For those who celebrate Christmas, the festive season can bring about reminders of a desire for peace on earth.
When we talk about mental health, often we are speaking in terms of wellness or sometimes, stability. But I believe there is something we are all searching for that goes beyond just a general sense of well being and happiness, though those things are certainly valuable stepping-stones.
I think what many people are searching for, especially if they suffer from symptoms of anxiety, depression, or another related condition, is really just peace. Peace to be still, peace to be well, peace to be free from rumination or oppressive sadness. Peace to be valued, peace to be strong, peace to cease the war of thoughts and feelings that never seem to bring their conflict to resolve. Peace to relate to others, peace to feel safe, peace to feel whole without being eaten alive by guilt or trauma.
There are many things we cannot change or that we are not in control over. We cannot change our histories. We cannot change some parts of who we are. Many times, we cannot change our circumstances. When change is our focus, it is easy to become discouraged if what we desire to change, we also have little control over.
Perhaps if we make our goal peace, then we can give ourselves some allowance for the truths and realities that we must accept.
My family does not get along.
My father is an alcoholic.
I will never find a companion.
I was fired from my job.
These, and many more, are common stressors that would strain any person, much less someone who may suffer from debilitating mental or emotional turmoil. And yet, these are the types of realities many face everyday. We can see in each of these, we have little to no control over the circumstances and so, sometimes the best thing we can ask for, for ourselves and for others, is peace, even if for just a moment’s worth to start.
Asking for peace diffuses the tension that surrounds difficult dynamics. It removes the focus from right or wrong decisions. It deflates the pressure from performance, expectations, and obligations. You can ask yourself for peace at any time. You can also ask others for peace.
If you find yourself in ongoing conflict with a family member or friend, consider making a peace offering in a way that feels appropriate to the situation. Maybe this is going out of your way to do something kind for this person, to demonstrate your desire for finding common ground. Or maybe it is actually verbally asking for peace between you, even if you cannot come to an agreement right away.
If there is someone in your life that you would like to ask for peace, but it seems like they would not be receptive to this request, just start instead with yourself. When the thoughts of worry bombard you, when the stress begins to stretch you thin, pause, take a breath, and ask for peace.
There is real power this request. And it takes real power to bring peace to some of the circumstances we must face. Life is hard and rife with unexpected duress, through no fault of our own. Honing the skill to create peace, no matter where you are, is one that will serve you well across all seasons of life.
There is a popular quote, whose author is unknown, that I believe sums up this idea of peace very well:
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
Once this internal sense of peace is restored, it will become obvious to those around you and may influence the potential for creating peace within your relationships to others, as well. Set the expectation for peace within your own life, and the rest will naturally align with that precedent…or not, and in this case you can still maintain the internal balance you have created to be able to exist in the midst of those things and “still be calm in your heart.”