Somewhere along the line, whether you are religious or not, you have probably heard of the Serenity Prayer. Many are familiar with The Serenity Prayer from attending 12-step meetings. It can be a powerful “tool” for dealing with addiction. It occurred to me, when I broke down the basic components of this well-known prayer, that you can also use it as a means for Stress Management.
The best-known form of this prayer, according to Wikipedia is:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”
Breaking down the Serenity Prayer
If you look at the Serenity Prayer and consider its basic elements, dealing with Stress boils down to following one of two paths:
- Accepting what cannot be changed and
- Taking action on what can be changed
Of course (also referenced in the prayer) life’s challenges are not always so simple. Mustering our courage is required. Also, it is not always so clear which one of these paths we need to take.
Dealing with the Stress – that is within my control
Most of us are more comfortable dealing with the type of stress that is within our control. Even if I don’t feel like cleaning my bathroom, at least I know I can do it. It’s comforting to know that technically I can take care of this, if I choose to do so. And if I don’t yet know how to do something, at least I can try to learn how to do it.
Dealing with the Stress – that is not within my control
Dealing with the type of Stress that is not within our control, usually requires some kind of emotion management. This may involve grieving. It may involve “letting go”. Maybe I have to figure out how to accept something that I find intolerable. This is not as easy as putting something on my “to do” list.
Telling the difference
Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed or confused that we don’t even know whether or not something is within our control. How can we tell the difference, if we are so used to approaching life in a very certain way?
Stress Management Habits
Most of us have habits or tendencies for dealing with stress. Some of us are used to problem-solving or taking care of practical things. Some of us are “fixers”. But what happens when the thing “to fix” is not within our control?
- I can’t control the mood of another.
- I can’t wish away the results of a test.
- I can’t prevent a hurricane from hitting my town.
We can’t simply “fix” everything! We can try, but usually when and if we do try, we run into problems. What if she doesn’t want our help? What if he sees things differently than I do? I might waste all of my energy in the wrong direction.
We might be used to “trusting” that problems fix themselves. Perhaps we got used to living with someone who takes care of all the practical stuff. What if we have gotten away without consequences for inaction? Suddenly (or not so suddenly) we are faced with the reality that no one else is going to take care of this situation. The consequence is falling on me and it’s falling hard now! The peace of not having had to plan is now gone. I might have to do this myself. I might have to do some research. I might have to learn a new skill. I might have to face one of my greatest fears. I might have to admit to myself that someone else had been taking care of this for a long time. Now what do I do with this this new awareness?
Using a Stress Management Model
So, next time you are dealing with something that is really stressing you out, start reducing your stress by:
- Taking out a sheet of paper.
- Brainstorming all aspects of this situation that is stressing you out.
- Determining which items on the list are within your control.
- Determining which items on the list are not within your control.
If you need additional assistance in managing life’s stresses, you can always reach out for help!
Lisa T Perry, MEd, LPC, CCMHC, VMT-R is Licensed Professional Counselor, who loves working with people who are stressed out and need assistance.