The last few weeks have been harder than usual. Last week, in particular, surpassed the previous ones in specialness. The weather has been wet and cold, with Winter hanging on for dear life. A big project and lots of changes at work have ratcheted up my stress level. I can feel it in my body. I keep looking for an upcoming milestone, something after which things will change and get better. And then yesterday morning, as I was looking at my garden with bare pots showing no signs of life, hoping Spring will show its face, I remembered. The power to change my life rests with me.
I firmly believe happiness is a choice. Not that it can’t occur naturally, “in the wild”, but in my experience I can choose to live my life in such a way that creates the best conditions for happiness. It is easy to get sucked into a routine or pattern that is the opposite. I’ve noticed most people live a lot of their lives irritated, stressed, and angry, either mindlessly or about things that they have more control over than they realize. This is not to say that people aren’t legitimately stressed. Stress is real and difficult to deal with, especially when dealing things that are outside of your control like illness or sudden changes in our environments. What we do have control over is how we respond to such things.
Last week I spent two full days walking around with a VIP visitor. Although I had some down time to look at email I was not able to get anything done. All my regular tasks piled up, and a couple of problems that I had to deal with sprang up and festered until I could get back to my desk. I was outside of my normal routine so I didn’t have the normal cues to make sure I drank enough water, ate my regular meals and snacks, and used my ergonomic workstation. Instead I sat on random couches and benches, working on my laptop on my knees. As the work and problems back at my office piled up my normal food choices went out the window in favor of carbs and sugar. I had more tea than usual which made falling asleep even more difficult than usual. By the time the end of the week rolled around I felt awful – sore, bloated, and irritated.
Did it have to be that bad? No. I got caught up in the whirlwind of stress causing bad choices which caused more bad choices and more stress. Thankfully I was able to take the weekend to step back and take stock. To reset my mindset. The coming week will be similar to the last. I have another VIP visitor to host that will take me away from my desk for two days. The problems that materialized last week haven’t been resolved and will require more of my attention. But I have a choice. I can choose to follow the same path I did last time, and let my circumstances dictate how I act and feel. Or I can choose the opposite. Which I do.
My goal is to be more proactive this week so I don’t fall into the same pattern as last. I have planned all my meals and snacks for the week. I have also planned writing time for myself and things to look forward to on my busy days. I know I can’t plan for everything so I also have a strategy for dealing with the unexpected. I’ll be trying out the Rising Strong process from Brene Brown’s book. I especially love the part where you ask yourself what assumptions am I making and what information am I missing in this situation. So many conflicts are based on misunderstanding what another person’s thoughts and intentions are.
I looked at my garden again yesterday morning, examining the bare pots more closely. It turns out that there are small sprouts just beginning to poke their heads up above the soil. And in one there is a little colony of green moss. It may still be Winter but Spring is just around the corner. It just takes a closer look, and a different mindset to see it.
How do you deal with stress?