“Your anxiety is giving me anxiety” was the energetic message I radiated. I claimed that I wanted my husband to heal for his sake. But the truth was that I was terrified. When he had anxiety, I didn’t know how to self-regulate, and I lost all sense of self.

I picked up different tips and tricks on what to say and not to say to someone experiencing anxiety. But the most life-changing thing I learned is how to infuse my words with kavanah, proper intentions.

The Tanya dedicates entire chapters (38-41) to understanding the cosmic effect of kavanah—the intention behind our words of Torah, prayer and the mitzvot we do. When we infuse our Divine service with love and awe, it propels them into higher spiritual worlds. Every mitzvah is inherently powerful, but like a bird without wings, the impact of a mitzvah without kavanah is limited.

Likewise, the energy behind our words of encouragement is what gives them their full ability to enter someone else’s inner world and have a positive impact.

The message that my husband needed to hear from me was, “You’ve got this! I trust you.” But every time his anxiety spiraled, the message I was giving him sounded more like, “Hurry up and heal because I can’t handle this!”

I had a packed freezer full of cooked food for the upcoming holiday and in anticipation for the community BBQ. All was swell, except that the freezer wasn’t working and the ice machine had turned into a swimming pool!

I waited for my husband to be the hero and jump into action. Instead, he looked terrified and frozen. I called a friend and arranged for us to drop off the goods in their freezer.

I pried and poked, afraid that Ariel had gone under; his amygdala was firing, and who knew when it would turn off. Would I be abandoned emotionally for days? For weeks? Would this ruin my holiday?

As my amygdala fired, and my anxiety over his anxiety kicked in, I asked him, “Are you OK? Do you need anything? Do you want to talk about it?” As I expressed myself, I realized that my energy really said it all: “I don’t trust your process or ability to manage your nervous system.”

“Deep breaths, Chana,” I told myself. “Breathe in for three and out for four. Let your stomach rise on the inhale and deflate on the exhale. I am in charge of my anxiety, not his.” I repeated my affirmation. “Ariel is the expert on his own life; I am in a place of trust.” I had a mental slideshow prepared of the innumerable times he had achieved self-regulation in stressful situations.

I looked over at my husband with a new glance of respect. “I trust you,” I said. And I meant it.

We had a bonfire scheduled with friends, and our Waze took us through twisting wheat fields in Israel’s nature reserve. I was sure we were lost when we spotted an old-school hippy caravan with people gathered around a bonfire.

Ariel wasn’t talking to me; he sat quietly petting a dog that lived freely in the fields. My trauma made me want to obsess over making sure that he was fine. But I knew my inner work—my path to connect with G‑d—was to go within. I stayed focused on regulating myself, feeling the fire’s heat and letting the rhythm of the beautiful nigunim, songs, as we sang around the bonfire soothe my system.

The next day, walking with Ariel along the rocky ocean shore, he shared with me what he felt about my reaction. I had changed the dance; I trusted him and calmed my anxiety over his anxiety instead of my usual prying and therapy-like questions to get him to open up. He felt trusted to take his time and felt safe to share his inner experience, beautifully and intimately.

“I trust you” may have started as an affirmation, but now it is reality. “You are the expert on your life and I trust you” is the energy that I want to fill my words with in order to elevate my own inner world, and also to have a positive impact on someone else’s.