If you experience anxiety, you may have seen how it has a cruel way of creating a whirlwind of emotions that come and go throughout the day. It can get to the point where you are tired of ALL THE FEELS. You crave peace. Simplicity.
A port in the storm for me has been to boldly take a step toward the emotion I want to have, not the one that just happens to be present. In essence, I’m learning to get ahead of my emotions and dictate to myself how I will feel. I call it “framing the situation." (Note: there is probably a more professional term.) Because I believe we can be storytellers of our own life. We don’t have to be so darn passive. It’s basically self-talk, and it goes something like this:
“Once I clean up after dinner, I will feel so good having a fresh kitchen.”
I find it’s even more effective to take this a step further and voice your narration to someone. Speak positive:
“It will be so relaxing to curl up in bed tonight.”
“The commute from work might be rough, but I’ll be so relieved when I get home.”
Even mundane comments about the weather can work. I had a friend who delighted in walking into work, dripping from the rain. He’d smile at us serenely while saying, “What a lovely day it is.” And he meant it.
Did I agree? Well, to be honest, no, I didn’t. I’m just not that smitten with rainy days where I can’t stay inside with my tea. But just his positive narration lifted the atmosphere in our workplace. It was, at the very least, nice to know someone found the climate enjoyable.
I would like to leave you with three helpful reminders:
I was experiencing a tough day at work, and I imagined going home that night, trudging through all that must happen before finally settling down for some sleep. I was not giving myself a peaceful mental picture of my evening. As a result, I was already feeling negative about the evening and everything ahead of me. Have you done this?
I’ve heard over and over that we have a say in creating our reality. Those "Choose Happy" slogans abound. So for better or for worse, I decided to try it.
I started to imagine going home, tackling a few big things, and focusing on how good it would feel to have them done. I then imagined that despite everything, I would make time to sit down with a cup of tea and a comfy blanket. The images in my mind brought me peace, and just like that, my mindset toward my evening changed.
And that was my “aha” moment. I never realized how much I mentally picture my future, and how easily I put a negative or positive spin on it in my mind.
The bizarre thing is that our thoughts can happen so quickly (in either direction) and even just be an impression. I can see myself being incredibly happy at night with my cup of tea. Or in a flash, I can see myself drinking that same tea, overwhelmed, stomach in knots because I know I will have a lot on my plate for the next day.
Wow. What power we have.
So now, when I’m overwhelmed with a lot of anxiety, and I’m feeling incredibly negative, I make a point to envision my next step, whatever it is, going well. I also like to think of ways to make what I'm not looking forward to just a little bit better. What if I drink my favorite tea during a dreaded meeting? What if I light a candle while reading my countless emails, just to change up the atmosphere and make it a little cozy?
Being more intentional about how I mentally picture the future, even in the little details, has helped make my mindset be more positive. Even just telling myself how good I’ll feel when a difficult event is over has been so helpful.
These are small, intentional steps that have helped me. Again, they are small, but I hope they can help you too, but make that significant difference.
I’ve blogged about this before, and I know we all talk about it: by living longer we see new ideas come to life with technology. BUT, what about the less talked about inventions that aren’t a form of tech? They may not be saving lives, but they can still be pretty incredible.
It happened when I was in Amsterdam with some friends. You’d think what stood out to me most that day was the incredible amount of bicycles, fry vendors, architecture, canals etc. But do you know what I came face to face with that really made me smile from the head to my toes?
Oh yes, in a tiny little coffee shop, I saw the image of a combination croissant and muffin: the marriage of two amazing pastries. As I gazed on it, lovingly, I have a feeling the reflection of its beauty could be seen in my happy eyes. Who was the genius who came up with this?
You may laugh or roll your eyes. But what other less obvious things do you enjoy that make their debut in our lives? You know, other than the latest version of our smart phones?
Think of the innovative chip flavors, new pizza dipping sauces, and fusion restaurants. For those of us with food allergies – what about the gluten free pastries? What about dairy free ice cream (one of my personal favorites)? And that’s just the culinary delights. Think about the hypo-allergenic cats, the tiny house movement, and pajamas that are designed to keep you cool at night.
Our minds typically notice the latest and greatest in technology, but these other innovations are just as noteworthy and incredibly delightful. And I just wanted to give them “a shout out” in my little blog.
So, let’s raise our glasses (I’m not gonna lie, mine is filled with tea) and toast to the lesser celebrated inventions in our lives today!
I see a therapist to help me cope with the anxiety that I face. And in a recent session, he recommended I read a book published by British author, Charlie Mackesy titled The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse.
Hmmmmm. It looked like a children’s book, and honestly didn’t catch my eye. I felt I instead needed to spend more time diving into the latest publications by respected psychiatrists and other anxiety gurus. I needed coping strategies and powerful words of wisdom. Not cute kidlet stuff.
But I bought it, because during this quarantine time I’ve had some really hard moments, and I found myself more than willing to try something unusual. So, I sat down and read the book.
And I was HOOKED.
I read it again. Then I read it again. Then I sent a copy of it to my Mom.
I don’t know if it was the combination of the illustrations and simple truths, but that book was food for my soul. It's the little journey of three animals and a boy, and they discuss life. And they share very simple, encouraging truths that I really needed.
I honestly have no idea if this book will do for you what it did for me. Everyone is different. BUT I think the lesson I learned is for anyone. I know I’m not alone when I say I need coping strategies and powerful words of wisdom. And these can be found in unexpected places and in unexpected ways. We can study theories until our eyes are red, but maybe what we really need is to watch an inspirational movie or browse the children’s book section. Maybe a fun cartoon or a novel will speak to us.
As a child, I loved storytime, and as adults, I strongly believe we still need storytime. Because we still very much need stories.
One night, when my husband and I were visiting Munich, we decided to catch the metro back to our hotel. We didn’t realize it was the same time a huge football (soccer) game had just let out. The train was PACKED.
As we squished in with everyone else (standing room only of course), I found myself completely engulfed by ecstatic fans. Apparently, Munich had won the match. I told my husband, as I was smashed between football jersey clad bodies, I felt as if Germany was giving me a giant hug. And I honestly didn’t mind. The excitement and happiness was almost tangible in the air that night.
I started thinking then about how often we are hugged in life. And I’m not just talking the traditional, physical embrace. For example, I’ve often heard the phrase that tea is a “hug in a mug.” It makes sense to me! With the liquid warming up my body, it definitely feels like the tea is giving me a squeeze of affection.
Certain scents are like a giant hug to me. For example, cinnamon! The lovely smell wraps around my head as I breathe in, and I feel it’s a full-on cinnamon embrace. (I could also say the same for fresh baked bread and Mexican food!)
What else gives you a “hug”?
What about a beautiful song? Music can completely envelop my being.
What about a cozy blanket wrapped around your shoulders?
The bright sunshine warming up your skin during the summer season?
My cat cannot hug me, but when he happily curls up on my legs, it’s like a hug for my lap.
I think especially during our current time, it’s good to be reminded that not all hugs have to be conventional. When we can’t be held by our loved ones, we can STILL be encircled with something just as powerful.
I recently heard a podcast by The Minimalists. On this particular episode (#202), they interviewed Tara Button, founder of Buy Me Once website that from my understanding, promotes minimalism by encouraging people to carefully buy quality items so that they last a lifetime. A great concept. Anyway, on a slightly different note, during the podcast, she expressed how cleaning – even something simple, like our breakfast dishes – is a form of self-care.
I felt a little silly for not realizing such a fantastic truth sooner.
I never really thought of cleaning my home as an act of self-care, which then in turn helps me better combat anxiety or any difficulty I have in life. I think on some level, I felt this truth, but Ms. Button worded it perfectly. Just like eating a healthy meal, working out, or doing deep breathing, having my house clean helps me to relax and mentally feel more at ease. (I know some people don’t notice dirt and clutter. For better or for worse, I’m NOT one of those people.)
Ms. Button also points out, not only is cleaning self-care, it’s instant gratification. For example, when you clean off a cabinet, you see the fruits of your labor right away. And it’s satisfying.
Once again, I’m reminded that it pays to be more mindful and intentional. To focus on what’s in front of me. To soak in the fact that the sparkly cabinet is looking pretty good and take a moment to really realize it. Then I can use that moment to help propel me forward.
I think the hang-up comes when I realize that I STILL have so much more to clean. I live with a constant to-do list, and it can be overwhelming. BUT, while that may be the case, concentrating for a minute on what I’ve just done, how great it looks, and how I am physically changing the atmosphere around me, is a BIG help. Even when my actions don’t seem so big.
I stumbled on this fantastic quote someone had pinned on Pinterest:
I won’t let pain turn my heart into something ugly. I will show you that surviving can be beautiful. Christy Ann Martine
Which started me thinking. When I was young, “beautiful” meant everything perfect (my definition of perfect), lovely (my definition of lovely), and no pain (again, my definition of pain). Beautiful meant bordering on a fairy tale, but not quite, because I mean, life isn't perfect, right? I couldn't be too greedy.
Oh, Gina, Gina.
With adulting and aging, thankfully, I've learned that beauty can be those things, but it has so much more richness and depth and POWER which can spring from the difficulties. The unpleasant. The gut wrenching hurt. NOT the fairy tales.
Beauty doesn't always feel good to me. Beauty doesn't always look "pretty" and in style and all hair strands tucked in. Beauty can be pain, humility, and that miserable trio of blood, sweat and tears. But boy, is it worth it.
When life shatters superficial beauty, something much grander can emerge. Before I lose you with flowery descriptions, let me plainly ask: Do you know what I’m talking about? I meet these people. They aren't the most put together, with the perfect home and family. They aren’t the most stylish. Yet there is a beauty about them that comes from something deep. It can even be a little intimidating, yet it pulls me toward them.
Then I learn their beauty came the hard way. Through ugliness: depression, pain, horrible circumstances. And this is good news for those of us that face the hardships of life. Every. Day.
Because suddenly the past and the future seem more bearable. There is a greater purpose to my own hurt. Like that mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, we too can emerge and show others that “surviving can be beautiful.” Despite the unspeakable ache and unstoppable tears and deep, deep wounds. It just may not be instant. It takes time.
But that is such hope for all of us.
Creator of Love, Auntie.
About LOVE, AUNTIE
Welcome! My blog is a journal of sorts as I seek what makes "older" worth celebrating in a world that tends to glorify "younger." I hope it's a place you will find encouragement and positive words.