Emotional Wellness – Stop Fighting the Elements

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Nowadays, so many things we want can be accessed instantly. We order a package from Amazon and, using our Prime Now account, have it delivered within a few hours. When corresponding with a friend, rather than writing the letter by hand, putting it into an envelope, addressing and stamping said envelope, trekking to the mailbox to mail it, and then waiting for a reply, we type the letter, press “send,” and generally receive a reply within minutes. Even checks are nearly obsolete, replaced by much speedier methods of sending money, such as PayPal, QuickPay, and Zelle. And now that just about everyone owns a phone with a built-in camera or at least a digital camera, when was the last time you heard of someone taking a picture with a camera, waiting until all 24 or 36 pictures of the film have been taken, bringing the film to a photo store, and then waiting another week until the photographs were developed? 

 

This has extended to mitzvot, as well. We can purchase simanim - from checked pomegranate seeds to tzimmes to cooked fish heads - for Rosh Hashanah, prefab sukkotand vacuum-packed hadassim for Sukkot, prefilled oil cups for Hanukah, and ready-made mishloah manot for Purim. For Pesach, not only can we buy charoset and prechecked chazeret, we can even purchase salt water for karpas. 

 

The Downside to Easy Living 

Yet there is a downside to all this. 

 

In a world of instant gratification, the ability to “tolerate” appears to be a lost art. This includes tolerating our negative emotions, tolerating discomfort – mental or physical – or even tolerating one another.  We expect to find solutions easily, and with minimal effort. The advertising industry is intent on convincing us that answers to every imaginable problem are readily available. 

 

We have been sold on promises of “bliss,” and believe that a stress-free existence is attainable. Even so, our stress levels are higher than ever. We are told negative emotions are “bad,” and that we should not allow ourselves to feel sad, frustrated, or disappointed, even if our experiences are sad, frustrating, or disappointing.   

 

The Antidote 

 

The therapeutic concept of “acceptance” may provide some enlightenment to foster a new paradigm with which we can be comfortable. Yes, comfortable with our discomfort.  When we feel stress and anxiety, our natural instinct is to push those feelings away, to fight them. However, the more we fight, the more we feed our anxiety, even intensifying it. Essentially, engaging in the battle to fight our anxiety causes us to be more anxious. Our expectation of living the ubiquitously marketed “stress-free existence” is not only unrealistic and unattainable, but the idea that we can live a utopian life, free of stress, causes us to feel additional stress, merely for the fact that we are stressed in the first place.   

 

Think about the last time you went outside in a heavy snowstorm. You struggled against the wind and snow, squinting to avoid snowflakes from falling into your eyes, expending mental and physical energy to take the next step. 

Now, let’s say that for a few moments you stopped fighting the elements and just let the snowflakes fall wherever they landed, even in your ears, your eyes, and your mouth. No, it didn’t stop snowing, but you experienced a sense of calm as you allowed reality to set in, even accepting it. 

 

The circumstances did not change. But your reaction did.  

 TAKEAWAY 

Reflect upon an ongoing challenge in your life, a circumstance over which you have no control. Instead of merely accepting it as a Gd-given nisayon, a Gd-given test, use this challenge as a springboard for growth and as an opportunity to become closer to Hashem. 

 

We cannot change our circumstances, but we can change our reactions.