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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Martin-Himmons

5 Ways That The Serenity Prayer Can Help With Stress Relief

Updated: Apr 23

Picture of praying hands for stress relief
Prayer Works! Photo by George Kedenburg III on Unsplash

Have you ever heard of the Serenity Prayer?

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The serenity prayer was created in the 1930s or 1940s by Reinhold Niebuhr; an American theologian and is frequently used in 12-step recovery programs. This is because the purpose of the serenity prayer is to bring peace and certainty to the hearts and mind of people who need support because they are going through a difficult time.

The serenity prayer is about accepting what you can't change (which can be a lot of things), the courage that’s often needed to change those things that are in your control, and what might be the most important part, the wisdom to recognize the difference between the two. Because that can often be the hardest part.

Whether you’re a family caregiver, a woman who’s struggling to maintain work/life balance or anyone in between, the serenity prayer can help you cope with the stressors that you’re experiencing and lead you to a path of adding more self-care into your life.

It does this by shaping your mindset around how you react to stress. Knowing when you can or cannot change something automatically lessens your stress because you won’t waste time hitting your head against brick walls with things that you can’t change (for whatever reason). That frees you to do those things that will help you to manage your stress before your stress manages you.

This is important because stress if left unchecked, can wreak havoc with your health and interfere with your ability to function in day-to-day life. Which is where stress management and the serenity prayer can help.

Read on for five ways that the serenity prayer can help with stress relief.

Serenity Prayer & Stress

Despite its roots in recovery, everybody can benefit from the serenity prayer. Because it contains timeless truths that challenge you and that you can use for strength and stress relief anytime that you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Acceptance Does Not Mean Being Resigned To Your Fate

If you’re only focusing your attention on the things in life you can’t change, you’re adding to your stress.

Instead, the serenity prayer guides you towards focusing on something that you can change, which a lot of the time is your reaction to whatever is causing you stress.

Accepting that you can’t change everything doesn't mean you’re complacent. If we’re being real, it's a leap of faith and shows your trust in God to have your back.

Having a gratitude practice or learning how to reframe your perspective on whatever is causing your stress are examples of acceptance in action.

Courage Is Necessary For Personal Growth

One big challenge that many people have is a desire for a different or ‘better’ life. Usually this involves making changes to our current life. However, a lot of us have habits that keep us paralyzed in place.

Our negative habits are our worst enemies. It’s important to remember that habits are one of the things you do have the power to change. The serenity prayer reminds us of this. Change is hard and often requires courage. Therefore, courage is necessary for personal growth. The first step is the hardest, but if you can be courageous, use the serenity prayer and ask God for help, it can be done.

When I was thinking of becoming a stress management coach and starting my business, I used the serenity prayer every day. Because changing my mindset from employee to entrepreneur required a lot of courage on my part. The serenity prayer, using positive self-talk and visualization with the help of my vision board all helped lower my stress levels, beat down those moments of self-doubt and press on no matter what.

Picture of clouds during sunrise

There Is Positivity In Adversity

The serenity prayer that most of us are familiar with is not the full version. To read the full version, click here. In the full version, there’s a line about hardship being a pathway to peace. All of us have hardship in life, and we all have to figure out how overcome the obstacles that we face.

Although when we’re going through difficult circumstances it may be stressful and painful, this is often how we grow. It may sound funny, but there can be positivity in adversity. If I hadn’t been laid off from my job at a large corporate entity, I would never have had the chance to pivot and become an entrepreneur. 

As the phrase says, ‘it’s always darkest before the dawn.’ Sometimes the only way that we can manage our stress is by going headfirst into a situation and coming out stronger on the other side. Adversity helps build resilience.

Wisdom In Challenges

While you’re going through a difficult, stressful time, a common reaction is ‘why me?’ Leaning into the serenity prayer can help.

There is a reason for everything that we go through. Sometimes it’s to give us the kick in the pants that we need to make a change, sometimes it’s to remind us that we’re not alone and others can help.

You can access wisdom by using techniques such as reflective journaling, seeking support from family or friends, or from being mentored by someone who has had a similar experience. This prevents you from reinventing the wheel and can help you more quickly if you’re able to change your circumstance or if you need to change how you view your circumstance.

Surrender = Courage

I believe that it takes courage to have faith and surrender. Unfortunately, to many people surrender is viewed as meaning failure, weakness or resignation. But as the serenity prayer implies, the act of surrendering your situation to God is ultimately a testament to your faith which requires courage and strength.

Knowing that you’ve put your situation into the hands of your higher power provides you with relief from some of the pressure and stress that you’re dealing with because you know that God’s got your back.

Picture of a blue sky with white puffy clouds

Happiness Can Be Yours

The Serenity Prayer closes with a nod towards happiness. It gives you a roadmap to stress less and be happier. Live life mindfully. The serenity prayer’s message is universal, it's a quiet celebration of perceiving your potential, understanding your limits and recognizing that you can overcome.

One way of doing this and managing your stress at the same time is through self-care. Self-care allows you to be your best self so that you can be there for your loved ones. I believe that self-compassion is one form of self-care that can be directly connected to the serenity prayer.

Adversity isn't always about learning something new, sometimes it's about unlearning bad habits that create a pattern of behavior that is standing in your way of happiness. Instead, look at adversity as your path to peace. You can gain strength, grow and find peace so that you can manage stress. It’s about making time to pray the serenity prayer during those times when life throws a curveball.

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Let's talk, how do you use the serenity prayer to help you manage your stress? Let me know in the comments section.

Cassandra in a floral jacket sitting in front of a white brick wall.

Cassandra Martin-Himmons, LMSW is a stress management coach, content creator and author of “Journaling for Caregivers.” She believes in empowering her clients to help them manage their stress and increase their self-care. In her spare time she enjoys papercrafting, hand embroidery and travel. Connect with her on Instagram or YouTube


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