nancy williams

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Archive for January, 2009

When Anxiety Comes Knocking

We’ve kicked off this new year with anticipation, dreaming about what we hope to accomplish. Now excitement has settled down a bit and we’re looking around to face the uncertainties that abound as questions loom. Will we make it to a successful finish line and reach the goals we’ve set? How will the current economic crisis affect us? Will we be able to meet our needs, not to mention our desires? Are we ready for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as this year unfolds?

If we let these questions whirl around without something to hold onto for support, anxiety can begin to weave its way into our minds and our conversations. The kind of worry that drains our energy, robs us of joy and breeds fear as we search for ways to cope. It drives us to doctors’ offices with physical concerns. We meet fellow sufferers at the pharmacy staring at row after row of everything from antacids and headache remedies, to muscle and tension relievers. Chiropractors, massage therapists and counselors all have offices overflowing with people so physically and emotionally wound up that they can’t function day-to-day as God desires.

While we may find treatment options that bring relief for the moment, we soon find ourselves facing another day with new challenges and tensions; and anxiety once again knocks at our emotional door. So, how can we hold onto concern without embracing worry and fear? You may want to consider these self-care tips to help cope with the stresses you may encounter and avoid the anxiety that may lurk about.

(1) Gather enough information to assess the situation and determine what is and is not within your control. Narrowing your focus to those areas you can address will help you feel less overwhelmed and better able to develop a plan of action.

(2) Take care of yourself by maintaining a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest along with exercise. Take time out from tension-producing situations whenever possible. Sit quietly in a calm environment and take deep, slow breaths to help your body settle down, your muscles relax and your mind process more clearly. Take a long walk followed by a warm bath or shower to draw comfort from the warmth and serenity of nature.

(3) Look for emotional support from family members, friends, clergy and church groups that offer encouragement with a kind word, a smile, a handshake or a hug. Feeling connected to others is vital to emotional health.

(4) Experience the healing powers of humor and music. Watch a funny movie. Read a humorous book. Share a joke with a friend. Laugh with a child. Listen to music that will soothe your soul.

(5) Pay attention to your self-talk. Instead of dwelling on uncertainties and negative possibilities, flood your thoughts with positive messages.

(6) Step outside yourself and find someone you can help. Acts of kindness toward others will shift your focus and lift your spirit, reminding you of your own blessings and encouraging connection with those around you.

(7) Consult with a physician or a professional counselor if you have difficulty managing anxiety.

(8) Turn to your faith. Prayer and meditation can soothe the mind and calm the soul, whether in the company of others gathered in worship or in a quiet place alone.

Yes, life is uncertain; and if you find anxiety stirring within you, find a quiet place and be still. Close your eyes and breathe deeply as you begin to calm your troubled spirit with an awareness of God’s protection and provision. Let His presence and peace fill your heart with hope as you claim the promises in His word like this one in Isaiah 41:10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Then reflect on Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

God is with you: be encouraged.

Attitude Will Be Key to Success

Happy New Year! We’ve watched the ball drop in Times Square, offered well wishes to friends and family, and enjoyed our annual serving of black-eyed peas, all in an attempt to properly usher in 2009. Now that the celebrations have ceased, the questions are before us: what will this new year hold? Will we find our own measure of success? What steps should we take to prepare; and how can we stay on course during the year so we’ll turn our resolutions into realities?

If we’re going to successfully move through this new year, we need to begin by establishing a focus – a sense of direction about how we want our lives to unfold and how we want to relate to the world around us. Once we have that vision clearly in mind, then we need a plan. A guide to help us stay on course toward reaching our goals. We’ll also need a measure of flexibility to adapt to changes, especially in these challenging, unsettled times.

Those steps are valuable in helping us chart our course; yet, alongside our excitement, sits a measure of uncertainty as we realize we really don’t know what this new year will hold. A look back at the past reminds us how quickly changes come along that take our lives in unexpected directions, sometimes spinning quickly, sometimes slowing down, sometimes turning us upside down. We can have the best of intentions and take all the steps we think we should, but we just don’t know what life will hold. So, how do we approach this new year amid that uncertainty?

My own life experiences and my work with clients have taught me that we need to set our goals, develop our plans, then take our steps one day at a time, all while paying careful attention to the attitude we choose to embrace. It’s our attitude that will play a vital role in how we’ll move through this new year, beginning right now. We can look forward with eager anticipation to a positive year filled with opportunities and blessings. We can moan with dread about the challenges and struggles that may likely cross our paths. Or we can let our minds race with anxious thoughts about the unknown. The truth is this: we don’t always have a choice about the circumstances that will unfold in our lives, but we do have a choice in the attitude we’ll take on as we move through whatever comes along.

I want to choose optimism wrapped in a blanket of hope. That means I’ll have to approach each day with a positive mindset – one of hopefulness and anticipation of what God has in store for me, ready to respond to whatever life holds. Of course, that comes easily when things are going well. It’s when life seems unfair, when disappointments and hurts come along, when relationships struggle, when fears creep in, that we have to search deep within to find that optimism. To hold tightly to the truth that God does love us, that He has a plan for our lives, and that He has promised to walk alongside us on our life journey. To remember that if we trust in Him, He’ll not only see us through each day but He’ll pour out His love to us and draw us closer to Him, celebrating with us in our joys and wiping our tears in the sorrows.

So, if we are to make this year a really great one, we need a clear perspective on the kind of lives we want to live – the legacy we want to build. We need to set goals and develop plans that will move us forward in that direction. As we do so, we must take deliberate steps each day to cultivate a positive attitude – one of optimism and expectancy that God has some great things in store for us in the days ahead. A year filled with hope and anticipation. Most importantly, we must look to Him for guidance in each of these steps. With God’s help, we can make this a great year; and I can’t wait to see what He has planned!