One in three Americans feel as if Life has gotten too much for them.
I have a half dozen friends who are under assault from life. Three have blogs. Three do not. I write to all six, and they to me.
Life doesn't ask permission. It just sucker punches you. And when you are down, many times it seems to delight in kicking you repeatedly.
Many of us feel as if we have too much on our plates, as if we cannot take any more -- yet people are depending on us -- at a time when we feel even our legs are undependable.
Mother was half Lakota and seemed to have all the answers when I was little.
Two things stood out to me about her:
Her calm attitude ... and her steady gaze no matter the storm.
During a bad spell in my life, I asked her why life was so difficult.
She said, "I do not know if there is one answer that will satisfy you, Little One. I think there are many answers out there in life waiting for you to find them."
Mother saw how underwhelmed I was by that answer and kept on:
"Life is a journey taken one step at a time. Nowhere is it written that our steps must always be strong -- only that we must make them, no matter their length."
She ruffled my hair. "No storm no matter how strong can defeat even the weakest step because it is an expression of hope."
I saw with a start that her eyes were wet. "Every step taken is a prayer answered. Every step is a spark that defies the darkness of despair."
Mother tweaked my nose gently. "Defy the darkness, Little One."
Defy the darkness. Three small words.
But how do we live them?
Here are some small ways that I have found that work for me:
1.) HAVE SELF-COMPASSION -
In other words, cut yourself some slack. It’s being willing to look at your mistakes or failures with kindness and understanding —
without harsh criticism or defensiveness.
Look at yourself as you would a friend going through a similar hard time. You know the advice you would give them? Maybe you would be wise to follow it yourself?
2.) Remember THE BIG PICTURE -
A particular task may be disgusting or daunting -- but usually it is part of a goal that is worthwhile and helpful to someone important to you.
LOVE is a sauce that helps make even the most distasteful go down easier.
3.) ROUTINE can be your friend -
Every time you make a decision — whether it’s about choosing which medical avenue to take, about when or how long to sleep before tackling reality again, or about choosing rye or whole wheat for your egg salad sandwich --
It takes emotional energy. The more energy you deplete, the more stress builds up.
The solution is to reduce the number of decisions you need to make by using routines. If there’s something you need to do every day, do it at the same time every day.
Have a routine for preparing for your day in the morning, and packing up to go home at night.
No matter how you feel about Obama, he stated in a recent interview that he used the same strategy. And he should know about problems and the stress they bring.
4.) Don't go NSF -
I've talked about your emotional checking account. Each emotional transaction depletes that account. Continually drawing from your emotional account without depositing is going to have you go NSF eventually.
That means a breakdown of some kind.
If there were something you could add to your car’s engine, so that after driving it a hundred miles, you’d end up with more gas in the tank than you started with, wouldn’t you use it?
There is something you can do for yourself that will have the same effect… doing something interesting.
Recent research shows that interest doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue, it actually replenishes your energy. And then that replenished energy flows into whatever you do next.
5.) Think IF/THEN -- WHEN & WHERE -
Do you have a to-do list? If you are in a middle of a life emergency, you certainly do.
What you need is a way to get the things done that you set out to do in a timely manner.
What you need is if-then planning (or what psychologists call “implementation intentions”).
Deciding in advance when and where you will complete a task (e.g., “If it is 4pm, then I will return any phone calls I should return today”)
can double or triple your chances of actually doing it.
Another way to combat stress using if-then plans is to direct them at the experience of stress itself, rather than at its causes.
Recent studies show that if-then plans can help us to control our emotional responses to situations in which we feel fear, sadness, fatigue, self-doubt, or even disgust.
“If I see the doctor enter the room, then I will stay calm and relaxed, for then I will be able to ask the questions I need to,”
or, “If two demands are pulling at me, then I will keep a cool head and calmly choose the more important of the two.”
6.) A LITTLE PREP & A LOT OF COPING -
As patients wait for test results, anxiety rises as time slips into slow motion. But experts say patients can regain a sense of control.
- Start before the test itself.
- Because fear can cloud memory during talks with doctors, take notes. If you can, bring a friend to catch details you may miss.
Some pretest questions:
- What precisely can this test reveal? What are its limitations?
- How long should results take, and why? Will the doctor call with results, or should I contact the office?
- If it’s my responsibility to call, what is the best time, and whom should I ask for?
7.) WAIT IS A FOUR LETTER WORD -
13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.
- Psalm 124
Anticipating uncertain news or outcomes can be torture.
HOW TO WAIT WELL -
1.) DISTRACT YOURSELF FROM UNCERTAINTY
Stressed minds seem to want to endlessly cycle your worst fears. You will find yourself unable to focus. Sometimes a video of ocean waves is magnetic.
For me, I found watching a video of a man Kyyaking in a rapids with a hymn in the background soothing for me when the world seemed about to bottom out for me.
IN HIS PRESENCE was the DVD:
(just in case you were wondering what video)
2.) MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS -
Bracing for the worst is what many do.
But research supports a number of benefits of maintaining hope under difficult circumstances,
such as better adjustment to uncertainty, reduced risk for of hypertension, increased immune functioning, and faster recovery from illness.
3.) LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING IN YOUR PRESENT MOMENT -
It may surprise you to know that people with chronic and deteriorating diseases do not often report loss of all happiness compared to their healthy counterparts.
Expectation plays a huge role in life satisfaction, so generally, when people come to terms with their new predicament, they're able to redefine their personal measures of happiness.
Therefore, while waiting for potentially bad news, you can take some comfort in knowing that, though your life may have to change, you will still be able to find some measure of happiness.
4.) KEEP PERSPECTIVE REGARDING THE POSSIBLE NEWS -
Consult with friends, family, and experts to ascertain the ramifications of potentially bad news. Evaluate how important the moment truly is in the grand scheme of things.
5.) KEEP COMMUNICATIONS OPEN TO YOUR FRIENDS -
Just leaning on the shoulder of a friend who gives a damn can make all the difference in the world.
Know that others have endured storms and have gained compassion from the journey. We want to help in any way we can.