This time of year is hard.
Christmas has come and gone, I feel like a busted can of biscuits from eating one too many carb-loaded holiday meals, it’s cold, and the sun has taken its bright, warm, beautiful self on a vacation somewhere far far away from here.
To put it simply, winter in the Midwest is not my favorite time of year – by any stretch of the imagination. I often feel like a cooped-up crazy person with the Google search history of a millionaire housewife (both of which I can assure you I am not). And that type of cabin fever often leaves me wanting more. It tricks me into believing that my life would be better if I lived in a rustic cabin, went on a vacation to Fiji, drank cocoa next to a crackling fire while making Pinterest-perfect crafts, decorated my apartment in everything West Elm, became a yoga goddess, or finally learned how to beach wave my hair. I mean, honestly, you should see my Google history. You would do a hard eye-roll.
But truly, this time of year is challenging. There are many days where it seems as if optimism and sunshine bought one way tickets to the same place without extending the invitation. And speaking as someone who is fresh off a weekend-long wrestling match to maintain my sanity and perspective, believe me when I say I am writing this blog to myself just as much as I am to you. All that said, here are a few (8) things that seem to help me when I am covers deep in self-pity on a Sunday afternoon- I call it the “Cheer Up Cheat Sheet” 🙂
Cheer Up Cheat Sheet:
- Don’t focus on the negative
- Look around. Really. Pause. Avert your eyes from this blog and look around at your life. Take an inventory of the blessings that surround you. This could be the sound of your loved ones or pet, sunshine, a place to call your own, a job, a warm bed, a safe space, memories in a picture frame, running water, clean air, air conditioning on a hot day, the list could go on and on. Take an inventory and remind yourself that not all is lost.
- Do something nice for yourself
- This can be a daunting task when you are in the thick of an emotional wrestling match, but try. Keep it simple. Keep it small. Make yourself a cup of tea. Light a candle. Read a chapter from your favorite book. Pick up a latte on your way to work. Order in your favorite take out. Go on a walk over your lunch break. Do a load of laundry. Whatever it is, carve out an opportunity to be kind to yourself.
- Do something nice for others
- Sometimes when we’re wallowing in woe-is-me the best cure for the darkness is to be the light. Look around you. Who can you bless? Who can you help? This doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Sometimes you can press emotional reset by letting someone with more items go before you in line, holding the door open, complimenting a child on their lollipop, grabbing something off the shelf for an elderly shopper, giving your leftover lunch to a homeless person, volunteering to give blood, writing a thank you note, or buying coffee for the person behind you. You get the idea. The point is that our situations can become skewed when we put our blinders on. Look up. Look around. There is a whole world around you. We’re all just trying to make it.
- Lay it all out to someone who loves you
- Our minds can be a dangerous place sometimes. It is easy to be tricked into believing things that aren’t true about our selves and our situations. In those moments, whether the topic is big or small, it is nice to have the input of someone who isn’t as close to the situation as we are. Reach out to a friend or family member, ask them for their time, and be honest. Mental health is important and those who love you will understand that. Don’t hide or struggle alone. Find someone you trust and show up just as you are.
- Don’t sacrifice your physical health
- When we feel a bit “off” it is easy to neglect our physical health. Don’t do that, it only compounds the problem. Emotions don’t go away when starved and problems aren’t solved by lack of sleep. If you’re having a tough go of it, give yourself permission to rest and recharge. Take a nap. Go on a walk and get some fresh air. Drag yourself to a yoga class. Drink plenty of water. Make yourself a healthy meal. Whatever it is, prioritize it. Again, not easy when you have both feet planted on an emotional battlefield but crucial to regaining control.
- Make a plan
- Sometimes when you are feeling a wave of emotion, it may be coming from an actionable source. In those situations, I have found that making a list or a plan to get back on track is helpful. List the goal/objective, be realistic about what it will take to get there, and then list the requirements in order of most-easily accomplished to the hardest. Knock off the easiest targets and keep moving forward. Making progress on a goal is one of the best ways to regain footing in an emotional war.
- Be still
- Sounds crazy because I just listed six other steps that involve getting up and about, but sometimes there is power in being still. Turn off your cell phone. Put down your computer. Disconnect. Ditch ALL the distractions. And just sit with yourself. Really, truly, be still with nothing but capital Y you. This one is hard and quite honestly, I am awful at it. I have to force myself to do it. But I have found that many of the emotional stare downs I find myself in are fueled by social media. When our eyes and ears are glued to a screen, we can’t see our blessings and we can’t hear our own voices. So if you’re feeling left out, lonely, lost, left behind by life, or insert any other emotion, take some time and assess where those emotions are coming from. Is it because you truly have a bad life or did a dose of someone else’s Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook put a damper on your day?
- Hold on
- Emotions can feel overwhelming, suffocating, and extremely real. And sometimes even if you try some combination of all of the above, they stick around. In those situations, don’t discount your emotions, don’t make excuses for them, you are allowed to feel how you feel. Just remember you won’t feel that way forever. In those particularly difficult moments, I am reminded of a lyric from John Mayer’s song, “Emoji of a Wave”, where when speaking about emotions, he sings: “It’s just a wave, and I know that when comes I just hold on until it’s gone.” The truth is that certain days or emotions can be especially challenging. Those days suck. And sometimes the only thing you can do is buckle up and hold on. But just remember that you’re stronger than you know. Tomorrow will be a new day.
Nothing I have said here is rocket science, but I know all too well that tough days can distort even the most level-headed, well-meaning, person’s view of reality. On those days, it is nice to have a cheat sheet. To remind ourselves that 1. We aren’t alone 2. We can regain pieces of control 3. We won’t feel this way forever. I know that being blue isn’t enjoyable, but it does give us perspective. And, if we’re willing, we can learn a lot about ourselves by examining our emotions. Not all experiences are rainbows and butterflies, but empathy is a learned virtue. Honor your emotions. Give yourself space and permission to feel but don’t make a home there. Do your best to pull yourself up but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Then on the day when you have some sunshine to spare, make note of those who may be in need of a smile, a kind word, some spare change, a warm meal, a listening ear, or a generous heart.
Don’t focus on the negative,