Grace and Tolerance: The Antidote to Anxiety and Stress

Warwick Fairfax

May 11, 2020

We live in an almost unprecedented time of stress and anxiety with the global pandemic of the coronavirus.  We don’t know how long this crisis will last, when there will be approved safe remedies to treat the virus or still less when there will be an approved vaccine.  Many have been furloughed from work, unsure how long their businesses will be able to survive and how long they will have jobs, assuming they still have jobs.

Amid the fear and stress of the health and economic uncertainty, many are living and working from home; 24/7.  There are short breaks to walk or go to the grocery store, but then it is back to the house packed with family; kids home from school, adult kids in some cases being at home, too.  In times in which stress and anxiety are high and many of us are living and working in close quarters with each other, friction can and probably will happen.  Tempers will fray, hurtful words will come out.  As humans when we are under stress, we tend to take our frustrations out on those who are around us, in this case our family or those we live with.  Such lashing out on those we care about or are around is understandable.  Even in normal times, friction in families can happen.

How can we lessen or ideally avoid such friction in times of exceptional stress and anxiety?  How can we have grace and tolerance for those around us? In time, we hope the current global pandemic will ease, and while life may be different in its aftermath, we hope we will be able to get out of the house more.  Even when life becomes hopefully more normal, friction and stress can still happen. And that’s just at home, in our personal lives. Stress and anxiety – even absent a pandemic – is a reality in our workplaces, as well. Knowing how to lessen it or eliminate it through your leadership is key to leading effectively and with transparency and

Here are some tips to having more grace and tolerance with those around

1. Do an internal audit.

Recognize that you are under stress, that you are anxious.  Acknowledge it and accept it.  Don’t be angry at yourself or, worse, get angry at others.  We can debate if there is anyone to blame for the spread of the coronavirus. Being in a state of perpetual fixation of who is to blame for what we are all going through, is not to going to help you or those you care about.  The global pandemic is certainly not your family and friends’ fault.  So, own your anxieties, fears and stress.  Don’t lash out at others.

2. Admit your fears and anxieties to others.

It helps us for those closest to us (family and friends) to know what we are feeling.  For those strong silent types (often men), who want to appear tough when inside they feel like quivering jellyfish, admit your fears to those who care for you.  Chances are they are scared and uncertain, too.  Such vulnerability, reduces hostility, increases understanding and actually brings you closer together.

3. Be flexible.

Some of us like our routines.  We go to work each day, or perhaps we have a home office.  We like getting tea or coffee from our favorite coffee shop on the way to work.  We like going to the gym on our way to or way back from work.  We like going out to eat at our favorite restaurant with friends.  This has all stopped, and many of us are in close proximity to our families or roommates all the time, every day.  That is a lot of togetherness.  This is frustrating.  But we need to accept the fact that our routines have been interrupted.  We need to be open to change the way we do things.  As someone who really likes his routine, and does not like changing it, I have found this to be a challenge.  But I recognize my innate desire, perhaps need, for routine and try to take it a day at a time.  Hopefully, working from home and being housebound will not be forever.  It is just a season, albeit a season of uncertain length.

4. Have grace with yourself.

Accept the fact that you are going to feel stressful, uncertain and fearful in times of near universal anxiety, which at this moment is the global pandemic.  Then give yourself a break.  Give yourself some grace.  You, like everyone else, are human.  We are wired to be stressed and anxious under such circumstances.  When our ancestors were attacked by bears or tigers, they were scared.  That is normal.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.

5. Have grace with others.

If you feel like you deserve a break, how about giving others, especially, those close friends and family, a break.  There is a saying, “treat others how you want to be treated.”  This is the so-called Golden Rule, actually the words of Jesus.  If you feel that you deserve forgiveness in what feel like unprecedented times, then perhaps those close friends and family deserve forgiveness too.

6. Channel your energy in productive ways.

It starts with acceptance.  Accept the limitations of your current living and working environment.  Think positively.  How can you use your adjusted circumstances positively?  If you are around close friends and family more, perhaps you can have a game night or a movie night.  Perhaps you can actually talk to each other, rather than running from one activity to another which many of us do in normal times.  From a professional standpoint, for those whose work schedules have been cut back or altered, think of those long-term planning projects you may finally be able to get to.  Perhaps you are tired of your job or profession.  Use this time to think of alternative directions.  Perhaps consider calling friends and colleagues.  You might be amazed that some people like you are stuck at home, and perhaps could be available to connect with.

Life can be stressful.  It often is.  Even beyond the current pandemic, when we get stressed we tend to lash out – in both personal and professional situations.  We blame ourselves.  We blame others.  Or perhaps both.  Having grace and tolerance with yourself and others is so important.  Can you imagine a world where we were all tolerant of each other, where we all showed grace to each other?  A world where there is understanding and forgiveness irrespective of race, background, political party or country of origin.  That is the world many of us hope for.  It starts with each of us, showing grace and tolerance first to ourselves and then to others.

Reflection

  • For what things, and in what ways, do you need to show yourself grace and tolerance??
  • Who do you need to show grace and tolerance to, and for what?
  • How would having an attitude of grace and tolerance change your world?

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