I was like this a few years ago. You all know that I went through several years of a lot of change in my personal and professional life (simultaneously). Life is like that sometimes. We don’t plan for the unexpected circumstances, illness, death, and derailment of our life plans when we make them in those exciting young adult days. It takes a decade or so of getting kicked around to realize that a good life is about adjusting to reality, not denying it. It also takes about that long to realize that you really can have it all – you just can’t have it all at the same time. Life comes in seasons for a reason. You have to have the wisdom and discernment to know what’s right for the place you’re at.
There’s plenty of advice on how to deal with the stress, anger, and anxiety that comes with a life too full of the “I’m busy” demon that’s permeated the beginning of this millennium. We’ve all heard it: mind your health, mind your diet, exercise, get enough sleep, meditate, simplify your schedule, have a hobby, take a vacation, etc. The problems are that not one size fits all, and sometimes what really helps doesn’t come in the form of “stress relief.” Sometimes, the best advice comes from other places. Today, I’d like to share some lesser-known stress relief tips that I learned, ironically, from The Secret, and exploring the power of positive thinking. Are you ready for some unconventional advice? Try one of these for a week, and see if you feel better about life in general:
Practice gratitude. As a society, we complain too much, and we aren’t doing ourselves or anybody else any favors. If you reap what you sow (and you do) then what good comes from griping? Absolutely none. When you feel yourself spinning into “one of those days,” why not try to purposely shift your focus to what you’re thankful for? Wouldn’t you rather call good things into your life instead of bad things? Better yet, open your day with a prayer for things your grateful for. Everybody, from religious/spiritual people to psychologists to behavioral health specialists attest to the power of gratitude to turn your entire mindset around. Try this: if you’re having a bad morning, stop what you’re doing and say “I’m not going to allow the day to continue like this. Instead, let’s switch focus right now on how grateful I am to have a full time job that provides for me financially. I’m thankful for a car to drive to work in, for this cup of coffee I’m drinking, and for the home this job helps me pay for. I’m thankful for the awesome outfit I’ll wear today, and that I’ll put this great bathrobe back on when I get home from work tonight.” Then take a deep breath, say a prayer, and see if the day takes a turn for the better.
Mind your own business. If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me to mind my own business in my teens through my late 30’s, I’d have been able to retire by 40. But I didn’t, so I just had to learn the wisdom of that advice. It was actually while talking with somebody about depression after my recent illness that I commented “perhaps people would be happier if they spent less time worrying about what everybody else should do for them and more time considering what they should be doing for others.” Wow, that’s a major shift in focus. Give it a try. The next time you get mad because somebody has been inconsiderate or rude, stop and consider what you should be doing. Have you erred that way before? Have you been impatient or rude? We all have.
I remember when I started working that somebody told me “sometimes people are wrong, and they need to be corrected.” She said it because she thought I needed more boldness in my work demeanor. What took me another 15 years to realize is that she started that sentence with the word “sometimes.” It’s not my job to correct the world. My responsibility is to have the wisdom and discernment to know when I’m supposed to speak up, and when I need to zip it and back off. And when I do need to speak up, do it in love, not in sass or ego.
Have fewer opinions. This goes hand in hand with minding your own business. We all have opinions on all kinds of things, but how often do they really matter in the grand scheme of things? You have the right to live by your morals and values, so those opinions matter. However, nobody cares about your five hundred bumper stickers touting your favorite bands, causes, Game of Thrones house, Avenger, DC hero, grocery story, political campaign, support of the latest local tragedy, and your membership in the “I hate winter and foggy days” club. I’m not saying having opinions is wrong, just that the fewer you have, the happier you seem to be. Don’t be a noisemaker. The world is loud enough with so many people trying to make their mark and be heard. Instead, be authentic and live your values. A living example speaks better than words can, anyway.
Let it go. Another thing the religious, spiritualists, and behavioral experts attest to is the power of forgiveness. I don’t need to write a dissertation on this, because you’ve heard it. I’ll just say this: sometimes, people don’t know how to be a decent human being, and they aren’t going to learn that from you. People will only change if they’re internally motivated, and that often means the threat of losing something extremely important to them. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that threat is you. People just don’t care what others think. Heck, we all believe we’re swell people. You just have remember that you have flaws too, learn from the experience, let it go, rand stick by that decision. Forgiveness is another one of those tough areas of changing how you think, but you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you finally decide to let things go – and mean it.
Appreciate small things. We’re enamored with bigger and better, and because of this we miss so many small blessings that come to us every day. Sadly, we often don’t appreciate these small things until something happens to take them away. I learned this lesson the hard way when my job moved in 2010. I was so focused on the change that I didn’t realize how many blessings I had in my daily life that were just gone one day, never to return. I vowed to open my eyes and not miss these opportunities again. We get in such a hurry striving for the big goals that we don’t celebrate the small steps of progress, or the experiences and people who make up the journey. No, that hallway conversation with a coworker might not strike you as a highlight of your day right now. Neither will sub day in the canteen, chatting with the folks in the mail room, the few quiet minutes during your afternoon break, the song you heard on the ride home, the ten new followers you got today because of a post you wrote before work, or the two short story submissions you sent out before you went to bed. It’s all small stuff. It’s also the stuff that makes up the big picture of life. Open your eyes. Use gratitude to see these blessings, and take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small. I’ve told you about how I broke into being an indie author because of an online article I read one Saturday afternoon in 2010 when I was bored. One small thing launched my writing in an entirely new direction. It probably would have withered had I not followed that small thing to a bigger world!
I told you it was unconventional, but it works. I know because I tried all of these. Yes, it was difficult at first, but the results came so fast that I have no problem reminding myself to get back on track when I slip. One thing about positive thinking is that you notice quickly when you fall out of it, and you can’t stand it. You’ll do whatever it takes to get yourself right again. I pray these tips work for you. At least, I pray they work better for you than meditation works for me. I just can’t seem to make a go of that!
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great rest of the week.