Let’s chat about ANXIETY.

I stood in the girls restroom trying to stifle my uncontrollable sobs so no one could hear. After a few minutes, I began to breathe easier. Looking into the mirror I dried my eyes. ”Niclair, you can do this! You’ve got to do this! You’re almost there! Pick yourself up and keep going!” I whispered these words to myself as I stared into my now red and puffy eyes.

This was one of several attacks I had suffered in high school and college. At the time, I thought I was overwhelmed and stressed and you know- over- emotional like we assume teenage girls are. I now know that I had been experiencing anxiety attacks.

The stress of constant studying and pressure to achieve the grades I needed, to be accepted to my universities of choice was overwhelming, especially in an academically competitive school like the one I attended. I was pushing myself beyond my physical capacity with late nights, early mornings and still failing to achieve the desired grades.

While I am happy I did it, and am pleased with my success, I can’t hide the fact that it was TOUGH! But, I wanted it, so I pushed for it!

Anxiety is something that I have always struggled with. It’s the ”perfectionist” side of me that I believe is the root of my anxiety. Not that I, myself wanted to be perfect, but I had always felt that people expected me to be ‘perfect’ and so I always felt that pressure to perform, to be the best, to do the right thing, to do the expected thing. There was no room for mistakes. People depended on me. I know that my parents only ever expected me to do my personal best, but I carried a misconception that ‘I’ couldn’t afford to ever disappoint, so I put pressure on myself to out-do my own ‘best’.

Let me just interject here that, Perfection is something none of us can ever achieve. Only CHRIST is perfect. The perfection that some us strive for is just a false sense of security and satisfaction that we get to shield us from our insecurities and vulnerability about others may think about us. I love how Brene Brown describes it in her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’.( Go read it now if you haven’t! I’ve read it twice. It’s so enlightening!) ”Perfectionism is , at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance……we want to be perceived as perfect.” Truth is, as long as it looks perfect on the outside to everyone else, we have achieved success!

I digress a little. I’m sharing my story- not struggle- with anxiety because it is real and many people are affected by it and don’t realise. As described by the NHS website, Anxiety is characterised by feelings of worry, uneasiness or fear. While feelings of anxiety are completely normal at times in ones’ life, for example, life- changing event, a big exam, etc. if these feelings are affecting your regular routine and daily life, then you may have to seek help.

For me, help wasn’t as serious as seeing a therapist or GP, but I do have some strategies on hand to help me when I feel an attack coming on and some ways to lessen my anxiety in general about certain life situations.

Just to give you an idea, some common symptoms of anxiety are:

-insomnia
-a sense of dread
-difficulty concentrating
-irritability
-constantly feeling stressed
-nail- biting/chewing habit
-refraining from unplanned or spontaneous activities
-the need for a predetermined plan all the time

Signs of an anxiety attack are mostly physical, and can include:

-dizziness
-Heart palpitations ( irregular heartbeat, strong or fast)
-confusion
-Shaking
-excessive sweating
-shortness of breath
-feeling nauseous
-Feeling faint or weak
-Uncontrollable sobbing

Please bear in mind that everyone is different and this is by no means to be taken as official medical advice! It is purely a synopsis of my personal research and experience. Anxiety doesn’t only affect your psychological health but can affect your physical health as well. I encourage you to do a self- evaluation and make the choice to see a professional if you feel anxiety is hindering your daily life and normal routine.

We were on our way to church, it might have been our second or third Sunday as newlyweds. Hubby was driving, and we were both just in our thoughts and I burst into tears. I couldn’t help myself, I didn’t know what was wrong. My heart just suddenly felt like someone had set a couple of bricks on it. Of course he was concerned and pulled over until I was calm. And I was so embarrassed, I thought, ”my brand new husband probably wondering what is wrong with this girl and fretting about what he may have to deal with in future.”

Truth: I had just done some major life changing stuff and I barely took the time to really let it sink in. I graduated school, returned home, started two jobs and got engaged all in the space of 6 months. A year from my engagement, I was married and ‘living with man’! (Homegirl grow up in church you know, that’s a big deal!) And it was all just hitting me like a ton of bricks and……yeah! However I am grateful for such an understanding and supportive husband. He is never and has never been judgemental or scared of these ‘imperfections’. He just goes with my flow! 🙂

Since then, I’ve had a few other attacks as an adult, but now that I can recognise them and understand that as a result of anxiety, I try as much as possible to release my grip on always trying to ‘have it together’ or knowing the plan.

I aim to keep my mind on the things that I can control and surrender what I can’t. And on those few days that everything falls to pieces, I use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding technique. This was suggested by a close friend of mine, and it really helps me during an attack.

During the onset of an attack, I take slow, deep breaths and look for
5 things that I can see
4 things that I can feel
3 things that I can hear
2 things that I can smell and
1 thing that I can taste

I also look for an object to focus in on and concentrate on its details. e.g a window drape, the colour, texture, pattern etc.

Anxiety is quite common with many people today, especially in woman because of the many social pressures to again be fit, be successful, be a model career woman, be an entrepreneur, be the ‘magazine’ mom, be the ‘trophy’ wife, to be…PERFECT!

I am at the point where I am so tired of trying to live to other’s expectations! it’s exhausting! It’s stressful and self- destructive! So while I know anxiety is real, and I accept that. It’s something that I am trying to reduce as much as possible these days by releasing myself from these pressures and just following, at my own pace, the path God has laid out for me.

Philippians 4:6-8:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This verse is always in my back pocket. It’s a constant reminder to surrender my concerns, my worries, insecurities to Christ- and honestly, when you fully let go of them you will experience HIS Peace. His Peace will keep you. His Peace reminds me that HE has the power to ‘perfect’ everything that concerns me, so I don’t need to worry!

Matthew 6:25-34 reminds me that, if God has strategically and divinely placed everything in nature around me, then surely he has a divine plan for my life as well.

I also don’t need to try and keep up with everyone around me, I can run/ walk/skip at my own pace because Romans 8:28 tells me that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

I know what it is to strive for something with everything in you because you fear to disappoint yourself and others. I still struggle with that now, but I’m learning that my success and accomplishment cannot be based on other’s measuring stick. If that’s the case I will forever be trying to ‘keep up’ but instead falling short. I’m seeing the need to be compassionate with myself because I cannot control other’s perception of who I am or who they think I am suppose to be. What defines me is who God says that I am!

As I leave you with these thoughts, this scripture is one that I keep in my other back pocket:
Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Trust God to take you where he wants you to be!

If you feel like anxiety is something you struggle with and would like someone to talk to, I am happy to be a listening ear and shoulder for support. Get in touch with me! We can pray on this together!

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll be sharing about anxiety in children, how to spot it and coping strategies. Until then,
Keep Growing!

Yesterday was a good day! How was today?- Ask me tomorrow!

Do you sometimes feel like you can’t ground yourself? What are you talking about Niclair? Today your feeling great, motivated, recharged, Tomorrow your back at the bottom struggling to bring purpose to your day. Well if that’s not you, awesome! Some people just always seem ready to bring the force! This is not me! Let me give you an example. Last week Thursday, I had a really good day. I was THE mom! I didn’t shout or raise my voice at the girls. We played and laughed together. They tried their hardest to play cooperatively and ate all their dinner without too much fuss! It was a GOOD day! And when I stepped into the shower that evening, all I could do was sing praises to God, because I had such a peace. I felt God’s presence with me all day. Fast forward to Friday…….it was dreadful! I started the day willing myself out of bed. I felt myself spiralling out of control all day. I ended Friday in tears as I stood in the shower, feeling guilty for not having a day like yesterday! I find myself constantly in this cycle so I prayed about it and told God this was an area I needed some help with. So lately, I have been working on some ways to help me keep a positive mindset and grateful attitude so that whatever drama the day brings, I am mentally prepared to take it on and not let it drag me down.

Truth is, this happens a lot with me. I have an awesome day and then a horrendous day! Like…. what gives? And when I reflect on it. It wasn’t really a horrendous day, but I did have some ‘stuff’ on my heart that were a real burden. Instead of laying them at the feet of the one who says to us to give HIM everything, I carried it around all day. The weight of the burden on my mind was hindering my focus so much that I couldn’t even tune in to my worship music. It affected my mood and because my mood was off, everything else became out of balance.

I replayed the negativity continuously in my mind and so I couldn’t steer my thoughts on the goodness of God and HIS love for me. We sometimes do this thing where we put something down but it’s still in our sight, so it remains on our hearts weighing us down. And you know us moms, when something is there long enough we pick it back up.

How do you give something to God and make sure you leave it with HIM? Choose to pick up something else instead. When you go to the feet of Jesus, in prayer and you pour out your heart to HIM, i’m encouraging you make sure you leave with something when you get up. Not the same thing of course but something which he has offered to you….HIS unconditional love for us, the promise that HE is always with us and a reminder of HIS all- sufficient GRACE. A reminder to give yourself a little more grace and to offer those around you a little more grace. BE GRACIOUS.

For me, if something doesn’t go as planned, or I lose track of time or the girls did something that threw my day out of whack, I always get stressed. There I begin losing control and falling into that disappointed, negative mindset as I scramble to get my day back on track. And I am realizing that I put so much pressure on myself and the people closest to me, no wonder I get stressed! We all get stressed! I’m learning to be gracious!

I sometimes take my thoughts towards others and pretend as if it was Jesus saying the same to me: ”This is your last chance. It’s about time you get this right, Niclair !” And immediately I’m like Whoa… ummm Niclair, where’s the grace? I recall once being quite frustrated with Sarai and I asked ”Do you think you deserve a second chance? How many chances have I given you already?” And in that exact moment, I heard God echo those words in my heart! ”Niclair, do you think you deserve a second chance? How many chances have I given you already?” And I thought in my heart, Lord please don’t put a limit on it, because I know I’m going to need more!

I say that to say sometimes those around us, those closest to us could use a little more grace. For me as a mom of a powerhouse 5 year old and a spirited 2 year old, I tend to be very firm sometimes. Firm, because I love them and I know that these are the tender years and I want to make sure that I am teaching them wrong from right and how to do the responsible thing. Still, i’ve got to remind myself to be gracious with myself and with them. We are doing this together. They can’t do this thing without me and I can’t do it without them for sure!

One of the things I began to do, is wake up with worship music and have it playing in the mornings as we start our day. Well it has been working and I am so much better prepared for the day and the challenges it may bring. I even find that I feel more in charge and in control of my mood throughout the day. It’s also been beneficial to spend more time in the word of GOD. Setting aside time to meditate on God’s promises makes it easier to draw on them during the day when I need a little boost.

As I am writing, in the time I have allocated as ”my time to write”, Hannah is demanding that I go and get her some food 🙂 . So before I go, I want to leave with you these scriptures that encourage me:

2 Corinthians 12:9 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Philippians 1:6- being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Until next time, keep going and keep growing!
Niclair x

BE the one to kick ‘comfortable’ to the curb!

I always use to think that one should grow within the area of their strengths. I believed that one should develop what you’re good at, follow your natural talents and abilities because those were the areas you would excel in and more likely to be successful in. With this mindset I began to approach various things in my life. I stuck to (and still do) what I was good at. I restricted my self to doing what came naturally. That was ok for me, because I knew I wouldn’t fail in that area. I knew it was my strength and I was bound to be successful. So I entered into a feel good, all settled, comfort zone. This is dangerous territory for various reasons:

1- You can become complacent and start doing things at a mediocre level;

2- You can fall into a slump, where you don’t experience any growth.

About a year or two ago, I found myself slipping into this place. I wasn’t stretching myself and I wasn’t learning anything new. I began to feel bored and trapped because I refused to challenge myself. I felt comfortable in a box doing things I knew I could do well without much effort. I wanted more, but wouldn’t dare leave the box! Why couldn’t I leave the box?

F E A R! Fear keeps us from discovering what’s beyond the boundaries of our current experiences. It keeps us in the safe zone! And while I might have felt protected from the unknown, which may have included possible failure, defeat disappointment, the ”unknown” just might have included greater opportunities, growth and other successes. More importantly FEAR stunted my FAITH! FAITH in what God has already promised me. Faith in his HOLY Spirit to guide me and Faith in myself and my ability to do all things in HIS strength!

Fear hangs on to our skirt tail more regularly that we realise, but that’s why this year I am focusing on realising some of my dreams. The dreams that you know we pretend aren’t there, because we DOUBT they will come to pass. I am putting my faith to the test in 2020 by leaving that comfy spot on the couch. I am pushing myself to take on new challenges. I am pursuing ideas that are not within my areas of strength because I want to do more, grow more, be more and to do that I am going to have to encounter some new experiences. It will require a greater effort on my part, but that’s how you build muscle, You don’t get muscle lifting balloons.

People, we will meet resistance! It will take many forms! One to look out for is naysayers!There will be people who doubt your success and would encourage you to play it safe! There will be people who will tell you to ‘stay in your lane.’ And when they do, just say to them ”Tell Jesus, it’s him not me at the wheel!”

People it will feel HARD! The harder the task, the sweeter the reward! Jesus met resistance throughout his journey teaching, preaching and performing miracles. But I can just imagine how full his heart must have become when he met that woman whose faith was such that she only wanted to touch his garment.

People, it will get lonely sometimes but those are the opportune times to surround yourself in God’s presence! Look up encouraging scriptures to help you in these times. I’m not ashamed- I type into google ‘ scriptures to encourage lonely women’ and BAM! Hey, I’m still studying and still growing!

This year I challenge you to BE obedient to the call within your heart. BE someone who rises to the occasion and doesn’t sit back and let awesomeness pass you over. BE someone who crosses new territory in confidence because you got the BIG MAN leading the way. BE someone who is not afraid to FAIL because your FAITH is bigger than your FEAR.

BE COURAGEOUS!

Happy NEW Year ! 2020 Ready!

Happy New Year! 2020 is here! I am so grateful for everything that God has in store for me in 2020! I can’t see it yet, but I can sure feel it. I feel ready for new challenges, excited for new ventures and anticipate the new lessons to be learnt this year. Launching this blog is something I have finally built up the courage to do. I always felt the nudging, but never had the confidence to make a move. Last year God reminded me that to grow I have to be willing to leave my comfort zone. And while I am not a spectacular writer, I am a talker. So I will be ‘talk- writing’ to you guys!

As I charge into 2020, I intend to BE GRACIOUS! This is what I feel is my focus this year. Be gracious to myself, with my children, my husband and people in general. Many times we get so wrapped up in what we want out of life and how we can position and manipulate everyone and every situation in order to achieve it. We forget that people are people with their own agendas, unique personalities and desires. And for me, I think I could do with extending a little more grace sometimes. Backtrack! ALOT more grace- especially with those closest to me.

As the month passes I will be sharing a bit more about my hearts intentions for 2020. So be sure to follow me so you can be apart of the conversation. What’s your power phrase for 2020?

Welcome to my journey!

Hi there! I’m Niclair and I’m a Jesus Lover, Wife , a Mom, a teacher and to sum it all up , I am a woman. A woman on a journey to discovering her true purpose and committed to intentionally living a wholesome life that honours that purpose in Christ! Come alongside me! Let’s chat! Let’s cry! Let’s laugh! Let’s rant! Let’s live ! Let’s serve! Let’s love on each other! Let’s be Women!