Serenity Prayer for Coping with Anxiety


Today I want to talk about prayer. I like to use the Serenity Prayer for coping with anxiety and panic attacks. You may have heard the serenity prayer. It is one of the most popular and beloved prayers and it is widely used in most 12 Step programs. It also applies beautifully to coping with anxiety and panic…

In our last post we discussed learning how to be patient with your anxiety recovery process. Giving yourself time and accepting where you are today will help you though the bad times and also help you to more thoroughly appreciate your triumphs over anxiety.

Prayer absolutely helps too. There is all sorts of research about the power of prayer and healing. And no matter what your religious affiliation (if any) prayer definitely does work. Here is the Serenity prayer:

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.

Now lets take it apart and apply it to coping with anxiety piece by piece. The first part of the prayer is:

God Grant Me the Serenity to Accept the Things I Cannot Change

What are the things I cannot change?

No one can change other people. You cannot change a parent, a mean boss, a person who is sick, or someone who rejects you. You cannot change your past.

Whether you had a painful childhood or issues with anger or addiction or whatever, this is done and over with and you simply cannot change it. Period.

You have to accept this reality so you can let go of trying to change these things or fret or worry about them, or serenityrelive events over and over again in your head. All this can keep you wound up and feeling horrible with regret, guilt, shame, remorse, depression, you name it…

For me, I used to think, If only I didn’t smoke all that pot when I was younger, If only my parents helped me as a child…All these big “If Only’s”, then surely my life wouldn’t have been so plagued with panic attacks and anxiety…

Well these things may or may not be true, but what’s done is done. The first line of the serenity prayer reminds me that I can accept the past and let go of any stressful thoughts or painful memories associated with it. I can also let go of my remorse and shame and anger all those other negative emotions that do not serve me well today. I suggest you do the same.

Instead, you shift your focus on things you can change, which leads us to the 2nd part of the prayer.

God Grant Me Courage to Change the Things I Can

What are the things I CAN change??

Well, only you. But that is wonderful! You absolutely CAN change. Just because you may be suffering from severe panic attacks or debilitating social anxiety disorder or horrific agoraphobia doesn’t mean you are doomed to live out the rest of your days in a living nightmare…

Do you know I didn’t even realize this until a few short years ago? I truly believed I was destined to live crippled with anxiety forever, with my only respite being pills and more pills.

I honestly didn’t believe I had any courage. Certainly not the courage it would take to face my fears, Do it Afraid, and continuously expose myself to dreaded panic attack-inducing situations. But I do…and of course, so do you! :)

I can have courage to change my circumstance. I can change how I think. I can change how I am living. I can do something small every day.

Remember, there’s always some “change” you can make. For example, the action of change may be to simply avoid a negative person, or stop listening to your own anxious thinking. The action should always be towards positivity and healing.

Maybe today there is something going on that you know will make you anxious. Today you can pray for the courage to be able to show up with your best self. You can pray to have the courage to walk out the front door. You can pray to have to courage to make eye contact with someone who intimidates you. You can pray to have the courage to stand in that line for 5 more minutes.

You can pray to have the courage to finally get that check up you’ve been putting off. Or that dentist appointment. Today you can take one itty bitty step in the right direction. You can call and make the appointment and then put it on your calender. This you can do…

And finally, the third part of the Serenity Prayer:

God Grant Me The Wisdom to Know the Difference

When you hold a problem up to the light of the Serenity Prayer, by the time you get to this line, you have a little bit of wisdom. The kind of wisdom that makes you feel really good inside. You feel better because you now have a little clarity about a situation that was troubling you.

Ok I get it. I smoked a lot of pot when I was young. It made me even more anxious. I hate that I did that all those years ago, but I now know I can let go of the past and accept myself for where I am today. I am no longer angry at that scared teenager that didn’t know what else to do back then. I can have compassion for myself and bring my focus back into today. Today I know better, and today I will do the best I can….And now I can get on with the business of my day!

See how easy that was? :)

Why would you want to use the Serenity Prayer for coping with anxiety?

candleIndeed why pray at all? The answer is surprisingly simple, so simple I forgot it in fact.

Once you decide you are going to embark on your own recovery from anxiety and panic attacks, you will get better. You will have your setbacks and bad days. But if you persist, you will get better. That is a fact.

There is a big difference between people who do self improvement in any capacity (whether it be weight loss, addiction, anxiety self help, or something else) and who also pray, and those who don’t.

The difference is, the people that pray are happier.

How do I know this? I’ve been in Al-Anon since 1998. Once you learn and apply the 12 steps to your life, you get better. It’s really very simple. You are encouraged to find a Higher Power of your choosing and get on your knees and pray.

It has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with human spirituality.

I’ve seen a lot of the same people in the rooms of Al-Anon over the years. We all have ups and downs, but we all get better. But the ones who are Atheists and reject anything to do with prayer or a higher power just look so unhappy.

There’s one lady in particular who I have known for years. She has worked the steps over and over again. And her situation is better. But she walks around with a frown on her face. She remains negative and bitter.

So back to anxiety…Coping with anxiety and panic attacks is brutal enough. Why wouldn’t you want to lighten your burden a bit and let yourself be happy?

When you are in a bind, reciting the serenity prayer for coping with anxiety to help you. It’s simple and easy to remember. You can use it as a mental touchstone or a mantra to help ground and calm yourself. And in the process you will be a little bit happier when the anxiety does eventually pass.

I wish you peace,
Jill G.

ps. Still feeling trapped? Escape this feeling & find practical solutions by combining the Serenity Prayer with Self Hypnosis in this Powerful Audio. Experience new freedom today.

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3 Responses to Serenity Prayer for Coping with Anxiety

  1. terralln@yahoo.com says:

    I read all the time on panic disorder & I love your approach! It was so refreshing to hear your story, patience with yourself does work….I know since that has been my approach for years & it has helped me a great deal. I often find the “just do it” approach is too difficult for most people to wrap their mind around therefore creating more frustration. I do still struggle with certain situations, but I have discovered that I am too blessed to be stressed & I give myself a break sometimes. I never comment on anything, but you my friend are on to something great!
    Thanks….

    • JillG says:

      Well it sounds like you’re doing the same thing so I guess being compassionate and patient with ourselves and our process does work. You know, everything about anxiety is so frustrating and I know how badly I wanted to just get better and be done with it! Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Anyhow, thank you for your wonderful input, I’m so glad you commented! :)

      Jill

  2. Zoe says:

    This is great Jill! I have heard that prayer many times in my life, but breaking it down this way is just wonderful. My favorite line from this post? “I can do something small every day.”
    And that is my goal :)

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