I think I’m going to get myself a T-shirt that says, Caution: Contents Under Pressure. My husband has been looking for a job for several months, and I thought I was handling things pretty well, but the way I’ve been responding to some of the *extremely minor* events of the last several weeks has shown me that while I may be appearing to handle things on the surface, I’m probably on the brink of a breakdown. It seems like I’m barely keeping it together.
Last month, our kitchen sink garbage disposal came loose, sending water and wet noodles all over the cupboard below the sink, and instead of it being just an annoying hiccup in the day, it launched me into a downward spiral.
I felt like giving up on anything I had planned for the rest of the day, and I couldn’t even think of a response to my daughter when she asked if she could play in the back yard. I just stood there, my head spinning, unable to come up with even a simple, “Yes,” or, “No.” After she had asked a couple of times, I just told her that I couldn’t talk to her right now and that she would just have to do something else for a few minutes while I talked to daddy.
Even after we got it all squared away, I just felt like I had been hit by a truck and couldn’t bring myself to continue with my day’s plans. Over a MINOR kitchen incident that took all of 20 minutes to take care of.
Several days later, I burned not one but two quesadillas in a row, and it had the same effect. I just felt like throwing in the towel and watching TV for the rest of the day. Dinner, breastfeeding, errands, and everything else could just take a hike. I would be on the couch.
And it’s not like anyone even yelled at me for burning the quesadillas. My wonderful husband ate the two burned ones without complaint, and even threw in an enthusiastic, “Wow! I get a double-decker quesadilla!” to make me feel better. And with the garbage disposal, all we needed to do was screw it back on and tighten up the screws a little better. It wasn’t broken and we didn’t have to spend any money to fix it, so what was my problem?
Things went on like this almost daily for at least a month or two. Something minor and insignificant would happen, and I’d be on the verge of tears wishing I could just go to bed at 3:00 in the afternoon. I tried to come up with clever or insightful ways to deal with my problems, but I got nothing. The best thing I could come up with to do was just distract myself by making lists, watching TV, and listening to music, but none of it was very productive or insightful.
And then one day, I happened to overhear my extremely perceptive 6-year-old daughter on the phone with my mom as she rattled off to her a list of 5 things she does when she wants to feel better. And I quote:
- “I start to twirl around and sing a song, ‘I’m changing my attitude. I’m changing my attitude. I’m changing my attitude.’ My body listens to the song and then I start feeling better.”
- “You can also begin to feel better if you prayed.”
- “The third thing to do to feel better is to focus your attention on another thing.”
- “The fourth thing to do is talk to someone on the phone.”
- “And the fifth thing is to read a book.”
I love this list, partly because it shows my daughter’s personality, but also because it’s actually really good advice. A few days after she had come up with this list, she and I were bickering in the kitchen for some now-forgotten reason, and right in the middle of it, she stopped us both and started twirling around and singing her little song. Then she told me to do it too, so I (ever so maturely) rolled my eyes and begrudgingly did as she requested. I was surprised to find that with each twirl, I couldn’t help but smile and feel a little more lighthearted. It actually worked!
I’ve also tried the other things on her list, and they are all great ideas. Prayer is definitely my friend in times like these. And I’ve started walking with a friend, which seems to be helping as well. The exercise is helping by releasing all those good stress-reducing hormones we read about, and even though it’s not on the phone, I get to talk to someone at the same time.
So next time you find yourself needing an attitude adjustment, try this little kid-inspired trick and see if you can twirl yourself into a better person.
QUESTION: What are your tips on coping skills? How do you remain positive during difficult times?
— The Conscious Mom