Stress and Serenity
Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer was adopted as the official prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous. The best known form of the prayer is:
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.
Whether you use them as a prayer or as a wise adage, these words offer profound wisdom about dealing with stressors in your life. Once again, it's important to differentiate between powerful external stressors and stressors created by your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions to ordinary life circumstances. Whether or not you succumb to a particular stressor comes down to knowing the difference between what you can change and what you can't change. For example, you can't change the torrential rainstorm that is washing out the road. You can change the way you think about the torrential rainstorm that is washing out the road. You can accept with serenity that you can't change it and you don't take it personally.
Remember the unhappy young man at the San Francisco fireworks. He made himself miserable by complaining that no one was doing anything about the fog. The fog was something that no one could change at that time and in that place. The path of serenity was to accept that as fact. The path to stressed-out was to expect someone to change what no one could change. He chose the path to stressed-out rather than the path of serenity by wanting someone to change what could not be changed.
What Is Serenity?
What is serenity? The English word serene is derived from the Latin serenus, meaning "peaceful, calm, clear." Serenity is state of calmness and acceptance of current circumstances.
Serenity is the equivalent to floating peacefully in the ocean. As a young child growing up on Cape Cod, I learned to float before I learned to swim. The secret of floating is to lie on your back with your arms outstretched and allow yourself to be carried by the waves. If you allow the ocean to carry you, the waves won't wash over your face and you won't be pulled under.