxieties will disappear. Make peace with yourself, throw away the outcomes, and treat the present as it is: a gift that you cannot return.

 

*Disclaimer: Anxiety is a serious issue and must be approached carefully. If you or someone you know suffers from it, seek help and let someone know.