A message for these times, and for all time

Elizabeth Gilbert 01 435

When author Liz Gilbert recently visited Australia, she had a big and probably unexpected message for women.

R-E-L-A-X, she said.

What was especially sobering was her discussion of the stress levels of so many prominent, high-status women, i.e. women who have ‘made it’, the ones we look up to.

“I’ve been in their homes”, she said, “and they’re dying of anxiety”.

Liz Gilbert is a Gen-X, and that’s her primary audience. But women in their 40s and early 50s are the daughters of Baby Boomers.

While we were the generation who made working mothers commonplace, the Gen-Xers have done more of it — and in an era when smart phones and social media have made it harder to switch off.

American journalist Ada Calhoun is also a Gen-X, and she recently released a book entitled Why We Can’t Sleep on the constant battle her contemporaries have with feelings of anxiety, stress and overwhelm. It’s become a New York Times bestseller.

She points out that more than 20% of American women are on anti-depressants, and where America heads, Australia never seems far behind.

In this country, stats show that around one-third of us suffer from anxiety, and that more women than men take anti-depressants.

Calhoun noted that nearly 60 per cent of Gen-Xers in the US describe themselves as “stressed out”.

That’s shocking and sad — and that was before we’d heard of coronavirus. How much have stress levels ramped up in the past week or so?

But this time of uncertainty is an opportunity for our Baby Boomer generation to provide something valuable for our families, and especially for younger women.

C-A-L-M.

We don’t have any more answers than anyone else, but as Liz Gilbert says, there’s power in calm.

We make better decisions and are far more of a contribution when we dial down our stress levels.

Liz Gilbert outlines three steps to doing this.

The first is to get clear on our priorities. This has to be a short list, and we need to be on it, preferably at the top.

Right now, and frankly always, our first priority should be to stay healthy.

The second step is to put boundaries around our priorities. For example, if we prioritise our health and staying calm, there’ll be things we say no to.

A lot of us have difficulty here because we’re afraid of being judged as selfish or unkind unless we do everything that’s asked of us. But we can’t do it all. Period.

The third step is to recognise that there are things we can’t control. If ever that was apparent, it’s now.

But if we think back to the Serenity Prayer, there are also things we can control, and chief among them is our mindset.

Liz Gilbert also reminds us that there are greater forces in the world than us.

Through history, she says, the sages have all had the same message: that things will turn out; they’re going to be alright.

Let’s collectively take a calming breath and remind ourselves of that.

 

Photo Source: elizabethgilbert.com

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