The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. Do you feel as though your mind, body, and spirit are at rest these days? I didn’t think so. After all, how can you feel a sense of acceptance when things are so beyond your control? How do you cultivate compassion when others around you are losing what’s left of their minds and acting out? The ‘rona pandemic is not the first plague that has ravaged our lives, sweet friends. Pandemonium comes in many forms. We struggle within ourselves; we clash with our loved ones, or perhaps our very beliefs become irrational, infantile, or even toxic. Heck, we all have irrational fears. I have an irrational fear of wasting a good outfit on a totally insignificant day. But when are we ever simply “at peace”?
We may be waiting for “happily ever after.” But that is what’s irrational and overrated. Happiness isn’t “ever after”; it’s right now. For starters, you may have to resign as the general manager of the Universe. Here’s the secret: Peace only enters when expectations end. What does that even mean, Caroline? The truth is we have two options when we find ourselves unhappy: Improve our reality or lower our expectations. I know. No matter how low you lower the bar of expectation, some people manage to roll right under it. Those lofty ideals you have for others do nothing but feed frustration and lead to disappointment.
Take me for example. Coffee gives me unrealistic expectations of productivity. Heh. You know what they say: No man has done more to bring peace to mankind than the inventor of coffee.
If at first you don’t succeed, lower your expectations. Do you accept life as it is at the moment, or are you obsessing about the way it “should” be? If you are, you may end up feeling anxious, resentful, and even hopeless.
We are still being assaulted with bad news daily by the media. Chronic worrying is your form of exercise these days. Me? I’m into CrossFit. I cross my fingers and hope I can fit into my clothes. But the truth is: Good things come to those who sweat. So you may be one workout away from a good mood.
Please do not misunderstand me. Burying your feelings is not the same as dealing with them. Take a few deep, calming breaths and just observe those emotions rising and receding like the waves on the ocean. Do not fight them. You may find yourself going astray and adrift with past regrets or even future forebodings.
Don’t let that low-grade stress you wake up with become your new normal. Learn the difference between your opinion and facts. If you find yourself saying something critical about yourself or your loved ones, try saying to yourself: “I notice that…”: “I notice that I’m being really hard on myself today for not working out.” “I notice that I’m being really judgmental about him tonight.” You cannot turn off that negative self-talk, but you can distance yourself from it.
Pay attention to the times you feel most cool, calm, and collected. What were you doing, or not doing? When was the last time you read, listened to, or watched something truly enriching? Look around you and find something to look at that brings you joy or calms your frazzled nerves: a painting, a family photo, or perhaps something that brings back sweet memories. Pause and look at it every day.
Quietly tell yourself: “I can choose peace instead of “this.” Thank someone, anyone, today for a service rendered. Take yourself out of yourself for a bit. Find the most anxiety-producing thing on your “To Do” list, and just do it. Imagine not having to fret over when you are planning to pay the bills or do those dang taxes. You know how it is: Just when you think you can make ends meet, somebody moves the ends. Move your mind to a still, soothing place. Is there anything you were meant to do but are not doing? Put all your energy into people and things that speak to your heart, sweet friends.
Make a mental list of everything that is stressing you out and name them. Express your feelings to a trusted friend, and don’t be afraid to laugh at your own sweet self, at times.
Hobbies lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels. Don’t worry if they poke fun of you. Clean, cook, bake, knit, or weld. Speaking of cleaning: Well, both of us can’t look good at the same time. It’s either me or the house. But seriously, there is a relationship between using your hands and your wellbeing. So go ahead and paint, repair, or plant. That distraction just may save your life.
Remember: It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy. Most of all, please have faith that better days will come, sweet friends.