Where are you right now? Are you emotionally spent from the holidays? Tired and weary? Or maybe you’ve taken down your Christmas decorations and are feeling organized, energetic and optimistic about the coming year? Or, like me, you may be a bit of both depending on the time of day.
I have been struggling over the last couple of weeks, off and on, with my basket of uneasiness and depression. I am very thankful that it didn’t suck all of the joy from my Christmas celebration with family. It has been an unwanted guest for many beautiful gatherings in the past, so I appreciate the break. I had a hard time sleeping the night before last and as I’ve written before, that encourages my anxiety monkey to hold on tighter than average. It nags at me and makes me feel heavy. I’m short-tempered with my children when I want to be patient and attentive. Yesterday I took my kids on a long walk and purposely tried looking up and out. I’ve spent thousands of hours looking inward at the way I was feeling and being consumed by my thoughts and worries over those thoughts. I’m tired of doing that. I want to kick it’s ass. But, I’m a vulnerable prey to it’s grip and it’s a tough battle sometimes.
I believe my most recent “batch”, as I call them, was instigated by stress. That’s fairly common, but it’s so easy for me to dismiss that stress and not connect the dots as to why I may have gotten stuck on an icky thought or feel defeated. I want to make that point clear, so that you, dear reader, are not also falling victim to the “shoulds” of life. Last week when I was cringing against the potential avalanche of scary feelings that I dread and wondering why I’d gotten stuck, I briefly spoke with my Mom about it. She pointed out the added stress I’d had of preparing for Christmas and my daughter’s family birthday party, on top of the everyday Mom duties. I knew it had been a bit stressful, but as I referenced above, I had dismissed it and thought, ” I should be able to handle it and anyways, it’s fun stress!” As I spent some time reflecting on the previous few weeks, I could recall a sense of intensified pressure I’d been putting on myself. I wanted things to be just so, holiday fun and festive, trying to maintain an almost neurotic clutter-free zone in the house, planning out when we’d do Christmas movie nights, cookies, light cruising, etc., etc. Will everyone jive at the birthday party? (divorced parents make for added stress). The house should be just so. It’s my job. I should be able to handle all of the extras.
This certainly carries over into my mental health struggles, too, because I often feel and hear myself thinking, “I should be over this by now” or “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”. That’s not fair inner dialogue and only consistently heaps pressure on our heads as mothers/husbands, spouses, Christians, friends, siblings, sons/daughters, so on and so forth. What are you “shoulding” about? Several years ago I did a self-help program for anxiety and depression and a lesson theme was, “Stop Shoulding On Yourself!” Often times we don’t even hear it or like me, we keep at a distracted, busy pace and don’t notice that the “shoulds” are wearing us thin. You may not have a kick-in-the-pants anxiety monkey like I do, but beware that the stress and “shoulds” may peek out in other ways.
If I were giving myself advice, which is really what a great deal of my blogging is, I would say that it’s important to be open to warning signs of the stressors. Stress is normal and at certain times, depending on circumstances, it can be at an all-time high. That’s ok, but it’s an even more important time to try your best to take care of yourself. All of the basics that we hear a million times and often push to the back of the line, like exercise and a somewhat balanced diet. Being mindful of the amount of time we spend in front of a screen, distracting us from quiet. We need quiet, if only in little batches. Prayer. Remembering that things could always be worse and we have many things to name as blessings. Above all, I’d remind myself that we are good enough. I struggle with that daily, but it still remains true. We can do our very best and that may vary from day to day. Life is not a lick like I thought it would be and much harder than I ever anticipated. I am humanly unable to get it all right and be as I think I “should”. I will do my best and keep working on taking care of myself, so that I can be my best, and that may not look like what we think it should. Let’s try and remember that for the incoming year. Another worthy reminder is that we will get caught up in the “shoulds” again and again, but being gentle on ourselves and recognizing it earlier each time will help ease it over time.
We welcome you, 2017! New Year, you remind me of a “bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils”, as Kathleen Kelly says in my all-time favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail , and I look forward to a new slate. A new quarter in school. A fresh start. I tend to be a frightened little girl about the future, but I welcome you, nonetheless. Cheers!