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. Nancy Williams, LPC maintains a counseling, coaching and consulting practice in Kingwood. Send comments or questions to her at www.nancywilliams.net. Disclaimer: Any action taken in light of this column is solely the responsibility of the reader and is not to be considered professional counsel or advice.

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