Serenity Now! Serenity Now!
By Susie Michelle Cortright

"Serenity Now!" The Seinfeld fans among you will remember the episode in which George's father hollers this phrase just about every time a Costanza enters the room.

I've been yelling that phrase a lot lately, and it doesn't seem to be helping much.

If you've ever been around me for more than a few minutes, there is a personality trait I think you'll notice, and it certainly has nothing to do with serenity.

I think I really dig melodrama in my life. I rush everywhere, and I like feeling busy. The funny thing is, the people I admire most are cool and confident, graceful and relaxed.

Sarah Ban Breathnach, in Simple Abundance, writes, "We can dramatically change the quality of our lives when we consciously seek to restore serenity to our daily endeavors." But, she says, this will happen only when we women stop behaving like "whirling dervishes."

When I imagine a whirling dervish, I picture some kind of gopher-like creature spinning and spinning and spinning until his head is ready to blow off.

Now, I've looked it up, so I know a dervish really doesn't have anything to do with a rodent, but I still like the mental imagery because sometimes I feel like a tense, buck-toothed creature that just wants to howl and spin until I pop.

I don't know where this melodramatic trait comes from. I don't even like soap operas. But then, maybe that's because I live one (or try my best to feel as though I do). Or maybe, because I make my living as a writer, I spend my days looking for the height of drama, even when I don't have a pen in hand.

In any case, I know I'm not alone. Lots of us create the drama we experience. Maybe we do it because it makes us feel more important, indispensable even....the idea that, if we weren't around to handle things, it would all go straight south.

Richard Carlson, in his immensely popular book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff, says those of us who treat everything as a big fat emergency are frightened that our own laziness and apathy will actually take over.

That's part of it, I think. Sometimes, I fear that if I stop being all frantic and pressured...if I let my guard down for one second, something in my psyche will step in and I'll suddenly realize I never wanted to be such an overachiever after all.

Carlson then clues us in to the fact that the opposite is true. He says we have to get over the notion that "gentle, relaxed people can't be superachievers." In reality, all this melodramatic behavior is quite debilitating. It paralyzes us and keeps us from our creativity, he says.

When I think about the energy I waste acting all frantic and panicky, it makes me...well, frantic and panicky. So, with the help of my favorite self-help authors and the advice of friends that have watched me produce my private soap opera for years, here are six tips to keep us all from pushing the panic button.

Tip One:
Creative visualization works wonders. Imagine yourself going through a typical day with the kind of inner peace that nullifies real-world pressures. Visualize yourself behaving with the cool confidence possessed by so many successful women.

Tip Two:
Use your journal to focus on your own competence. List the events and problems you have dealt with successfully. See? You can handle anything.

Tip Three:
Remind yourself, whenever necessary, that much of the drama you experience in your life is self-created and self-fulfilling.

Tip Four:
Try not to take yourself so seriously. Make fun of yourself once in a while. I love humor columnists because they deal with the same life issues we all do, but they introduce a new-and much healthier-perspective.

For example, my 14-month old can't get through the grocery store without making a major mess of one aisle or another. It sure doesn't seem funny as I'm restocking the shelves on my hands and knees, but when I read a humorist's account of taking a toddler to the store, I laugh. Maybe my life is pretty funny, too.

Tip Five:
When you know you're blowing something out of proportion, resist the temptation to pitch it that way to your friends.

Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You start thinking about something and it gets dramatized a bit in your head. Then, you tell someone about it. When your friend has a normal, sympathetic reaction, you interpret the response as agreement that, yes, this is a big deal. Suddenly, what started out as an afternoon afterthought has evolved into an enormous problem.

Tip Six:
Work on single task orientation. I know, it's next to impossible to finish one task before you're off to another, but a singular focus will help keep you from becoming distracted. When we get sidetracked, we are more easily overwhelmed. That's when the real panic sets in.

Here's to working toward a more serene, effective life. And here are a few of my favorite books to help you do so.

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson

Love is Letting Go of Fear, by Gerald Jampolsky

Copyright 2004 Susie Cortright

--- About the Author ---

Susie Michelle Cortright is the author of several books for women and founder of the award-winning, a website designed to help busy women find balance. Visit: http://www.momscape.comtoday and get Susie's course-by-email, "6 Days to Less Stress" free.

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