Finding Joy in The Little Things

Some days seem filled to the brim with forced smiles, strained small talk and robotic movements. You know what I mean… the days you DO because you know you have to. The days you abruptly force yourself awake and get out of bed because you know little people are depending you. The days that you make breakfast because if you don’t, everyone in your house will get hangry as fast as you can count to twenty. The days you struggle at work, as you listen to Negative Nancy vent about her latest breakup, because all you want is to be at home. The days when lots of small things trip you up even though they aren’t really a huge deal… like the tiny jelly stain your son got on his shirt in the car on the way to school, or the realization that you’re out of milk when you’re halfway through cooking Hamburger Helper. But you push through the day because… well, that’s just what you do. Being a mom, a wife, an employee, a nurse, a scheduler, a secretary, a chauffeur, a magician, a chef and whatever else you are in one day is demanding. How do you push through days like this? When all you really want to do is drink a glass of wine while absorbing your conscious in a good book. It isn’t really because you have to at all. No one is forcing you.

How do you push through when you feel like you’re simply going through the motions. Eat, sleep, repeat. Eat, sleep, repeat. How do you find something outside the mundane day-to-day aspects that have seemingly become your demise?

For me, it’s the small things. On days that I am struggling to keep my life together, it is especially important for me to remember to make a conscious effort to look for them. The thing that ups my vibe and soothes my soul often seems to find me. But sometimes, I am left creating my own small perks that bring me joy.

Yesterday, that small thing to brighten my day was nothing more than a ceramic cookie jar. Yes, a cookie jar! My girl, Natalie, found it for me at a thrift store for one dollar! I have never owned my own cookie jar. I didn’t even know I wanted one until I seen Natalie’s cookie jar strategically placed on her kitchen counter. Cookie jars are nostalgic to me and my particular vintage-chic cookie jar was a ray of sunlight beaming on my day. It’s the little things!!

The “thing” can be anything that carries personal significance, such as a compliment, a treasure found at Goodwill, a song on the radio, or even a smile from someone. It could be anything really. The other day, the thing was my five-year old son gently rubbing my cheek as he drifted off to sleep by my side. I knew as soon as it happened that it was my perk that day– the light shining in the darkness.

I’m not saying every day is bad. But, we all know life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. The key is knowing how to find joy in the small things each day. Take the time to polish your nails or soak in a hot bubble bath if that brings you those warm fuzzy feelings. Allow yourself to find joy in these simple pleasures. When your kid says, “You’re the best” or your mom tells you she is proud of you, bask in the joy that can bring you!

A simple cookie jar is all it takes sometimes!

How To Assist Someone Who Is Battling Emotional Distress

Tips for friends, family, or other support persons…

The tears stung my eyes and before I knew it, puffiness consumed my face. I could feel a ping in the pit of my stomach, as if someone jabbed a knife right inside of me. I doubled over, cupping my face with my hands, as if I were trying to create a barrier between my intense sadness and the outside world. Unfortunately, there was no hiding, no escaping the fact that I had a full-blown melt down just in time for an audience of no less than three. I wanted to hide under a rock.

The inevitable curiosity followed, piqued by my abrupt and seemingly fatuous public display of dysphoria. “What’s wrong, Christine?” “Are you okay?”. I hid behind my well-practiced illusive half smile. “I’m fine”. But I wasn’t fine. I couldn’t let them know the truth, I just needed them to be there for me.

Some people insist on having their questions answered. When someone cries, witnesses often feel like they need to know why in order to assist. That is fine, if the one doing the crying is willing to tell. Sometimes, though, telling is hard to do. Especially in the heat of the moment. Sometimes, telling is not an option.

Conventional wisdom says knowledge is power. Knowledge of a death or tragic loss cues sympathy, empathy and comforting words, such as “I’m sorry for your loss”. Knowledge of a breakup or romantic heartache cues assistance with moving on in a healthy way, words to boost the ego, offering companionship, and perhaps offering a friendly gesture, such as a girls/guys night out. So, what can be done to console a friend, loved one, or even a stranger, without fully comprehending what is occurring and why? Well, A LOT, actually.

Think about a time when you were extremely sad. Maybe your dog died, maybe you just lost your job, or maybe you suffer from depression. Whatever the case may be, try to think about what would have been comforting during that time. Some people need to be alone and that’s okay, too. But in this case, try to think about what you would want from a friend or loved one.

Since emotional setback is kind of my forte, in a way, my husband is in tuned to what I want and need from him. I can only imagine his frustration prior to having a plan, as I sense that he feels responsible for resolving whatever is ailing me at the time. What I need is likely to look different from what you need, but here are some universal, generic tips.

  1. You don’t need to say anything magical. People struggle with this one. I have noticed that a lot of people have a dire need to fix, diffuse, and resolve problems. In order to do that, they feel they need to say or do the perfect thing. In the case of not knowing the cause of distress, these people feel like their hands are tied. The truth is, people in distress aren’t looking for a magic phrase that fixes their problems. They are simply looking for words like, “I’m here for you” or “I’ve got you, boo”. Either way, lending a shoulder to cry on, a steady arm to grab onto, and a genuine concern is enough.
  2. Don’t pry. When I am visibly upset, I am fully aware that you are not going to buy my “I’m fine” nonsense. I say it anyways, hoping you won’t ask again. Some people insist on getting an honest answer, but sometimes that makes it worse. Don’t get hung up on prying me for answers.
  3. Ask what you can do. There is something refreshing about knowing I have support, if I need it. Showing someone you genuinely care by inquiring what you can do to help or how you can relieve the distress is very powerful.
  4. Space is important, if it is wanted. We all cope with emotions in unique ways. Some people are comforted by the presence of another person. Others would rather have some space. My husband would rather I give him space when he is upset, knowing I will be there when he is ready. I respect that, even though I personally enjoy the opposite.
  5. Silence is okay, too. Sometimes, just having someone there is sufficient. Words don’t always have to be the answer, especially when the “right” words are tough to find. I can’t express enough how powerful a hug, or a hand on my hand, can be during a time of distress. Simple gestures of physical touch and/or physical closeness can speak louder than words.

Navigating social interactions, especially those muddled by intense negative emotion, can be challenging. Remembering these tips can be beneficial to yourself and to those with whom you interact. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to mitigate others’ struggles, but these simple guidelines have proven beneficial and provide a road map, of sorts, to being a good friend, spouse, parent, or other supporting role.

When the tears are long dried up and my thoughts are rational again, I appreciate the realization that I have a support system. Even if I am a pain, and insist on putting up my defenses, the people closest to me sure know how to help when needed!

Until next time,

How Your Past Influences Your Future

…and what you can do about it!

The past is in the past. Perhaps that is a familiar concept to some of you. After all, dwelling on something that happened ten years ago seems inimical. Yet, somehow, past experiences tend to creep in our subconscious and play a powerful role in influencing our future. A bad experience, several bad experiences of the same nature, have the ability to wreak havoc on similar future experiences.

A trail of toxic romantic relationships results in swearing off love for good. Sound familiar? Since humans are social beings, we, inevitably, find the urge to date again. However, past romantic fails result in anxiety about future attempts at love. If allowed, the flawed perception that we are doomed, in terms of love, will creep in and influence future relationships.

Not just relationships, though. The idea that history will repeat itself and the anxiety about what could be that stems from unfortunate past experiences is prevalent in a variety of life contexts. A rough childhood may lead to distrust in others as an adult. A run of financial distress may result in the mindset that there is no way out of debt, ever. A string of losses during the football season may cause doubt and worry before every single game, because another loss seems inevitable. You know… those fairweather fans… who only love the Detroit Lions when they win, but talk crap about them any other time (which may be a lot)? Are you with me? Again, negative past events or experiences, especially multiple instances, can easily result in losing hope for future events or experiences of the same kind.

Adults rarely anticipate anything. Maybe that’s because we’ve been disappointed too many times and are afraid to get our hopes up.

Dr. David McDonald,

Think about something you have anticipated and truly looked forward to. I look forward to going to Florida next spring break. Why? Because, I have experienced Florida before and had a FABULOUS experience. It is much easier to anticipate and look forward to experiences that either a) are new; therefore, are exciting/thrilling, or b) have been great experiences in the past; therefore, there is no negativity attached.

So, what can we do about bad experiences trying to consume our perception of future experiences?

  • Take back control. To do this, you must tweak your mindset. Step back and notice how much credit you are giving the negative experiences. Do your negative experiences stick out like a sore thumb? Quit giving the negative undue credit. Misery loves company– so allowing the negative experiences to remain in the spotlight is a surefire way to attract future negative experiences.
  • Minimize the weight of a bad past. The past does NOT define you. I didn’t have the perfect childhood. The crud from my childhood has definitely crept in on my adult life, causing me to have some ugly symptoms of trauma. However, by refusing to let the unpleasant monsters from my child hood define me, I minimize their weight. What I experienced as a child is just that: long gone childhood experiences. They are not my life, they are not me, as a being. It is much easier to happily and excitedly anticipate your future when you minimize the weight of a bad past or bad past experiences. Why? Because, the negative is no longer on a pedestal in the spotlight.
  • Give yourself permission. It’s ok, friend, I promise! Allow yourself to freely and fully enjoy life. I don’t consider myself the risk-taking type, per say, but I do believe that every day I wake up, I take a positive risk. I risk my delicate emotions, my flaws, or other pent up issues to being exposed. I risk being vulnerable in a moment between my husband and I. I risk my littles pushing my buttons and taking advantage of my weak spots. AND THAT’S OKAY! Those are risks worth taking. No, not every day is 100% perfect, but giving myself permission to freely anticipate life each day is SO powerfully satisfying and makes it all worth it!

It’s difficult to tell others how to live. I don’t know what you have been through and I have never walked in your shoes. But, I know that everyone can relate to having some type of negative experience in their life. Life can’t always be perfect, right? What we can do about the negative experiences is take back control, minimize their weight and give ourselves permission to live. 

These steps will allow you to anticipate future events with a positive outlook, rather than a flawed perception of how things could potentially go based on negative past experiences. Replace anxiety with enthusiastic anticipation for what each new day might bring! Seriously! Instead of putting so much energy into sulking about negative past experiences, shift that energy towards employing a positive enthusiasm for future experiences!

The Ultimate Guide to Taking Action

Taking steps towards what you really want…

With the start of a new year, I consistently hear and see talk of goals. People tend to rely heavily on the notion that a new year equals a fresh start– what better time to take action, right?! Well, sort of. The problem with this thought process is this: a lot of the time there is way too much hype, not enough action. I get it… setting a goal leads to planning a course of action. If you are anything like me, and the majority of people I talk to, you plan but never get around to implementing those plans. Or, maybe you do, briefly, but not long enough to truly accomplish what you want.

Don’t worry… if this sounds like you, here is a list of guidelines to push you towards ACTION!

  1. Don’t wait for the “perfect time”. News flash: the perfect time is NOW! While a fresh mindset can be productive, it can actually be counterproductive to put things off for a better time. “I’ll start Monday”, “I’ll make it my New Year resolution”, and “I’m waiting for my friend to do it with me” are only going to lead to thoughts like, “Eh, I’ve waited this long… one more day won’t hurt”.
  2. You don’t need to wait until you have all the answers. How? What? Why? When? Where? Who? These questions and a slew of others are bound to come up, especially if what you want to accomplish involves unfamiliarity. Research can typically provide the answers to several questions; however, some answers are best found by simply starting. Some actions require trial and error and learning by doing. If I were to wait to start writing until I had all the answers, I would never be able to start… ever. Get comfortable with not knowing everything and leaving some questions unanswered until a later time.
  3. Stop Overthinking. It’s okay to put thought into what you do, but too much thought can be dangerous. Overthinking often leads to stress, intimidation and giving up before starting. I am one of those people… I tend to overthink everything. I wonder, ponder, contemplate and think until I have exhausted my brain power and experience burn out. Overthinking is counterproductive, more often than not.
  4. Take messy action. This is one of the most valuable tools I can pass along. I can’t tell you how many years I have been carrying on about starting a blog. While the ideas were always there, I let my flawed thought process get in the way and never actually put pencil to paper. Until now. So, what changed? I am still me– scared, hesitant, and slightly intimidated. There is one difference: I was introduced to the concept of “messy action”. The friend who brought this concept into the light for me taught me that it is way better to just do it! Messy action is still action. No, it isn’t perfect, but it is something. No matter your endeavor in life, jump in with both feet and just go with it. This leads me to the next tip…
  5. Let go of perfection. I realize how hard this is for perfectionists, like myself. I rewrite my grocery list as many times as it takes to get a copy with zero errors, because I refuse to have scribbled out words. The problem with this is: I spend way too much valuable time trying to be perfect and less time focusing on the real goal. Half the time, I give up on writing the list, then have nothing to refer to at the grocery store! Focus on the goal, not on how perfectly you can get there.
  6. You can always re-evaluate/reorganize. Here is where trial and error is useful! You might not have all the answers, you might not have a perfectly foolproof plan, and it might be messy, but you will learn from doing. We already know that doing something is better than nothing. The first week of exercise might teach you that working out in the evenings is not for you. No problem! Next week, try working out in the morning! Edit and rework your course of action until it best suites you.
  7. Planning is overrated. Some planning is inevitable and can allow our actions to run smoother. However, becoming obsessed with planning the future prohibits us from moving towards actions in the present. I am all too familiar with getting burnt out on planning before I start actually doing. Somtimes, planning creates a wall, leading me to feel stuck, intimidated, stressed, tired or overwhelmed. Focus on the goal, create a plan, and move on to implementing that plan.
  8. Baby steps count. If you’re anything like me, you love instant gratification and seeing immediate results. I hate waiting. Sometimes, though, we fail to realize the power of progress. Maybe we haven’t completely achieved the goal or end result, but look at the progress that’s been made! Each baby step counts as taking action and moves us closer to the end goal. Tracking each baby step on paper helps when visualizing progress. Smart phones have several fun options for progress trackers, as well!
  9. Act with intent. Actions are deliberate. All too oftem, we get caught up in the daily grind and act out of habit. We go to work, take care of kids, cook dinner, etc… However, if you know what you want and put forth a conscious effort, you can intentionally achieve that thing you want. For example, if weight loss is my goal, but I haven’t exercised in years, then I am most likely not going to habitually start exercising and eating clean. Rather, I am likely to think about working out briefly, if at all, only to find myself scrolling through Facebook while eating chips on the couch. If I truly intend to lose weight and start exercising, I have to put forth much more mental effort and take intentional steps towards that goal. Living life in a passive way, out of habit, might be easier than living an intentional, active life; but, it rarely gets you what you want in terms of goals and achievements.
  10. You may or may not want to work alone. I consistently see people partnering up to make gains and hear people claiming that they are incapable of “doing it alone”. Finding your tribe and linking arms with like-minded people is fabulous! However, don’t feel like you have to take this route to begin your journey. Some people do better and stay more focused when they work towards their goals solo. Support from friends and family is always beneficial, but this doesn’t mean these people need to be doing exactly what you’re doing. Do you and do it well. I noticed that when I try to work with a friend on a common goal, I end up obsessed with comparisons on our journey, which only hinders my progress. Sometimes working in pairs or teams is suitable, but not always. Don’t get hung up on finding someone to join you, because you may find it actually slows you down.

If you feel like you are spinning your wheels and getting no where fast, go through this list and see if anything applies to you. Taking action isn’t always easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be so exhilarating when we achieve what we want! This doesn’t mean that all is lost, though, as these tips and tricks are easier than you may think. Always remember, you can accomplish anything, especially if you tweak your mindset a little! Have faith in the process and take action!

Until next time,