God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things that I can,
and the Wisdom To know the difference.
Not only is this a beautiful prayer, but also wise advice for all of us especially during times of
heightened stress. And make no mistake; we are steeped in stress. We have been living with
COVID-19 for two years, experiencing the deep and abiding wounds of long-term racial
injustice, our nation is vehemently divided on many social issues, crime rates are soaring,
product shortages abound, inflation is choking us, and most recently we are horrified witnesses to a Russian-waged war against Ukraine.
We feel profound levels of anxiety and powerlessness. What can we do in the face of such
monumental obstacles? We can make choices that help us manage our individual stress levels then, as the Serenity Prayer encourages, we can best discern what we can and cannot change and choose to act. It is common knowledge in psychology, that a brain riddled with anxiety does not process well and is hindered in its ability to weigh information and make sound decisions. I suggest that each of us take some time to attend to our own stress levels, not unlike adults putting oxygen masks on their own faces before helping their children.
Try these psychological oxygen masks:
- Increase your Level of Self-care
This sounds easy, but in the face of severe stressors, we tend to lose motivation and
focus. We neglect ourselves. I’m suggesting that you do the things that help you relax.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Practice Gratitude
Upon waking each morning, find something for which you are grateful even if it is a very
small, seemingly insignificant thing. When we practice an attitude of thankfulness, we
begin to see increasingly more positive things in our lives. This positivity affects our
- Connect with People
Make sure you are nurturing the people you love because any attention you give them
will decrease your own stress level. Give more hugs. Check-in more often. Plan shared
“fun time.” Focusing on others exponentially benefits us.
- Limit your Exposure to Stress
Are you on your phone or watching the news for hours at a time? It is important to stay
informed about current events, but too many people overdose on exposure to the
stressful happenings in our country and around the world. Ask yourself, “How is this
information affecting my mental health?” You may need to take regular breaks from TV
news and social media.
- Monitor and Limit Your Children’s Exposure to Stress
I am seeing many children and teens in my office with staggeringly high anxiety levels
because they are addicted to social media. The type of information that kids are
accessing on their smartphones or computers is often inappropriate and overwhelming
for their undeveloped brains to process. I cannot emphasize this enough: Make sure
you know what content your child is viewing and shut down harmful, anxiety-producing