This week I asked readers to list the main obstacle to their peace of mind. These were the winners, in order of “popularity.”
- Not accepting everything exactly as it is – a.k.a: Believing “I” am in charge
- Uncontrolled reactions
- Insanity (however you define it)
- Dissatisfaction with circumstances
- Negative self-talk
- Obsessive thinking
- Not living in the present
- Mental discomfort
- The chaos of the outside world
I promised I would use the feedback to hone Insanely Serene’s focus. This is the first post on Serenity-Stoppers. Let’s work together as a community to help each other overcome them and introduce more peace-inducing practices.
We’ll start with the top Serenity-Stopper: Anxiety.
How Anxiety Stops Serenity
Anxiety is born of the conflict between human willpower and the forces in the world that we cannot control. We have a drive to direct our own lives, but when we attempt to manage things beyond our abilities, we breed anxiety. Often, we try to control way past that point in order to feel secure. Ironically, it is when we let go of control that we find peace and security.
The Bright Side of Anxiety
Despite how bad it feels, anxiety does have a silver lining. That’s because it is a messenger. Anxiety alerts us that “something is wrong.” Sometimes the message of anxiety may be hidden, and it might require some digging to get to the source.
For example, in the first few years after my stepchildren moved in with me, I had extreme anxiety about their approach (or lack thereof) to housekeeping. I felt stressed because they were not meeting my standards for a clean house. After a few meltdowns (on my part), I had a huge realization. The real reason for my anxiety was that I believed I needed to have full control over my home environment to feel safe. If things were in place, and corners were clean, I could feel secure. With this insight, I was able to work on developing a feeling of safety inside myself, which allowed me to let go of micromanaging others’ behaviors. Manipulating “outside conditions” may seem to lend me safety, but the only true path is inner security.
So let’s start listening to our anxiety. Here are some ideas for tuning in to the messages.
Anxiety as a Peace Portal
Keep an anxiety journal
Keep track of the things that bother you and why. Over time you’ll start to see the patterns and identify the sources. Knowledge is power – the more we know about our anxiety, the more we can work on approaching things differently.
Talk it out
Call a trusted friend and talk through your anxieties. Again, this can help identify the causes and sources of the feelings, so you can pinpoint what to work on.
Identify what you can and can’t control
When we know what we can truly control, we are in a better position to let go of the rest – and eliminate the conflict that breeds anxiety. Make a list of things within your control, and those outside it. You may be surprised.
Accept yourself, others, and the world
I’m going to spoil the surprise – it turns out all we have control over (and not always then) are our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. We cannot control other people, circumstances, events, or the world at large. When we accept all of this – our own limitations and the world exactly as is – we will find peace. Even joy.
Use it as a cattle prod
Consider anxiety as a spur – use it to look for solutions, for relief. Look for others who suffer and find out what they’ve tried. Read, research, reach out. There are resources everywhere. Try new ideas, see how they work, or don’t.
Don’t give in, don’t give up
If you think you’ve tried everything, then throw up your hands, go out, and have some fun. Go to an amusement park and forget it all for the day. Sometimes living in the present clears head space for new insight.
What works for you in transforming anxiety into peace? Share your methods so we can all give them a try.
Other Insanely Serene posts on this topic (you think I might have a problem with this?):
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