No one goes through life unscathed. We all have problems from time to time. We all at times go through bumpy periods in our relationships. We all have to deal with unexpected tragedies, such as job loss, divorce or the death or illness of loved ones. As a result, stress is an inevitable part of life.

Since we all have stress, the key to our contentment and happiness in life lies in how we deal with these stressful periods. If you can only be happy when every part of your life is perfect, you are going to be unhappy for the majority of your life. The key to being happy is being able to maintain your serenity, regardless of your circumstances.

Below are some strategies for maintaining your serenity in the midst of stressful situations. Consider applying them in your own life.

Focus on What You Can Control: Here is what you can actually control in your life: You can control how you behave. You can control how you react to others and to situations. You can control how much or how little you work to achieve your goals. You can control how you spend your free time. Every other aspect of your life is outside of your control.

You cannot control what others do or say. You cannot control whether people like you. You cannot control the economy or your career opportunities. You cannot control if your marriage will be successful or will end in divorce. You cannot control whether your loved ones will become ill, and you cannot control when they will die. So, spending your mental and emotional energy on these issues is pointless.

To maintain your serenity in the midst of stress, it is important to spend your energy on what you can control – yourself.  For example, last year my husband was on life support for a number of days. I am embarrassed to admit that for a couple of hours after I received the news, I was in shock and was not of use to anyone. But then, I pulled myself together.  I focused on consulting with his doctors.  I did research to understand every aspect of his situation and course of treatment. I then tried to explain his medical situation to his children and family in a way which was accurate.

That was all I could do. I could not control whether he lived or died. I could not control how other people reacted to his hospitalization. I could only do my best with how I handled the situation. That was all that was in my power.

When you are under stress, focus on what you can control – yourself. If you give your mental and emotional energy to what you cannot control, you will make yourself miserable. If you solely focus on what you yourself are able to do to improve the situation, you will feel more at peace.

Have Positive Distractions: Typically, I am not a big fan of distractions. I don’t care for watching television, unless it is to pass the time during a long flight. I like to read books, but I generally read ones which educate me about a topic. Indulging in entertainment is not something that I do on a daily basis.

All that being said, there is a place for distractions. When you are under stress, by all means, indulge in positive distractions. Read books that transport you to another place and time. Watch movies or television shows that are light and funny. Do wholesome things to get your mind off your immediate problem.

Unfortunately, you can’t solve your problem by focusing all your mental energy on it. If only that were the case! That approach is recipe for driving yourself crazy.

Instead, once you have done all that you can to improve the situation, give your brain a break. By engaging in positive distractions, you can give yourself that much needed mental break from what is causing you stress. Then when you return to the situation, you will be refreshed and ready to face it with a clear head.

Remember That This Too Shall Pass: Life is not static. It is constantly changing. If you look back over the course of the last year, I am sure that will be surprised at how much your life has changed in these last short 12 months.

So, when facing a stressful situation, try to be mindful that these circumstances will not last forever. I remember when I was in the middle of getting divorced, I thought, “How will I manage this stress?” My head and stomach hurt almost constantly. But within a year, my life had changed completely. I had moved. I got a great job. And I met a wonderful man. And within two years I was happily remarried.

Life simply does not stay the same. Our circumstances constantly change. And if you work hard, are kind and keep a good attitude, very often your circumstances will change for the better. So, take solace in the fact that any situation that you are facing is temporary.

Practice using the above strategies the next time that you face a stressful situation. Maintaining your serenity in stressful situations initially will not come naturally. It will be something that you have to work at. However, over time, it will become easier, and you will be able to maintain your serenity in all situations.

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