In today's world it seems there is a lot to be anxious about. On a global scale there are wars, poverty and struggling economies to worry about. On a personal level you may be dealing with anything from unemployment, a medical illness, or relationship problems. Worry, anxiety or emotional turbulence are normal reactions. In these stressful times, it can seem like your anxiety is overwhelming. How does one stay afloat with the changing tides instead of drowning? It may seem simplistic but a mantra can help.
What is a mantra? A mantra is defined by some as a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered to be conduits of transformation. In some interpretations the word "mantra" comes from two Sanskrit words. The first syllable "man" comes from "manas" which means "mind." The second syllable "tra" is derived from the Sanskrit word, "trai" which means "to protect" or "free from." The word mantra can then be literally translated to mean "to free from the mind." All over the world people recite mantras to pray or to meditate. Developing a mantra can also help one to cope with life's challenges such as dealing with anxiety and/or depression.
From my personal perspective, a mantra is some universal truth which you believe at your core. When things feel uncertain or you feel shaken, reciting this truth can help bring you back to center and keep you grounded. A personal mantra is like having your own personal unshakeable mountain. It is always there and you can always come back to it. There are plenty of mantras to choose from or you can create your own.
Here are three mantras which help me when I am feeling anxious.
1. The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
This is only part of the serenity prayer but this is the part which most people know. You don't have to be religious to grasp the philosophical truth to these words. Basically the serenity prayer translates to understanding that we do not have control over certain things in the world. We have to accept that there are some things in our life which we cannot change. These are things we have to let go or continuously beat our heads against the wall trying to do the impossible. Yet there are elements in our life where we do have control such as how we react to life's challenges.
Sometimes it helps me to make a list of everything I am worried about. I then take my worries and divide them up into two lists"those things I can control and those things I cannot. I then surrender to not waste any more time feeling anxious over those parts of my life which I cannot control. Easier said than done, I realize, but it does help.
2. This too shall pass.
This saying also has religious connotations but again, you do not need to be religious to understand the truth to these words. Whatever you are going through right now will not last forever. Even if you cannot see through to the other side, it is almost guaranteed that time is going to change things even if it is only to change your reaction and how you feel. This saying reminds me of the universal truth that everything in this life is temporary and transient. Many of the worries you have right now will be forgotten in time. Think of the worries you had a year ago. I am betting that very few of them are still relevant for you today. And the worries which do remain will be resolved in time, as you learn to use better and more skillful coping methods.
The bottom line is that you are going to get through this.
3. I have been here before. I will be here again.
This is a mantra I developed for myself based upon my life experiences. When I am feeling anxious I tend to forget about my successes in dealing with similar situations or problems. Even when you encounter what you feel to be a totally new type of dilemma, there are common elements to most crises. No matter what you are currently dealing with, chances are that you have had some experience in dealing with some aspect of it. Problems come in many different forms but your ability to survive and adapt remains the same. Even if you have encountered past failures (everyone has), you can then use this knowledge to handle any new challenges which come along.
The second part of my mantra refers to the fact that while most problems are transitory, new issues and challenges will always replace the old ones. Some may see this truth as anxiety provoking but I view it as an acceptance of reality. To me, it solidifies my resolve to learn how to cope with life's obstacles because there will be more of them. Despite any on-coming problems, I can trust in my ability to cope, survive, and ultimately persevere. Problems don't seem as daunting when you learn to expect them as part of life.
The most important thing about developing a mantra is that it has some great personal meaning to you. Even a saying which some may consider to be a cliché, may have special purpose and meaning to you. If it helps you to get through your stressful times, that is what counts the most.
Do you have a mantra you would like to share with us? What words, phrases, or sayings help you to get through your anxiety in dealing with life's challenges? We always love to hear from you.