*Disclaimer- Experiencing depression and anxiety are incredibly real and frustrating situations. If you find that you cannot pull yourself out of dark thoughts, you need to talk to someone immediately and ask for help. The content in this article helped the author pull out of depression, anxiety and difficult situations, but sometimes professional help is needed. Don’t suffer alone. Ask for help.
The My Dream Life
“I should be happy.”
“I should be elated.”
I am living my dream life, literally the life prayed for and wished for as a child is my reality every day. (With the minor exception that 13-year-old me knew in her heart she would be married to a Hansen brother. 😊)
I am incredibly blessed and live a life most people would trade almost anything to have. I have a sexy, caring, manly, passionate husband who is also my high school sweetheart, a successful artist and an ex firefighter. After 16 years together, he still makes my heart flutter and puts butterfly’s in my stomach. Together, we have three beautiful, healthy children who are funny, kind, and happy. We own our home, have two cars that work, a church we love and we own our own business so we create our own schedules. People would give up anything to be us.
I should praise my Father in Heaven every single day for the life he has blessed me with.
I should wake up every day excited to live my life.
I should be able to see how perfect my life is.
I should be happy.
The “shoulds” I used to ask myself easily accounted 90% of my thoughts during a single day with potentially endless outcomes. “Should I wake up early and work out or get rest since the baby was up all night? Should I eat what makes me feel good now or eat what makes me feel good always? Should I work or stay home? Should I set goals in my business and do everything I can to reach them or should I put goals aside until my kids are older? Should I buy organic strawberries?” That article listed normal strawberries were high in pesticides right. I should read more and be a better cook for my family. My friends are so much better at that.”
“How is everyone so much better at this than me?”
This was my thought process, all freaking day and night.
A New Realization
Until one day I realized, the “shoulds” were hindering me from enjoying my work, my friends and even my family. And worse, the consequences were bleeding over into the lives of my husband, my kids and my work team. I was engaging in a vicious cycle of unrealistic and frankly stupid expectations and possible situations I would set on myself and everyone around me, which lead to nothing but disappointment and resentment.
We all know our thoughts can control our moods but how many people actually put that knowledge into action? Those seemingly simple “should” scenarios impact our self-confidence and our interpersonal relationships more than most of us realize.
How many times have you sat and stewed over something that bothered you at work, and then accidentally snapped at someone who not only had nothing to do with it but also had no idea of the internal boxing match you were having with yourself over imaginary problems. Replaying the fictional outcomes to the question “should I (fill in the blank)” or saying “they should (fill in the blank)” will only lead to what I call the Negative Cycle.
Break the Negative Cycle
I believe there is a cycle of negativity that we not only have the power to create for ourselves but also have the power to stop. To break it down we must understand it. Let’s complete an exercise together to do so.
Think of something that continually annoys you or is a personal pet peeve. Repeating things is my pet peeve. I hate saying things twice.
Thought: Why doesn’t he ever listen? I just asked him to do this. I’m going to tell him he never listens. Just like the other time he didn’t listen. He always does this. I should bring that up to prove my point.
The thought continues to present the perfect argument in your head. *Side Note: If your thoughts in these situations have the words “always, never, or ever” you are wrong, plain and simple. It’s not always, never or ever. The reality is that it is sometimes or even just this time.
The story has fully formulated in your mind and now you act.
Voice: You never listen! This is just like when you …
Body Reactions: Breath quickens, fists clench, eyes roll. Non-verbal cues back and forth are increasing each side’s verbal response.
End result: Unnecessary anger, fights, time wasted, feelings hurt.
Here is a different way that could have gone…
Thought: Why doesn’t he ever listen? I just asked him to do this.
Thought 2: Pause. This is the word I use as the cue in my head to shift gears when I feel myself start a negative cycle. I have a friend that uses the word bananas because it makes her laugh so choose what works for you.
Thought 3: He does listen. He didn’t hear me this time. He is honestly asking again because he cares what I said and wants to know what it was.
That’s it. The end. I don’t think about it more. I repeat myself and the day moves on. I move on. He moves on. Here’s the reality of the situation, you are in control of your own thoughts. Sometimes it may not feel that way, but you are. You are the pilot of your brain and you are responsible for teaching it how it will behave and for training it to learn how to flip your thinking.
This is important in any relationships but especially in marriage. One day I realized, my husband never wakes up and thinks “how am I going to piss off Amy today?” Jesse only wants what is best for me. He isn’t ever out to get me. He married me and we are in this life together. We are best friends and when one of us is unhappy it causes the other to be unhappy.
When it comes your relationship, if you know in your heart the person loves you and wants what is best for you, isn’t it worth it to remind yourself of that? This is not just about the relationship externally but internally as well. This takes training in everything you do. I’m an example person so here are a few more samples of this as it relates to daily life.
Daily Life Examples
“I’m so buried at work.”
“I’m so buried at work. Pause. Because I have a job. A job that I worked hard to get and at least at one point wanted enough to embarrass myself by going through an interview process.”
“My kids are driving me crazy.”
“My kids are driving me crazy. Pause. Because they are kids. They are learning and growing and if I decide to go crazy with them, I’ll laugh, have fun and show them that fun is important.
“My house should be cleaner.”
“My house should be cleaner. Pause. Because I played with my kids instead of cleaned, because I finished a great work project or did something else instead that brought me happiness.”
“We never have sex anymore.”
“We never have sex anymore. Pause. We should totally have sex!”
“I should be feeling happy right now.”
“I should be feeling happy right now. Pause. But why aren’t I? Is there something I’m not dealing with or something that’s causing me frustration that I might not realize?”
Importance of the Pause
Look, if I was you reading this I would say “seriously I just read this article and your big lesson is you want me to pause? That’s nothing new.” But for me it was and is. It’s a constant tool I use in my life to stop spiraling and stop spinning out.
This goes for all the other ‘shoulds’. The ‘shoulds’ won’t help you. They won’t make you be better or make you do better. But they will steal this moment now and moments in the future. Let yourself up off the mat. Give yourself and the ones you love a little grace.