When you accept that life is hard, messy, unpredictable, and just not fair, suddenly these things don't matter quite so much.
Instead of spinning your wheels asking "Why?" (which rarely helps), you're asking some variation of "Now what?" You now have more energy to cope, problem-solve, and otherwise deal with whatever life throws at you. You might even experience a triumph or two.
By the way, never are these tips more important than when you're feeling overwhelmed by the demands of your week.
10 Remedies Learned from Experience
- Breathe. Please remember to do this more often than I do. When we stop to take a breath, right away two things happen: (1) We calm down and (2) We stop talking. We also stop over-thinking. (Just as I typed that, I caught myself wondering, "Does over-thinking have a hyphen?")
- When something falls off your calendar, ask yourself if you really need to reschedule it. Oftentimes, you don't. I've also learned this: When something falls off your calendar, do not schedule something else in its place. Use that time instead to catch up -- or simply catch your breath.
- Don't flake out on others. Following through on our time commitments is how we maintain trust and credibility -- with ourselves and with those we love and work with. It's also how we rise above the gravitational pull of crisis management.
- Move. If you find a desk chair that is comfortable for more than an hour, please leave a comment and tell me about it. Until then, I can only remind you to get up and walk, stretch, and otherwise get the blood flowing. You'll feel better and think better. I have also found it indispensable to foam-roll, though as I understand it, you really need to get your health-care provider's approval before you get rolling.
- End the meeting early. Last Monday while teaching, I noticed my grad students and I were uncharacteristically exhausted. We were all trying (uselessly) not to show it. Having literally sat in their chairs, which are more uncomfortable by far than my desk chair, I made the executive decision to end class early. No one fought me, though a few hung around. What would happen if you ended your next meeting early?
- Make time to do at least one or two good deeds. Do them not for the payback or the recognition, but simply because you have something good to give. I have never known life to be outdone in generosity. Meaning, the good we do for others will probably do as much or more good for us as it does for the other person.
- Do something kind for yourself. It doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive. Something as simple as getting into your jammies an hour early can smooth the edges off a rough day. Likewise for a non-alcoholic beer.
- Find the humor. At one point last week, my kitchen was so messy, I thought I should just cut my losses and move. Sharing this observation with a friend got me to laugh, lighten up, clean up, and get back to the real work. Where could you find a little humor in your week?
- Reframe whatever is bothering you. In the midst of a stressful situation, try asking yourself, "What might be another way to look at this?" Often our stress comes not from what's happened but from what we think has happened. So it pays to challenge our own unspoken assumptions.
- Count your blessings -- or else. I learned this last Friday in the most sobering way possible. On a routine trip to my favorite grocery store, I grabbed what I needed and placed my items on the checkout counter. Taped to the ledge in front of me was a small, black and white flyer that began, "In loving memory of... " I recognized the cashier's name and smiling face. Seeing both in this context nearly knocked me to my knees. I recalled some of our conversations -- all of them pleasant, all of them now final. Crystel had fought hard against what's known politely as a brief illness. She was twenty-seven.
Life is hard, messy, unpredictable, and just not fair. But it is also good and strangely beautiful -- a gift we dare not take for granted, even in the midst of our roughest week.