As I listen to my internal and external dialogue, it strikes me that I hear a lot of complaining. Coming from me. I’m the one doing all the complaining. So I have to ask, “Am I complaining too much?” I know I’ve got a lot on my mind, and I know I’ve somehow managed to make my life even busier in spite of the shutdown. Starting around October of last year though, I noticed my attitude was taking a nosedive, and by the holidays, it had completely tanked.
I used to loathe the days of constant whining when my children were young. I would often send them to time out and ask them to think of some happy things they could talk about. Punishing them for what I thought was excessive complaining. Maybe I need a time out to think of some happy things to talk about.
Examining the Way We See Things
There are a lot of “happier” things I could talk about or focus on, no doubt. Years ago, I started practicing the discipline of gratitude, where I would write at least three things a day I could be grateful for. I still practice this. But frankly, there are days when it feels like a struggle to come up with something other than my typical list of family, home, or the scent of a lit candle. Not that those things aren’t worthy of gratitude, but why can’t I see beyond that? Why do I have a hard time recognizing all the ‘so much more’ that is around me?
The past two years have been particularly difficult for me personally. I’ve done more ‘putting my nose down and getting on with it’ these past few years than I have in a long, long time. It feels quite similar to life 16 years ago when every day was simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and trying to remember to breathe. Those were the darkest years of my life. Maybe someday I’ll be strong enough or healed enough to write about them, but not yet. Not today. Today is another day where I’m trying to get on with it. Though I find I can breathe better now, life hasn’t seemed to change enough from what it was 16 years ago.
As a counselor, I talk to clients all the time about the importance of self-talk. It’s a given that in life we will often find ourselves in circumstances that we cannot change, for whatever reason. But what we can always change is our attitude about those circumstances. The things we say to ourselves like, “I can’t do this,” or “this is going to get the best of me,” are impactful on how we get through the hard stuff. I know this and I’m pretty good at talking about this; not so good at applying it in my own life.
2020 ushered in a whole other level of challenging circumstances. As if the political, economic, and pandemic-related crises that we’ve all had to deal with wasn’t enough, we’ve still had to cope with whatever our “normal” life challenges have been. I, for one, find myself buckled by the sheer exhaustion of trying to deal with all of it. Many days, it has been too heavy. Hence, the complaining, which in many ways is also venting. I need to, we all need to vent on occasion. We’re just trying to process all this, and it’s a lot. It’s too much, really.
7 Things that can help:
So now is a good time to remind myself of some healthy things I can do to help me cope and turn my complaining into happy thoughts:
- Rest, sleep, relax. These can’t be overstated.
- Exercise is medicine. I don’t have to do a workout, but I do need to move.
- Talk. I need to be involved with a group of friends where we can regularly share the load. Find a safe place to vent. A place of encouragement.
- Watch what I eat. Focus on making healthy choices. Drink lots of water.
- Practice good self-care. Don’t push too hard. Have grace.
- Journal. Write. Process. It really does help.
- THERE IS NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP. Something else that can’t be overstated.
Eventually, this too shall pass. In the meantime, my attitude matters. A lot.
For further reading on dealing with the hard times, check out Katherine May’s book “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.” And be sure to read “Choose to Find Calm in the Chaos! 5 Things You Can Do Now!“ by We Spot writer Jeanne Hutchinson.