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Using the Serenity Prayer during the coronavirus pandemic

Mirmont Treatment Center April 5, 2020 Addiction

By: Rev. Susan McCashew, BA; behavioral health therapist at Mirmont Treatment Center, part of Main Line Health

During times like these, accepting reality can be difficult. Staying mentally and physically well can be difficult when you’re trying to manage a “new normal” that alters your routines and everyday life.

There are several resources available to help you manage your mental health during this time of isolation but, when things feel overwhelming, I encourage you to turn to the Serenity Prayer, a simple mantra that we all know well that can help us cope with stressful times.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…

The first part of this prayer reminds us to ask ourselves: Are we fighting against factors that we have no control over, like state or local regulations or a change in our work style or environment? Why are we putting up resistance to these things, and how can we refocus our thoughts to live in the moment?

There are many things around us right now—and always—that we cannot change. It can be easy to fall into a pattern of fixating on how we wish things were or how they ‘should’ be. Consider how much suffering we cause ourselves by focusing on what should be, rather than what is. At this time and in this place, remember to focus on accepting the things you cannot change.

The courage to change the things I can…

This part of the Serenity Prayer encourages us to look at what we can change. The easy answer to this question is: Myself! Despite a change in environment, you can still control your actions and reactions. These can be simple changes; for example, social distancing, staying home, washing your hands more frequently or avoiding touching your face. But they can also be more profound. 

Ask yourself: What will help me stay grounded and positive during this difficult time? How can I connect to the people, places and things that are important to me? This may mean virtual chatting, attending virtual support groups or setting aside time each day for meditation and reflection or a walk outside. You can also use this passage to reflect on whether or not you are focusing on the right factors. Are you willing to look around you to find the positive, and let negative thoughts slip away? Are you willing to acknowledge that some of your thoughts and perceptions may be inaccurate, and based in fear?

These questions are difficult, and they also help us to continually look inside for our truth and they give us the information and insight we need to change what we can.

And the wisdom to know the difference

As stated by Father Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, “wisdom is intelligence that is colored by understanding.” In repeating the Serenity Prayer, we are asking not only for awareness of our experience, but also for the ability to understand all the ‘pieces of the puzzle’—the factors affecting our situation—and what we have control over and what we do not. Being honest with ourselves and repeating the Serenity

Prayer reminds us to have faith that we are not alone in our journey, and that we have a responsibility to control what we can and let go of what we can’t.

In these times of crisis, perhaps one of the best places to turn, is the one we say every day…

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.

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