In this chaotic environment with a volatile election, a destructive pandemic, and economic stress, what can you change, and what must you accept? In the world of Recovery, there’s a famous prayer to which even the faithless cling. Woven into this plea lies the answer to much of the anxiety plaguing so many of us these days:
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. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace...
With so much stress on nearly every front, many of us find ourselves at the end of our ropes. People lash out online, addiction and abuse are on the rise, and we’re not even supposed to have a party or travel to a faraway land to escape our woes for a while. All of this adds up to a massive mental health epidemic. We’re afraid, and angry, and tired. We’re hiding in our tub of ice cream, social media, an extra glass (or bottle) of wine, NCIS reruns, or even just extreme busyness so we can avoid thinking about all of the things we can’t control.
Control. That’s what’s really at the heart of our anxiety. We are saturated in a cacophony of noise, voices whispering in our ears constantly of all the losses we should fear: jobs, friendship, our health and that of our loved ones, financial stability, political victory, and even our sanity.
And we deeply, desperately desire to control these things.
But control is a funny thing. Each of us has the power of choice, which we confuse with control. Technically, we can choose what we eat, where we go, what we say and do…to a degree. Do you devour things you regret later? Do you spew ugly or untrue things you wish you hadn’t? Do you promise yourself over and over to accomplish something, yet it remains undone years later?
Is that real choice?
Then of course, there are all the things over which we have no control at all, including all of these personal, national, and worldwide crises. As much as we long for a particular outcome on all those fronts, we do not wield that kind of power.
So then are we helpless? Definitely not.
In the prayer above, there are three parts to experiencing relief from our anxiety. First is serenity, or inward peace, in accepting what we can’t change. Cue the cliche, easier said than done.
This one has been a long journey for me, and I’m not great at it yet, but I have one powerful tool. About a year and a half ago though, a group of my friends and I started a gratitude thread. A few of them had heard a talk about how gratitude PHYSICALLY changes the brain, so it’s one of the few scientific ways to fight fear!
Slowly, over the course of the next few months, my perspective changed. I began to look for the good things in my life, even in shitty circumstances. Focusing on the positive things helped me feel more hopeful and grounded. The good moments are like twinkle lights in the dark sometimes, stringing me along from one little bit of joy to the next, and I always know more are coming – no matter how dark it gets.
The second part of combatting anxiety through this prayer is courage to change the things that are in my power. When I’m in a good place, I choose to invest in accountability for my emotional and mental wellbeing, nutrition and exercise, and my career. These people help me accomplish what I never could on my own as they help me process, set goals, find encouragement, and call me out.
If you don’t have this kind of people in your life, I highly recommend seeking them out and asking for that support! I found my people in Recovery, counseling, and the Young Women’s Alliance in Austin, but others find their support through church, coworkers, or even in their gym community.
Another life changing tool for change lies in shifting my perspective from one of scarcity to one of abundance. This will be explored in another post, but basically I sometimes struggle to believe I have enough, or that I am enough. I feel I lack energy and motivation most days, but scarcity mindset often includes always needing more time, money, and space, whether physical or emotional. Some days I’m sure I’m not smart enough, capable enough, creative enough to accomplish everything I envision.
So the shift has to be: I am inherently enough, and I have enough for today, if I choose how to use how to use my resources wisely.
That wisdom part is complicated, and it’s the last part of the prayer. The Bible talks about seeking wisdom like hidden treasure, and we have to if we want to accomplish anything worthwhile in this world, whether it’s cultivating a joyful life, raising a good human, developing an entire business, or a hundred other examples. Seek it with your family, religion, books, or blogs (hopefully you found a nugget here!). I look for mine with my accountability, and sometimes in listening to that quiet voice in myself that so often tells me beautiful truths.
Finding peace in this season of our lives is incredibly tough. If you’re struggling with even getting out of bed in the morning or finding the point in living, please talk to someone. I’ve been there, I know how it feels, but you are not alone. If your struggles are a bit more manageable these days but still very present, start a gratitude journal or thread with friends; find accountability in the areas that matter most; and seek wisdom wherever it might be found.
Let’s kick fear’s ass this week, Wolf Pack.