Tag Archives: boundaries

Blog 26- Part 2: Nike, the serenity prayer, and stress physiology!

Part 2 – The Serenity Prayer

Part 1 of this blog addressed Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It” (JDI), and how it beneficially impacts our physiology. Today’s blog will make more sense if you read part 1.

Now that we know the power of JDI, let’s talk about the Serenity Prayer. I will include the short version of this prayer below, just in case you have been living under a large rock for the past 30 years and have not heard it!

“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference”.

The concepts contained in this prayer are perfect partners with JDI energy to help shift our Nervous Systems out of threat physiology. Knowing when and where to apply our efforts and energy, and where not to, is critical information when it comes to a threat or a perceived danger to our body. Because sometimes there is nothing we can do about certain aspects of a problematic situation. So even if your switch is ON, if it’s an impossible situation to change, you could just get frustrated. Trying to change something over and over without success, makes us feel helpless and impotent.

Knowing what can be changed in a dangerous or stressful situation, is almost as important as having your switch ON. With this knowledge, you will be able to target your JDI correctly and not waste energy or stress on things that are not changeable, such as other people’s choices, your body’s limits, or natural laws, etc. As I said in a previous blog, “sometimes it is less traumatizing to surrender to a situation than to fight it”. So knowing when to let go and when to do something, will determine how successfully you act in a difficult situation. Knowing where to direct your ON energy and JDI, are keys to thriving in life rather than simply surviving it.

Let’s use an example that all Californians can relate to. We have a drastic water shortage here in our lovely state. If each one of us tries to solve the situation all by ourselves, or spends inordinate amounts of time brooding on the problem, we will be stuck in stress physiology for sure. This could also flip our switch to OFF because we feel helpless. However, combining our JDI with the Serenity prayer might look like taking shorter showers, only washing full loads of clothes, watering our golf courses and lawns less often, talking to our friends and neighbors and encouraging them to join us in our efforts, etc. If every Californian made these changes, over time, it would make a big difference, in the problem and inside our bodies.

This week notice how the Serenity prayer beautifully compliments your JDI energy and try applying both concepts to any stressful situations that occur. In what instances does surrender ever feel like serenity to you? Perhaps refusing to get in the same old fight with a spouse or a child, or letting someone cut you off in traffic without losing your mind in rage, etc. Please feel free to share your successes (and attempts) in the comments section.

Fiona connecting with her inner tiger, serenely waiting for the next moment to happen!
Fiona connecting with her inner tiger, serenely waiting for the next moment to happen!

Going Deeper:

1.) Which of the 3 tenets of the Serenity Prayer do you find the most challenging? Do you notice any internal resistances when you read it aloud? Just be with those somatic imprints of resistance this week and see what comes from this practice.

2.) What situations do you find easiest to use your JDI energy, and which situation are easier to surrender to? How does letting go feel to your body and mind? Many of us find that the body handles surrender much differently than the mind does. What is your experience?

3.) Think about the past few weeks. Have you experienced stressful situations? If so, have you been able to JDI? What needs doing depends on the situation, but doing something is much better than collapsing in helplessness, do you agree?

Love & Anxiety #13: The Peaceful Tortoise vs. the Harried Hare.

Do you remember the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare? The story about the race between the tortoise and the rabbit, where the moral of the story is slow and steady wins the race. While this seems like a nice children’s story, it can also be a cautionary fable about our over-scheduled, distracted, fast paced busy lives. Many of my clients and friends are living a life-style that I call, ‘water skiing across the surface of life’. I know this well because that is how I lived for years. Moving quickly, speed for the sake of getting more done, feeling adrenaline and even, to feel important. (Surely someone this busy must be a valued member of society.)

I am so grateful for wise therapists and spiritual directors who have helped me begin to walk away from this lifestyle. However, many people I know are still stuck racing across life at the water ski pace. There is comfort in this speed, you stay so busy you don’t really have to feel much of anything, and you don’t have to face the unpleasant things or sensations occurring inside your body because you are just moving way too fast to pay attention!

There is a huge downside however, in the long run, this pace causes ill health and physiological problems. And, sadly, you are actually getting less done and accomplishing less than you think you will. There have been recent studies done on human attention spans and productivity and the same results show up. The best cycle for productivity is to be “on” or focused intently for 50 minutes, then “off” or resting for 10 minutes. Our bodies and brains are wired to be at maximum potential when they are working intently for a short amount of time and then resting. Stopping and taking a break makes us more productive mentally, not less. So that “balls to the wall” lifestyle where you don’t take a lunch break, don’t stop to pee or even eat, is not conducive to productivity. You look really busy and important, but you are so full of stress chemicals your mind is not able to work correctly and your ability to focus intently is mostly shot.

The other problem with this lifestyle is that speed generates adrenaline, which is not your friend! It is a stress chemical and its job or purpose is to be released in times of danger, to help us run from a tiger, or lift a car off our child, it is not meant to be used like a secret stash or cache of methamphetamine. When we race about all the time our muscles are braced and the adrenaline is coursing through our bodies. So we unconsciously/physiologically feel as if we were in danger, which brings in our old nemesis, body anxiety. If you don’t believe me, do an experiment. The next time you catch yourself racing, wolfing down your food, moving as if you were being chased, catch yourself. Stop and deliberately move at the speed of a turtle, for a bit. It will be challenging and you may even feel a bit more anxiety at first. However, if you stick with it, notice how your shoulders begin to detach from your ears and how your heart rate begins to decrease and how your breath begins to come in deeper and slower. One of the gifts of Slow is that you will feel calmer and more grounded.

So this week, try slowing down at dinner with the family or friends, slow down as you drive (the freeway will be a safer place), slowing down when you have a conversation and see that you are able to be more present, more available. And the best part, you will be able to feel the love you have for the people in your life and feel their love for you. Love and anxiety originate in different brain regions. So, getting out of the racing/anxiety mode, will allow you to access the parts of your body and brain that experience and take in the love. The love you are blessed enough to be surrounded by on a daily basis. For more information and benefit, read the book called, “In praise of Slow”.


 non-harried haresImage

Going Deeper:

1) What is your normal life pace? Is it manageable and relaxing, or is it too fast and too stressful? If so, what maintains this pace on a regular basis? Is it habit, or choice?

2) Take inventory this week. Notice your weekly/daily activities. Is there space to “be”, to breathe, or are you rushing from one activity to the next? Are there places you could create more space and rest by leaving earlier, or saying NO to some invitations or activities?

3) Try doing everything much slower this week. Slow down while eating, washing dishes, even exercising. Try to enjoy each activity and notice how a slower pace allows you to be present in your life. Let me know how it goes!