As you might’ve gathered from my other posts, I’m crazy in love with life. Sometimes so much so that tears just come out of no where. How gross? I know. I never used to be a cryer, but two kids later and I’m over here cuddled in a blanket getting all sniffly over this heartfelt commercial about time moving too fast.
Most days I’m over the moon about life. All the sunshine, delicious food, awesome little family, and chocolate chip cookies—it’s hard not to be cheerful about all that.
But there’s also some days when it can be tougher than usual to find and create such easy-flowing joy. This is often due to a string of small hiccups in the day.
Maybe other drivers are being especially sucky and something stopped working at the house and then I stub my pinky toe, after which my almost two year old throws the morning’s seventh tantrum because I’m giving her water instead of juice, and then an unexpected bill arrives in our mail, and so on. On top of that I’m getting, like, a negative amount of things accomplished at the house. By the end of the day, I practically fall into the couch. Seconds later my newborn decides that now is a good time to wake up and fight sleep for two hours. I look up in surrender and laugh. “Good one,” I tell Him with a smile.
When one thing after another happens unfavorably, this is when I tend to start stressing or getting frustrated. Or when I feel like I’m falling behind my too-hopeful and ever-growing to-do list. But I’ve come to the realization that these things may not change any time soon. Things usually don’t go the way of our intricate plans that we’ve crafted in our minds.
Especially when you have kids!
Whether or not you’re a parent, stress is all around us. For you, maybe it’s at work, on the news, or in your family. Or somewhere else altogether. But it’s there. And I hate to say it, but there will always be at least one thing that isn’t quite “right”—something for us to get stressed about.
So rather than let the day’s burdens pile on top of me and allow my stress to slide down a slippery slope, I decide it’s time for me to make a change, because my circumstances definitely won’t any time soon. Here are some ways I get out of my funks:
1) GO OUTSIDE: This is number one for a reason. It’s super important to get out in nature. Or maybe you’re more a lover of the concrete jungles. Whatever is outdoors that gets your tassels ruffled, go there. For me, it’s nature.
Why? Well, other than being beautiful and awesome, nature tends to wake me up from my slumber. The wind, the warm sun on my face, the symphony of the trees—they remind me I’m alive and here, and that is just an amazing thing. Nature breathes fresh life into my bones. It makes me remember that the world is bigger than my circumstances.
Other people are out there enduring stress just like me. And most of them are probably going through something much worse. Not that I downplay my emotions—it’s important to feel. But instead of getting too soaked up in them, I remember that things could’ve taken a darker turn many many times.
2) THINK OF OTHER SCENARIOS: This brings me to my next one. I’ve gotten in the habit of imagining worse scenarios to things that I’d usually get thrown off by. I call it the “At least” formula. For example, when Reece only wants to be walked to sleep at 3 am, I’ll say to myself, “Well, at least you have a pair of working legs to do it with.” With a small shift in perspective, my burden has become a blessing.
3) COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS: When my burdens begin to stack up against me, I’ve started pushing back by listing off all that I have to be grateful for. “It’s a sunny day, the kids are healthy, we have a roof over our head, food in the fridge, and clean, running water in our home. This helps me se how good life really is. So many people are without these very essentials. They have to work to survive. It’s so important to appreciate all that which we do have—it can be gone in a second.
Doing this also really helps me simmer down. Taking the time to breathe and be thankful is a great way to put out those stress fires.
4) LAUGH IT OFF: Now, if you’re going through something pretty darn stressful, this one doesn’t really apply. Some matters you just can’t laugh about. But if you’re like me, and those tiny mishaps during the day really get to you, then this tool can definitely be useful. I’ll search for the humor behind things, because believe me, it’s there! When you start seeing things as funny instead of frustrating, life gets a whole lot more interesting and way more fun and light.
5) GET YOU A SUNNY DAYS PLAYLIST!: I don’t know about you, but for me, music is EVERYTHING. I’m almost always playing music (minus my moments of pure silence and solitude—which we all need!). I have different playlists for different moods I’m in. Sometimes I’m in the mood for some Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Dean Martin. Others, I just want to chill and speculate and contemplate—for which I need some solid indie/folk/acoustic jams.
And then other times, I JUST WANNA DANCE.
I call this my “Sunny Smiles” playlist (which you can find on my Spotify account). This playlist has a little bit of everything. It’s got tunes to dance to, sway to, and head-bob to. Basically, it’s all the music that just makes me feel warm and tingly, inspired and unstoppable all at once. It makes me fall in love with life all over again.
Music has always been there to guide me through my thoughts and feelings. Super fuzzy, I know. For many of us, music can be an escape or a distraction. However, we mustn’t run from our problems or ignore them. That feeds the fire. Until one day it’s spread wildly and uncontrollably. We don’t want that.
We must face these challenges head on. We need to confront them, and feel. That helps us grow. Music can be a great way to help us dive into those roaring seas of emotion. It’s what gives sound to the things we have no words for, and ultimately helps us understand ourselves.
6) TALK/WRITE/PRAY: I do all three of these things multiple times a day.
We were never meant to be by ourselves (no matter how awesome it feels sometimes)—we were destined to be social creatures. No one can go it alone, without some kind of help or just some sort of presence from others (at least not comfortably).
I’m one of those people that some solitude always does me good. I yearn for it—quite frequently, actually. When I was nineteen I road-tripped to North Carolina by myself for the weekend and it was incredible. However, I couldn’t wait to get back and tell my friends about it. Communication is key. We need it. As much as I like toughing it out and going it alone, I’ve learned when I need to not and to let others in.
So I write. I write when I don’t want to speak, and I speak when I need to be heard or given advice. And I pray whenever I can. I pray for guidance, strength, patience, and constant self-improvement.
Whatever way you can, get the words out of you. And when you can’t find the words, just do a grunt, or a sigh, or a shout—but we must relieve ourselves of these burdens we carry.
And often times they take shape as words or feelings inside us that seem to physically weigh and slow us down. Even if you’re just by yourself and talking out loud to God or to yourself—get it out. You'll honestly feel lighter!
Like an actor taking off a mask, our problems no longer seem that scary when our words unveil the unsettling surface and reveal their actual identity that lies beneath.
Words help us define those things we don't understand at first. The more we understand our problems and ourselves, the easier it is to overcome whatever is holding us back from enjoying life to the fullest.
7) “THIS TOO SHALL PASS”: As lame and cliche as it sounds, I always repeat this to myself. It’s so important to remember that life will one day look a lot different than it does right now.
When my toddler is throwing a tantrum and my newborn is crying and dinner needs to be pulled out of the oven and the plumber arrives and my phone rings all at once, I may or may not begin to feel some stress or anxiety. Or maybe I receive some bad news, or we feel the weight of our financial situation, or whatever it is that seems to creep behind us—I remind myself that one day, the sun will shine and those taunting shadows will disappear into the night.
One day, things will be better. Spring will give life to all that winter has taken. Rain will nourish dry lands. The teenage girl texting in front of you will eventually realize the light has been green this whole time.
It might feel like it will never end. But the future brings brighter days, and soon this will be our past. We will look back and feel stronger because of it. So hold on. Know that you aren’t alone. And remember to soak it all in.
Because all of this—this is Life, my friends.