Image courtesy of Surachai/

This morning I read a description of a woman who was having trouble walking across a room with a full cup of coffee——the more she focused her attention on the coffee, the more trouble she had keeping all the coffee in the cup (2007, Daily Guideposts, 2008). I was immediately whisked back in time to about 1966 when I first started working as a waitress. One of the hardest things for me to learn was how to serve coffee without sloshing the coffee over the sides of the cup. Just like the woman I read about this morning, I learned “sloshing coffee” ceased to be a problem if I stopped looking at the coffee and concentrated on another aspect of my task .

I didn’t know it then, but many years later twelve step recovery would also teach me to attend to first things first, one step/day at a time, and “Easy Does It.” What applies to carrying coffee with a steady hand also applies to living life  with a “steady approach”—-that is focusing on one step at a time and  re-directing my attention from worry to faith,  the faith that God is in charge of absolutely everything.

For the past few days I have been teetering on the edge of “non-steady” living—–I’ve been worried about a friend’s welfare, another friend’s job, my sister’s job, health care for our nation, the government shutting down, my  91 year old father’s changing mental status, getting my social security check, and my own health. For the first time I am starting to recognize how the amount of stress and worry I am experiencing can affect  my physical health. I know stress and health are related. Learning to recognize the signs in my own body of operating in “stress and worry mode” has been a bit harder for me because that state has been my “normal.” My efforts to learn to meditate, practice centering prayer, and just to consciously calm myself have slowly been nurturing a new “body awareness” in me. Now it is up to me to “catch it happening early” and to consciously focus on relaxing and turning off the stress/worry mode when I recognize it.

I am proud to report when I started feeling the “stress/worry mode” yesterday after a full day of teaching I came home, let people know I wouldn’t be at my regular Monday night meetings, and just “hung with my dogs”—-which is, most times, a great way for me to relax. I consciously let go of my worries—–it was ridiculously clear, even to me, that I couldn’t fix any of the problems I’ve been worried about. I can work on changing my own attitude and behaviors. I have to acknowledge and accept that what was once “easy” for me in terms of working  and handling stress no longer applies to the person I have become as I “transition into elder hood.” I think all nurses should be required to take a course focused on “Taking Care of Self.” We are taught to focus on caring for others, and we often neglect caring for ourselves. I am slowly learning this new skill.

Today is October 1, 2013. The U.S. government is “closed for business.” Life goes on. After I turned things over to God yesterday evening, my sister called with good news about a new job prospect. The friend I was worried about told me she  is feeling empowered and is able to laugh now—-something she hadn’t been able to do in months. I don’t know why I am always surprised when things work out all on their own without my worry getting in my way—–just like the coffee always did just fine when my worry got out of my way. I am my own worst enemy and my own best friend. The choice is mine, and I hope, being the slow learner that I am, that it is finally getting easier for me to recognize and let go of stress and worry on a one day at a time basis so that I can cultivate a nurturing, caring friendship with myself.

Please comment and share thoughts you have regarding coping with stress and worry. May God bless and keep you.