I was wanting to know if there is any ancient Jewish wisdom regarding how to handle stress and anxiety in everyday life.
Thank you Shalom and God Bless.
There are so many different ways we can approach your question, and it is one that touches on each of our lives. Perhaps, that is the starting place. Have you ever tried to open a door using the wrong key? No matter how much you jiggle the key or how irritated you get, the door won’t open. You need to try another key.
Our culture suggests that life should be stress-free. We think in terms of entitlements. We expect life to be easy and enjoyable with a fillip of excitement added on demand through side activities we choose to indulge in. That is the wrong key for life.
Life is actually a challenge. While we are on this earth, we are challenged to constantly make choices, each one of which forms our character. One of the constant choices we have is whether to face life’s difficulties courageously or fearfully. Do we feel victimized and helpless every time something goes wrong or do we ask God’s help to meet our challenges? Is our default emotion dissatisfaction unless something makes us happy or is our default emotion happiness?
We aren’t ignoring that there are real and terrible trials in life. However, you ask about everyday stress and anxiety. Our first suggestion would be to ‘get a new key.’ You see, one of the most powerful portals to happiness and optimism is gratitude.
Make the first words out of your mouth as you wake up, “I am grateful before you, Living and everlasting Lord, for returning my soul to me with graciousness; your faith (in me) is great.” This prayer from ancient Jewish wisdom, which in Hebrew starts with the words, “Modeh Ani,” opens the door to greeting each day with gratitude and a recognition that God is on your side cheering you on to make correct choices throughout your day. Stress and anxiety have less room to roam when you have such a Partner at your side and you look forward to a day of responsibilities, challenges and commitments that you can fulfill rather than entitlements that you should receive.
Wishing you days filled with joy,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin