It is April in the Midwest and I’m taking a hike as I dictate this blog post into my phone. It’s 64° and I’m comfortable in my tank top and leggings. I’m wearing my ball cap hold my hair out of my face with my oversize sunglasses to keep my sensitive eyes comfortable! I coulnd’t be happier right now!
I’ve definitely noticed a trend of clients struggling with their seasonal depression into the month of March and April which bothers them as they have a belief that March and April should be warmer. It’s been my experience, as a lifelong Midwesterner, that we seem to think that the winter is only going to happen during the month of January and February. When it persists into March and we’re still having snow and frigid cold days in March and April we get incredibly depressed because we think “why is this still happening“? …But it always happens that way. We always have very cold days in March. We almost always have snow in April. The difference that I propose is that we need to stop living in wait of perfect circumstances, and instead take advantage of small windows of opportunity that cross our paths.
Instead of waiting for the perfect weekly forecast, why not take advantage of a one hour lunch break on warmer days
Instead of waiting for no rain for days straight why not strap on your hiking boots and hit the trails regardless of their condition, mud won’t hurt you!
Instead of waiting to have a friend to go with you or entertain you when you spend time in nature, why not learn to conquer the silence and spend time with yourself?
We set out on a minivan road trip on Friday with a 12 day goal of touring Michigan, Minnesota, and the Dakotas (and connecting states) in an effort to explore nature and 5 National Parks: Indiana Dunes, Voyageurs, Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave and the Badlands. We also plan to see numerous other national landmarks, forests and Lakeshores (Sleeping Bear Dunes, Mt. Rushmore, Painted Rock, etc).
At we stop every 1-2 hours to keep everyone happy. I’ve never understood the benefit of forcing human bodies to stay in their seats long enough to be miserable. At our stops we encourage all sorts of movement and on long drive days, we find longer hikes along our route for our sanity.
I am eager to be showing my girls how to make the most out of the little things. For example: yesterday was a “rain out” but we still saw 4 waterfalls, toured a sleepy little towns dock and 4th of July celebration during a lull in the rain (the girls loved watching the firefighters have a water fight with their hoses but couldn’t understand the kids willingly getting wet because it was chilly) and we snuggled into our tent for a movie (thankful for a charged IPad and downloaded movies) while grown ups played a dice game in small vestibule as it rained! We also tries a local upper Michigan delicacy: pastys (like a pot pie/calzone creation).
Our last campsite was the most rugged (no running water – pit toilets a) but it was RIGHT on Lake Superior which was worth it! We are all ready for a shower tonight though 🙂
Today we leave Michigan and head to Voyageurs National Park and are hoping to see the Northern Lights!
Why do we think of pride as a negative emotion? The message I think we all get from culture, is that pride is a bad thing and something hide or feel ashamed of. The message is that pride makes you cocky and arrogant. The message I propose is that you SHOULD be proud of your accomplishments and SHOULD be comfortable discussing them with your friends and family!
Pride is defined as:
a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.
Pride is knowing that you did a great thing or achieved a big accomplishment. It is knowing that you did the hard work needed to live with integrity. Pride is a necessary component of self-esteem and self-worth. Pride is not the same as bragging, bragging is when you take your pride too far and talk about it TOO much, to a degree of annoying others. Arrogance is taking pride and self-esteem too far, making it the only thing that matters in your life. Pride is simply recognizing your accomplishments and not being afraid to take ownership of the hard work you put in to achieve them!
That being said, I’d like to share the things I am most proud of:
my work ethic (cue song from Flash Dance “she work’s hard for her money…”
my sense of adventure and willingness to do hard things (ie: backpacking, hiking, home renovations, yard work)
my sewing and cooking skills (my mom taught me so many homesteading skills!)
my parenting (we are playing the long game, trying to instill values in our kids, even when giving them a tablet would be easier)
I absolutely love goal setting. Historically, I was really good at setting goals, being very passionate about them for a week(ish) and then forgetting about them. This blog is to help you make changes in HOW you set goals, so that you might make more progress in achieving them. In the last two years, I have developed a love of bullet journaling because it is a creative and visual way for me to set, track and evaluate my progress toward goals. The visual and doodle-encouraging nature of bullet journaling is more successful in holding my interest.
Another thing I have found helpful is to recognize and accept that DAILY goal tracking is not my goal; of course I will forget and have days where I don’t achieve my goals! In the past, I had an all-or-nothing approach and would give up if I lost my “streak”. Now I set a goal of hitting the goal xx number of times per month, and honor my body’s needs for off days!
I am old-school and prefer a paper and pencil approach; there is something about putting ink on paper that I find cathartic and pleasing. My journal is set up with monthly pages in the beginning of the journal to check in on at the start of each month. Those pages include: travel tracker, books read, budget tracker, loved-one birthday list, debt reduction tracker, and yearly goals. Following those pages, my journal follows the year in a monthly format. At the start of each month I pick a few habits to focus on for that month and create a habit tracker, a page to record gratitudes, a goal list, a to-do list, and any other relevant pages for that month. Below you can see some of my 2022 templates for growth.
If you are not an artsy person and want something printable, consider printing this free habit tracker! I love, love, love that this includes a reward that you identify for yourself each month!
The reasons for stuck-ness are many…mandated attendance, weather, the person in front of you can’t move; however the feeling is typically the same. Anger. It may start off as slight irritation, moving into annoyance and frustration before moving into full blown anger; however typically, being stuck makes us mad!
So how are we going to get through this UNENDURABLE situation? To start, stop exaggerating! It’s not unendurable. It’s not typically as bad as we make it out to be in our head. Let me give you an example: I like Starbucks (fact), but the line at the drive through is absolutely ridiculous (opinion). My problem solving skills lead me to park and go inside every time I go there. I was very content with this decision. One day, while inside, I was so excited to see that there is a screen for the baristas that tells them how long people have been in the drive-thru. I expected to see 10 minutes….15 minutes…FOREVER, because let’s face it…waiting in that line is AWFUL! To my amazement, the longest wait time was 2 minutes 45 seconds. Really??….the line was LONG when I walked in…like wrapping around the building and almost to the main road! Then it hit me: I’ve been inside for about 3 minutes too! Why is it that being trapped in my car causes me to perceive time moving so much slower? I felt stuck!
How to guide to get unstuck:
Realize that the trick isn’t actually to get unstuck, it’s to change how you feel about being (what you perceive as) stuck.
Stop judging. Words like should, always, terrible, OMG, worst, never…are typically attached to a judgment. Instead, be descriptive. Explain how you feel and why. Ex: Repleace “this is the longest line EVER, I ALWAYS get stuck in long lines” with “I am sitting in line at Starbucks, this has happened before”
Observe your posture. Ex: Take your fingernails out of the steering wheel, let your shoulders fall from your ears back to their relaxed state, remove the scowl from your face…
Consider other possible alternatives to catastrophizing Ex: I finally have time to respond to those text messages (safely while not driving), I can plan the next few hours of my day, I can sit here and remember a positive memory to improve my mood, consider things you are grateful for.
Stop fighting reality. In conjunction with #4, the reality is that you are in a situation that you can’t immediately get out of; catastrophizing is an example of the situation worse. Accept that you are where you are (this will reduce suffering).
I am wondering if you are willing to give it a try? It’s amazing what changing your interpretation of a situation will do for your mood!
As the year comes to an end, I believe it is a great practice for us all to slow down and assess where we are achieving and where we are struggling.
I have created this “worksheet” of sorts to to help people identify where they might have room for growth. We all have areas for growth, we all have areas of strength. Consider these questions to guide you in your journey (with a therapist or without)! This is also a great exercise to do as a couple and as a family to set some goals, with intentionality, for the new year!
In what areas are you (or we) making emotionally based choices?
Consider the following areas. Do you (or we) tend to give into short term impulses in any specific areas?
I’m sitting here on my back patio listening to my 2 year old cry because I am not pushing her on the swing, my 6 year old is asking 5 questions per minute that I’m half-heartedly trying to answer, and my 8 year old was forced against her will to being her Barbie’s outside to play. I am home with my kids while my husband got to have his early morning photography time – something we try to build in once or twice per week. I am trying to work on this blog and grow my business (Your Mental Restoration).
I don’t do it all. I won’t do it all. I cannot possibly do everything and I accept that! I CAN choose where my attention goes. I CAN give myself permission to feel accomplished when I tackle something mindfully. In this moment, I am empowering my children to learn to play self-sufficiently (against their will), I am empowering myself to carve out time for my interests and values and I am empowering my husband to grow his photography business by practicing his skills. I could choose to look at the scenario through a fatalistic lens: I’m failing as a mom because my kids want my attention and I am not giving it. I am failing as a housekeeper because the chores are not being attended to. I am failing as a writer because I have distractions. I fundamentally reject the fatalistic lens. I believe it comes from comparison (ahem Instagram feed) and the belief that other moms, other wives, other writers, etc. are somehow achieving their goals without any barriers. I reject that notion because I talk openly with others and that allows me to know their truth: it isn’t true! Instead of letting shame take over and convince you that you struggle more than anyone else does, I invite you to talk with your friends, peers, and families about the realities of their lives. I think you will find validation and comfort in the fact that they are also having to choose what to prioritize and what to ignore. They have to choose not to beat themselves up for their perceived failures.
Everyone struggles to juggle the identities, roles and tasks in their lives.
How many basketballs do you think you could hold?
I’d venture to say that at any given time, I could probably hold three…but not well. I think of the various life “shoulds”, to-do list tasks, expectations and roles as metaphorical basketballs. I cannot hold them all at once. If I try to hold too many at once, I end up dropping them and making a fool of myself! I CAN decide which ones I choose to pick up and carry, I CAN decide what I am going to prioritize and where I am going to put my attention. This morning, I’m carrying my “writer ball”, “mom ball” and “self-care ball”. I can switch between making the three of them my top priority (when I get stuck on writing, I play with my kids!) None of them are getting my full attention; however, because I am willing to accept the limitations of time, I absolve myself of any guilt related to the state of my house, my inbox, my friendships, etc. I’ll pick up those balls later…
So how do I do it all? I don’t! I do what I can, when I can. I allow myself the freedom to NOT have intense levels of guilt and shame over the things I do not do, while allowing myself to feel pride and satisfaction in the tasks that I DO accomplish.
Anxiety has a way of creeping up on you, increasing it’s grasp and intensity as the day goes on. As a mom of three and a human with anxiety issues, I have devised a set of daily rituals that help slow (and sometimes stop) the creep!
Keep a hand written to-do list.
Anxiety tries to convince you to ignore. Ignore tasks, ignore lists, ignore expectations, ignore feelings, etc. The inverse of that concept is to approach. We need to learn to approach that which we are afraid of in order to conquer our day! Anxiety will try to convince you that if you write everything down, you will not be able to handle it; however, I am telling you that writing it down will EASE your stress because it will allow you to see the tasks and forge a path forward!
Create a morning routine that maximizes productivity.
Here’s the deal, you are unlikely to have more motivation and energy later in the day (as we try to convince ourselves will happen). I have found, after many trials and errors, that front loading my chores into the first 90 minutes of the day makes for much smoother sailing. Here’s my morning routine:
7am wake up, be sure their floors are picked up (their responsibility the night before) and put food in front of kids. While they are eating, go start the Roomba upstairs (where the bedrooms are) and get dressed. The Roomba will run for 90 minutes while everything else is happening. Check to see who needs a load of laundry started…seriously, someone will! Start the load of laundry. Pack the lunches and bags for all the humans. While the kids are doing their things (brushing teeth, going potty, running around like crazy people) unload the dishwasher (also enlist their help, even little can put some things away) and reload. Bring Roomba back to it’s base to charge. Set it to run in a different part of the house when I’m gone.
Drink a lot of water.
Pop culture would have you believe that this line should say “drink a lot of coffee”. That is not the case! Drinking things that give you false energy (such as coffee/sugary drinks) will only leave you feeling jittery and cause a crash about 90 minutes after drinking. I generally limit myself to one coffee or caffeinated tea each morning and then switch to water. Water will give you energy and motivation to continue with other healthier habits for the rest of the day. It will also make you have to pee a lot which will force you to get up and move around (which also gives you more energy!)
Similar to the above tip. We have a tendency to reach for carbs and sugar when our energy is dipping; however, this is sure to increase our sluggishness, fatigue and mood swings throughout the day. Carbs and sugar aren’t banned; however, increasing them isn’t going to help you. When your energy is dipping, try to eat things that are more natural and from the produce section of the grocery store! Fruits and veggies contain so much natural sugar, antioxidants, etc. which is what you need to have sustained energy throughout the day.
Early to Bed.
As I mentioned in the first bullet point, your energy isn’t going to magically increase throughout the day. I strongly suggest you bump your bedtime up! I generally try to get to bed close to 9pm, with 10pm as a deadline. I have learned that going to bed after 10pm is a sure fire way to sabotage my next day.
I have created this “worksheet” of sorts to to help people identify where they might have room for growth in therapy. We all have areas for growth, we all have areas of strength. Consider these questions to guide you in your journey (with a therapist or without)!
In what areas are making emotionally based choices?
Consider the following areas. Do you tend to give into short term impulses in any specific areas?
Today I want to introduce you to the skill of SELF-encouragement. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) it’s taught as one part of the IMPROVE acronym. I believe that it is one of the most overlooked and under-utilized skills in the book. In short, self-encouragement is talking to you self as you would talk to a friend.
We would NEVER say to friends the negative statement that we say to ourselves. If a friend is crying to you about a life problem, I doubt you’d say “suck it up”, “get over it”, “what’s wrong with you”, etc…So why on earth would you say those things to yourself?
Furthermore, would you keep a friend around who talked to you in that way??? NO! You would avoid them like the plague.
So get with it and take a page from Hobby Lobby or Instagram’s book…
– print out those cutesy phrases
– follow inspirational people on social media
– splurge on that wall art that moves you
– set the backdrop of your phone and/or laptop to be motivational
– use a dry erase marker on your mirrors
– use bathtub crayons in your shower
– buy a positive though-a-day calendar
– buy the jewelry with the catchy calming phrase on it
Take control of that inner critic, silence the stadium full of nay-sayers in your head and BE NICE to you!
Feel free to share your favorite self-encouraging ideas, quotes and plans in the comments below.