I've seen people do all kinds of things to relieve anxiety. Some have a glass of wine at dinner. Others shop or eat. But these are troubling times — with hurricanes, tsunamis, war, and acts of terrorism — and if drinking, eating, or hitting the mall is your way offending off anxiety over the state of the world, you should know that the bill will eventually come due. And I don't mean just the credit card statement. Such coping methods do nothing to build your inner strength and resiliency. Fortunately, there are ways to nurture true inner peace when outer peace isn't an option.
A few months ago, a woman I'll call Nancy attended one of my seminars. Nancy had been through hard times: Three years earlier her house had burned down; then her husband's National Guard unit shipped out to Iraq, and when he returned he was angry, depressed, and traumatized. The couple got therapy yet grew further apart until, finally, her husband asked for a divorce. Nancy realized she had a choice: She could drown in self-pity or move forward. After seeing how the trauma of war had torn up her husband, she wanted to make a difference with her life. So, at 35, she enrolled in nursing school.
I think even Nancy was surprised by her resilience. But her leap into a life of greater meaning came from a simple change in outlook. She shifted her focus from her own problems to the difficulties of others. And that one change brought her clarity and peace.