FINDING HOPE AGAIN
Your Prescription for Anxiety
By Nancy Williams,
Licensed Counselor and Life Coach
CBN.com Anxiety. Fear. Worry.
If we’re not careful, these negative emotions will creep into our minds and attempt to steal our joy. While we tend to assume we know how things will unfold as we move through our days, we realize uncertainty is, indeed, a fact of life. Most of the time we accept that premise, acknowledge our concern, and respond with the assurance, “I’ll handle it.” Then we go on with our daily routine, dismissing any anxious thoughts from taking hold.
However, in these present times, uncertainty is right here before us, weaving its way into our minds and conversations. World peace, national security, a sound economy, financial stability, health, safety, and well-being for our families, peace within our hearts—can we achieve these things? Can we maintain them?
Many of us struggle to keep concern from becoming anxiety and caution from fueling fear. The result? Stress. A constant worry stirs our minds, drains our energy, and robs us of joy. We seek the help of counselors as we search for a way to cope. Anxiety drives us to doctors’ offices and emergency rooms in increasing numbers daily. 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’ clinics overflow with people so physically wound up their bodies can’t function as God intended. Massage therapists dig deep into our muscles to work out the knots and help us relax.
These treatment options bring relief for the moment; however, we may soon find ourselves facing new challenges and new tensions. The anxiety and worry are back, knocking at our emotional door as the cycle continues. There are times when anxiety is brought on by life situations: financial strain, relationship conflicts, job stress, a pending move, death of a loved one, health concerns, insecurities.
The feelings may seem overwhelming at first; however, we soon realize that developing effective coping tools can help us hold onto concern and caution without embracing worry and fear as we cope with the stress brought on by anxiety. Once we find a way to resolve or effectively manage the life challenge, our anxiety lessens and symptoms fade away.
If you find yourself struggling with excessive worry, these steps can help you address your anxiety as you deal with the life situation at hand:
(1) Gather enough information to assess the situation and determine what is and is not within your control. The Serenity Prayer can guide your mind in this direction: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Narrowing your focus to those areas you can control 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 think more clearly. Take a long walk followed by a warm bath or shower to draw comfort from the warmth and serenity of nature. A massage and vigorous exercise are two other productive ways to release worry.
(3) Look for emotional support from trusted family members, friends, clergy, and church groups that offer encouragement with a kind word, a smile, and a handshake or a hug. Feeling connected to others is vital to our 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. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the blessings that are yours, and recall how God carried you through past challenges and uncertainties. Let your thoughts and your words flow from a well of hope.
(6) Turn to your faith. Prayer can soothe the mind and calm the soul, whether in the company of others gathered in worship or in a quiet place alone. When feeling overwhelmed and uncertain, calm your troubled spirit with the awareness of God’s protection and provision.
(7) 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.
When It Doesn’t Go Away
Not all anxiety is easily addressed. The National Institute for Mental Health reports that 6.8 million adult Americans struggle with generalized anxiety disorder, which is diagnosed when someone spends at least six months worrying excessively about a number of everyday problems. People with GAD tend to go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster, are overly concerned with life issues, and may even feel anxious about just getting through the day. They can’t seem to get rid of their concerns. While some people are able to function socially and hold down a job, others can have difficulty carrying out daily activities if their anxiety is severe.
According to the NIMH, people with generalized anxiety disorder can’t relax, startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Physical symptoms that may accompany the anxiety include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes.
If you think you have problems with anxiety that is not manageable and if you are experiencing difficulties like those identified, the NIMH recommends you begin by consulting your doctor to determine if your symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both. If an anxiety disorder is identified, treatment may include medication and/or consultation with a mental health professional. The self-care tips offered earlier will also help you effectively address anxiety.
A Final Thought
Life is, indeed, uncertain; however, you do have this day. You have this moment. If you find yourself struggling with anxious thoughts you can’t easily dismiss, the most powerful first step you can take is to find a quiet place and be still. Close your eyes and calm your thoughts with assurance that God is with you. Your life is in His hands. Breathe deeply as you let His peace transcend your understanding and fill your heart with hope.
National Institute for Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov
Scriptures that Address Anxiety
Proverbs 12:25; 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-8; Isaiah 41:10, 13; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; John 14:1-3; Isaiah 26:3-4; Romans 8:28.
Copyright © Nancy Williams. Used by permission.
Nancy Williams maintains a private counseling practice in Houston, Texas, providing counseling, coaching, and consulting services to adults in a Christian setting. Nancy has a special interest in supporting women facing various life management issues, with a focus on personal growth, healing, and spiritual renewal. An experienced conference speaker, teacher, and writer, Nancy weaves together warmth, wit, and wisdom as she genuinely connects with her listeners and challenges them to live their best life.
Nancy also enjoys writing an inspirational newspaper column focusing on life management entitled “Keeping Your Balance,” currently appearing in six weekly community papers in the northeast Houston, Texas, area. Keeping Your Balance…Finding Your Way (Copyright © 2004) is a collection of some of her early columns. She also writes frequently for The Forest Image, a bimonthly news magazine. Nancy can be reached through her Web site: www.nancywilliams.net.
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