Posted in anxiety, De-stressing, dealing with stress, happiness, Health, Home, mental health, stress

My Small Bubble

This weekend we had a hectic and stressful time as we considered a home purchase. When the whole thing proved to be impossible I retreated into my small bubble.

I like the idea of a bubble.

I like the idea of my own personal space.

Here is how I define my own personal space, my bubble. It includes immediate family and a few close friends, and their welfare. It excludes media. This is where I retreat when I need a fresh perspective.

In my bubble there are three things I can control, for the most part. I can control my mind–my thoughts and the decisions I make. I can control my setting, which is my home, the place where I live. I can make my home as comfortable as I want. And, finally, I can control my body–what I do, where I go, what I eat.

That is about the extent of my control.

When I retreat into my small bubble, I do homebody things. I bake. I clean. I read. I watch relaxing watercolor painting videos. I listen to soothing music. I do a little piano playing. I watch the birds outside. And I think.

I happen to like to think. I like sorting things out in my mind.

Today I eliminated everything outside of my bubble and pretended I was starting from ground zero. I saw what was most important to me was right inside my bubble. And from there I began to consider if there was anything outside that I wanted, or needed, to attend to.

Whenever I watch the birds I think about the verse that talks about God surely caring for us, if he cares for the birds. Then I think about The Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And that leads me to the thought of God’s will. What is his will? How do I determine his will? My most simplified answer is the answer Jesus gave his disciples, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. This summed up the Ten Commandments, the Law.

But then I get into a difficult place. I ask myself, Does God speak? Does he speak to us today? Who is God? I firmly believe there was some form of great, unfathomable intelligence behind the design of this universe, a universe which we humans have only barely begun to understand. We are observers of what exists and from that we make our estimations and calculations and propose our theories and draw our conclusions. We build on the flawed knowledge passed on to us. We are so ignorant.

Does God speak? Has he spoken in the past? I believe he has. There have been prophetic messages that came to pass. Does he speak today? Many theologians think not. They say revelation ended after the writing of the New Testament portion of the Bible. This is something I don’t understand. I mean, how could God decide to suddenly stop speaking?

Well, enough getting out of my bubble. I’m heading back there now.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, faith, happiness, mental health

Surviving the Pandemic – Coping When the Props are Removed

Available at Art’s Nursery

If there is one thing that seems to be common to everyone, as a result of COVID, it is that this has presented us with time for reflection. I have looked at my life and identified a number of props I relied on for my contentment. Your props will be similar in some ways, yet different. For instance we find various ways of meeting our need to be with people. We have different forms of entertainment to occupy our time. We take care of our physical needs in different ways. We find a variety of ways to refresh ourselves. Many of our former options are not open to us now.

I’ve slowed down and had time to look inside, to evaluate my choices and my lifestyle. In a sense I’ve taken stock of the “essential services” in my own life—the things I can scarcely do without.

My greatest burden these days is for people who are responsible for caring for other people. They have to do this while postponing their own needs. My hat goes off to the parents and care givers.

I’ve looked inside and had a sort of crisis of faith. Or, put another way, I’ve seen that in crisis, faith is all I have. I can only continue to cast my cares on God and believe he will make a way. And if he doesn’t, I have no alternative but to wait and see what happens next, still trusting for a good outcome down the road.

I want to give answers, but I don’t have anything besides what I am doing. What I am doing is looking at my life when the props are gone, when the things I relied on for a good life are stripped down, or stripped away.

Who am I without props? How do I face my day without these “helps”?

Many times I have gone back to thinking about pioneers, people who came to a strange country and built it up. The props we’ve relied on are things others have put in place for us. They were instituted by people who had little to work with. I find it encouraging to think about the basics. In some ways I find myself at a kind of “Ground Zero.” This is when I become aware of the importance of inner resources like faith, courage, steadfastness, hope, insight, creativity, resiliency, perseverance.

These are the building blocks that are still available to us for the future even when we have lost many familiar supports. I’ve seen the importance of doing all I can to preserve my inner strength and I know nobody will do this for me.

I think we will find that some of the props we relied on will not be as necessary to our well-being, going forward. Life is going to be more about essentials and inner strength.

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, faith, Health, Home, mental health

Surviving the Coronavirus Pandemic – Week 10

irisI’ve been home this week, after my ventures out into the community last week. On Saturday I face-timed with my son and the grandchildren. It is so lovely to see them. According to some insider information, it looks like the border will not be opening until after the July 4th weekend, so it will still be some time before we can have the grandkids over.

We also spent time with our other son and his wife on Sunday, meeting at a park and then actually having them over to our home! We haven’t had them come to visit since March 1, almost three months! In B.C. we are allowed to enlarge our contact circle, cautiously, beginning this past week.

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There are some mornings when I wake up and almost have to convince myself that this is real. It is not just a bad dream. It’s like my mind wants to forget it’s true.

I continue to read, rather than watch the news. I’ve mostly stopped listening to the local daily updates by Dr. Bonnie Henry. I’m very selective about what I watch these days. No murder mysteries. Nothing intense.

I’m very curious to see how Sweden will fare without lockdown. Unfortunately they are seeing an upward trend in deaths. It is reported that, “while overall deaths are on the decline, Sweden’s had 6.25 deaths per million inhabitants per day in a rolling average between May 12 and May 19….the highest in Europe on a per capita basis and just above the United Kingdom, which had 5.75 deaths per million.”

The reason the world is watching Sweden with interest is because we want to be assured that lockdown is making a difference and is justified, given the high economic and emotional toll it is taking. Sweden has about a quarter of the population of Canada, so one would think that it should have a quarter of the deaths, however, at this time it has two thirds the deaths reported in Canada.

Canada is easing its two month lockdown as of this past week. My husband has noted, on his walks, that pubs, restaurants, clothing stores, hair and nail salons, and even a massage business, are open, with restrictions. Limited numbers of people are allowed. No walk-in customers. Only alternate tables are being used in some restaurants. A few restaurants have not yet opened.

I’ve been noting my response, this week, and the fact that I am avoiding the business area of town as it is opening up. While I went out to “normalize” myself last week, this week I wanted to remain home.

family

My husband brings me reports of what he observes downtown but I feel as though I need to mentally condition myself before I go and investigate what is happening. I think it is because I am not eager to see evidence of the struggle for survival I know many of these business owners are still facing. As I mentioned before, we once owned a restaurant and it can potentially be impossible to survive when you can only utilize half of your available seating. In addition, there are many people like us who are avoiding eating out and spending on anything besides groceries because we are still not working.

Don’t worry about us, though. We will manage. We’ve always been in the habit of keeping our expenses low and have little debt and a small savings to fall back on.

There is a plan to open schools on an optional attendance basis for the month of June. Some students of essential workers have been in school these past months. There will be distancing and alternating of attendance, with students only going to classes a few days a week. We will see how this will be worked out. My husband will likely not begin to teach again until September. Many of his classes are in daycares and pre-schools so his work will depend on whether these centers can remain open with reduced numbers.

As I mentioned, I try to be careful how much I dwell on sad stories. I’m glad when I see an uplifting article out there. I found a great article by AnotherSlice commemorating Memorial Day, today.

Awhile ago I wrote a light-hearted series of vignettes about the life of Dennie and Rosie in A Happy Life. “Denny and Rosie have downsized. They feel the squeeze of their small one bedroom condo and occasionally trip over one another, metaphorically speaking….After three decades together, the days are not as predictable as you might think. But for the most part Denny and Rosie have a happy life.”

denny and rosie
A Happy Life

When the coronavirus panic buying started, we said to our kids that we were pretty well stocked up. We didn’t even buy sanitizer. In February we ordered packets of individually wrapped hand sanitizer online. I like to carry them in my purse and have a supply in the car. We could only order them in quantities of 1000 from a restaurant supplier. Little did we know that we were facing a pandemic. Small things like this remind me that God cares for us in ways we could never anticipate.

I’m reminded of the verse, which is also a song, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee, Oh LORD.” I continually turn my mind back to the goodness and faithfulness of God. This is my unmovable rock of comfort.

worship cover

This week I edited a short book I published on Smashwords (above). I also improved my system for note-taking and keeping track of my progress as I work on various writing projects.

Another thing I did was create a recipe for fibre cookies to help me keep on track with my fibre intake. (I don’t think you’d like the taste so I’m not posting the recipe.) I noted that I need to cull my recipes. I’ve collected a lot of recipes over the years but we can find anything online so I only need to keep a few tested favorites.

The house is definitely getting more organized. Every drawer and cupboard and closet has been inspected and brought up to standard. I’m still anticipating the day when I apply the same diligence to cleaning up my files.

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Well, what’s next? Yes, we plan to tape Mr. Sheldon‘s Music this week again. One school is using the video in their classes so we will continue to create it until classes invite him back again to teach.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Ravi Zacharias this week. I’ve only recently become aware of his teaching on YouTube. We have lost a great mind and an extraordinary communicator. Right to the end he was brilliant. He died of a cancerous tumor and spent his last days at home with family. I pray for comfort for the Zacharias family and so many who have lost loved ones during the past few months. Take care!

 

 

Posted in Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Food Security, Home, mental health, sustainability

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 4 at Home

fungi

Saw this interesting fungi on my walk, like a flower growing out of a dead branch. It made me think that when we feel like something is dying, a new thing can spring forth.

I’ve noticed this week that the isolation is getting to my husband a wee bit. He’s a very positive person and that is definitely a good trait to have at this time. He believes some good will come out of this. People may begin to reconsider what is important in life. We may come out of this kinder and more grateful.

My heart is especially with people who are struggling emotionally. There are days when I feel a wave of despair wash over me as I lie awake in the pre-dawn hours. I think this is a universal pain, not my personal distress. At these times I pray for peace and hope in the hearts of those who are losing hope. I pray that special things will happen to encourage people.

Yesterday there was an attempted break-in at our condo and as strata members gathered to examine the evidence, I forgot about social distancing for a brief moment. To tell the truth, it was a relief to be in a “normal” space for awhile. I sensed we were lingering. Human contact is becoming very precious.

I continue to pray for farmers and the food supply chain. I’m very grateful for truckers. They find it challenging to get their cups of coffee at stops, I was told by a friend whose husband is a trucker.

I learned this week that there are 1.2 million small and medium sized businesses in Canada employing 13.6 million Canadians out of a total working population of 15.8 million. Small and medium sized businesses are some of the hardest hit in this crisis.

We once owned a restaurant. The profit margin is very small in a restaurant. Imagine going to the grocery store, buying food and then trying to re-sell it after transforming it a little. Business expenses include equipment, supplies, rent, permits, credit/debit transaction costs, utilities, and wages for staff. All of this is covered by converting the food you bought at a grocery store, or from a food supplier, into another consumable form. This is what businesses do. They develop and sell a resource or a service.

It is capitalism that allows this. Capitalism is good to a point. It provides an opportunity and an incentive for people to develop a product and market it. It rewards ingenuity. Its downside is that it can be manipulated by the kind of people who hoard hand sanitizer and try to sell it on Amazon for $70 a bottle.

Years of capitalism has resulted in larger companies squeezing out and swallowing up smaller entrepreneurs. Add globalization and you see international entities with huge buying power taking control of industries world-wide. As a result of this crisis I am becoming more convinced of the importance of small businesses, self-sufficiency and good borders.

These are things I ponder.

Some think the distancing actions that have been implemented are extreme. I read an interesting statement that said we value lives over style of life. Some think the government is over-reaching their control and are very eager to re-start the economy. A few are outrightly disregarding the safety measures. In Sweden we are seeing the consequences of not instituting a lockdown. Sweden already has five times the deaths per million that Norway has and three times that of Denmark. 

Last week I shared that some of my family members are facing serious health issues. A friend reported coronavirus in her family this week. As family members are heading to hospitals for tests and surgery, I pray they will be protected from the virus.

I don’t know where my readers are in terms of faith in God, but I want to say that in years past we have often not known where our supply would come from and God has provided. I believe he rewards our faith in his goodness.

For anyone who is planning to watch this week’s episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon, I want to add that Mr. Sheldon’s haircut was courtesy of his wife. It is a skill I taught myself in early days when we were pinching pennies.

Mr. Sheldon now has a dedicated YouTube channel and one school is using his program. Good news! He teaches a few lessons online, but most of his small music business has shut down until this is over.

We have a very small park near our home. Lately when I have taken walks I have been a bit disproportionately grieved by the trees that have been cut down in the park. I see Weyerhaeuser plastic coverings on sections of logs. I would feel better if I knew there was a good reason for removing these trees. In another local park trees were removed because there is a risk of trees falling. They were not rotting. They were just near the pathway. Please, Parks and Recs, don’t worry about trees falling in parks. Let us keep our trees! We don’t want Weherhaeuser in our parks. My rant for the day.

trees felled

 

Posted in anxiety, COVID-19, De-stressing, faith, Health, Home, Marriage & Family, mental health

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 3 at Home

stevestonI feel like there is little to write about my personal isolation this week. Life continues much the same, with few changes. Perhaps that is the story.

We hear more bad news south of the Canadian border. Our eastern provinces aren’t doing so well. This week we were able to apply for financial assistance from the government and the process went quite smoothly.

What has been on my mind is how Sweden will do in comparison to the rest of the world, since they have decided to embrace the “herd immunity” approach and not put severe restrictions in place. We will wait and see. It might turn out to be a costly experiment.

I’ve been researching various mask designs. It appears we may soon be required to wear masks for going out or grocery shopping.

This week I ventured out to Walmart. It was a dismal experience. I wanted to replenish our SoftSoap but there was none in stock. I went with a bodywash instead. Liquid soaps were limited to one per customer so I bought a large bottle. The toilet paper we usually buy at Walmart was out of stock as well. So were the bagged oranges I was looking for. We walked out with the bodywash, two cans of cranberry sauce and a gallon of milk.

We cooked a turkey dinner for the two of us yesterday and dropped off a bag of “turkey dinner” for one of our kids and his wife. They came outside and picked it up at the car. When we got home we video-chatted with them while we ate our “Easter Dinner.” Our other kids live across the border. The grandkids are getting bored. I feel for their parents who need to look after them 24/7 without options for distractions outside the home. No organized sports, music lessons, playdates, going to the park, shopping, or even playing with kids in the neighborhood.

My mother has gone for repeated tests in the past weeks. There is always a concern when this happens. I can’t fly to visit her, or my sister who had a cancer diagnosis this week. She is anticipating emergency surgery.

My husband talks frequently with his parents on the phone and they are doing well and adjusting to being restricted to their suites in their seniors’ home. His father made a trip to emergency several times regarding his heart just before the lockdown. Thankfully he hasn’t needed to go again. Their biggest concern right now is both needing a haircut.

My husband and I video-taped another episode of Music with Mr. Sheldon. One school that remains open plans to use the video.

We are going for regular walks and enjoying cherry blossoms and spring flowers in bloom. We were scheduled to go to Victoria for a Chess Tournament this weekend but it was cancelled. Ferries are reduced to essential travel and the hotel we were booked to stay at is closed.

I’m trying to imagine how things will begin to open up again and predict when this might happen. In the meantime I try not to worry about things over which I have no control.

Posted in Abuse, addictions, Drugs, Food, Health, mental health

Don’t Make Choices That Will Weaken You

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Each day we choose our path. We make choices. There are things we can choose that will enhance the type of future we will have. It is essential to our wellbeing to look down the road and think long term.

There may be small things we do that make a difference. For instance, I order water to drink at a restaurant. As a result I have not only saved a lot of money over the years, but I have avoided sugars and empty calories. When I have the option of salad or fries, I most often order salad. If I have the choice between whole grain or white bread, I order whole grain. My body thanks me for giving it the nutrients it wants and needs. My nails and hair are healthy looking and my skin is clear.

I try to keep a calm home because I like it that way. I try to be organized and prepared. This takes planning, but then my life turns out the way I want it to be.

I know the high price of addictive substances, particularly in terms of physical and mental deterioration. I don’t want to dumb down my ability to think clearly. I don’t want my cognitive ability to be impaired, so I stay away from these substances. I add to my life those things that make me feel balanced and in control. I keep a record of how I am being affected by what I allow.

Life is hard, but it is better when we make choices that strengthen us.

Posted in De-stressing, faith, Home, mental health

Shrink your world and stay sane…

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Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

Are you going crazy thinking about climate change, immigration, intersectionality, racism, and a host of other world issues? Maybe it’s time to shrink your world.

Think back to what your great grandmother would have spent her day doing. I remind myself that there was a time when we did not have access to information as we do today. Knowing so much about the world can really cause a stress overload. The truth us, you are only responsible for a few things. The things that are close to you. The things that matter to you on a day to day basis. The things your great grandmother did (or your great grandfather).

We may feel the need to stay caught up on the latest world events, but there are times when, for our own sanity, we need to draw back for awhile and focus simply on what will make a difference in our lives today. For instance, our work, keeping our peace, and caring for ourselves and our family. It’s strange how comforting it can be to just look after our home and family for awhile, and not the whole world.

I believe in the power of prayer, but sometimes instead of listing my concerns I just lump them all and say, “God, please take care of this.” Then I go on with my life.

Of course, I need this message more than anyone, because I am the first to admit that I try to carry the burdens of the world on my shoulders. Not only that, I tend to be obsessive about doing research and finding out the rest of the story.

It’s the weekend now. Time to take a break form this kind of “work.”

Lately I have been finding my peace and holding onto it in this world of turmoil. Sometimes that means shrinking my world.

Posted in feminism, Home, Marriage & Family, mental health, women

What I like and dislike about feminism

I, like most women, have not studied the basic tenets of feminism. Instead, we have drawn our conclusions about feminism from what we have seen, and read, and sometimes altered our perceptions as we learned more about the movement.

There was a time when I thought, perhaps a little naively, that feminism was primarily about women gaining the right to vote and getting equal pay for equal work. But feminism has evolved into something much more complex and some days, I admit, I struggle to understand what feminists are trying to accomplish.

Most women are not active feminists, including myself, but we have always appreciated the work of those who have advocated on our behalf for things like equal pay and benefits. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder if feminism has been derailed from its original purpose. Or did I misunderstand the intent from the beginning?

Originally I was of the opinion that feminism was about advocating for what was good for women–all women–but recently I have begun to think it is more about power and the need to assert ourselves and activate for certain “rights” with the outcome being that we dominate.

In my attempt to comprehend what feminists are up to I have realized that feminists are social justice warriors advocating for numerous human rights. This can be a good thing, however, I wonder if the movement is over-reaching. From my perspective it has morphed into an almost unrecognizable entity, compared with what it once was. Planned Parenthood, for example, the most prominent feminist organization, is heavily involved in influencing the United Nations in setting international standards for education and healthcare, in the name of empowering women.

I’ve learned that feminists claim to empower women primarily by providing easy access to contraceptives, offering comprehensive sex education, and working at decreasing poverty among women. Since child bearing is viewed as a contributing factor to poverty, the proposed solution is to educate, provide contraceptives and offer abortion as means to reduce family size.

It is no secret that Planned Parenthood has worked internationally, very successfully in countries like China and India, to control population growth. Often this is achieved through selective abortion of female fetuses. Somehow this does not sit well with my understanding of an organization that exists for the purpose of empowering women.

Admittedly, women with children cannot devote the same amount of time and energy to advancing their careers as men, or as women who do not have children. So, either we choose not to have children, or we take on a heavier load, and somehow manage the extra toll it takes on us physically and mentally. Even if we take advantage of daycare and share parenting responsibilities with our partners, mothers will still carry the greater share of the burden. Because of this some women will often opt for lower paying and part time jobs in order to stay healthy and balanced. I know of numerous women for whom this has been the case.

I have some difficulty with feminists who seem to insist that we can have it all. Supposedly we can compete equally with men in every field and for every position and ought to have equal representation in every department, while raising a family as well. This is, of course, is completely unrealistic. To hold to this narrative would require that women abandon parenting.

What I probably find most disconcerting about feminism is its lack of support for the role of mothering. A woman’s role as the care-giver for her children is considered so insignificant as to be easily delegated to strangers. There is a complete denial of any long term impact of these arrangements on children. Evidence, to the contrary, shows that nothing is as critical to the development of a child as the consistent and ongoing attention and nurture of a mother and father.

I understand the aspirations of the full-time career woman. I understand the drive to contribute and the rewards of success. The women whom I know want to work. But they also want options around how much time they work in order to be available for their families. By elevating the importance of a career we tend to put undue pressure on women, some of whom want nothing more than to be at home caring for their families.

We need to have this conversation about choices and about how our families are impacted by our choices. But the moment someone broaches these subjects, feminists immediately cry foul and proceed to dismantle the credibility of the speaker. To see women silenced in this way is distressing. Every woman’s voice is valid and deserves to be heard. This unwillingness to dialogue makes it appear that feminists would rather protect their ideals than listen to the women they claim to represent.

If I could put a new face on feminism, I would begin by having feminists embrace the wider role of a woman as a wife and mother. I would encourage working at building healthy families in which divorce is less common and addictions occur with less frequency. I would build support for two-parent homes as a means to reducing poverty. I would also seek to reduce the need for social services and foster care by teaching parenting skills and communication skills so that children can remain in their home of origin. Rather than seeing sex education as the responsibility of public education, I would offer training sessions to parents on how to inform their children and guide them toward healthy choices. And, significantly, I would measure success more by harmonious homes, than by a well-paying career. Feminists may consider this form of thinking as regressive, but in reality it is thinking long term about the future well-being of our society. One of the main plagues of our society today is addictions. Supportive families are significant in preventing addictions and helping the next generation to succeed.

Increasingly women are losing their choice of being home with their children. Feminism tends to ignore the benefit of a two parent home. We cannot remove fathers from the equation. If we set up society so that we divorce women from their responsibility as wives and mothers, then we may in time end up in a place where all but the very wealthy will no longer have any choice but to work and abandon child rearing.

I wonder if I am missing a big part of the picture of what is happening with the feminist movement. Maybe the bottom line is the money that is pouring into the coffers in the name of healthcare and education and human rights and the eradication of poverty. Or maybe there is a worldview that feminists feel they need to advance. Perhaps the focus, contrary to what I hoped to believe, is not really on what is best for women and their families. I have to ask whether feminism was possibly inexorably flawed from the start by excluding men from the needs of women?

I can only align myself with feminists in as far as I understand and support their views. I am currently looking for more evidence that feminists embrace the significance of the primary roles of a woman as a wife and mother. I see this as the basis of feminism, if feminism is indeed advocating for the welfare of the whole woman, as I have believed

Posted in Depression, faith, Health, mental health

Staying in my Happy Place

This morning I awoke in my Happy Place. It felt like the world was right. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. I wasn’t overwhelmed by any anxiety. I didn’t have a sense of doom. I wasn’t worried.

When we want to have good mental health it is important to have a measuring point. It is important to identify how we feel when things are going well. My Happy Place, for me, is my measuring mark. It is the place I try to be most consistently in my life. I try not to fall too far below this mark and when I do, I make an effort to get back there.

In order to repeatedly experience my Happy Place I find I have to know what good things happened to make me feel this way? What did I do differently?

Some of the things that contribute to my Happy Place are a good diet, time spent outdoors, and being in the presence of family and friends.

Things that rob me of my sense of well-being are injustice in the world, family conflicts and the threat of losing what is precious to me.

In the same way that I identify what happened to make me feel peaceful and joyful, I also need to figure out what happens that makes me lose my sense of well-being.

I find it helpful to write down whatever I can think of that impacted my emotions in a negative way. Then I put a box around it.

When I write things down, I can see clearly what I have to watch out for. I have a limited amount of time and energy and I cannot allow these things to absorb a disproportional share. In other words, I need to be careful about how much time and energy I spend interacting with them. I am the one who has the most control over how these particular disturbances impact me.

On this list of stressors are some things I can do something about, and other things over which I have little or no influence. Because I am a praying woman, I commit to God the things I cannot change. And then I pray for wisdom and guidance regarding the things I can change.

Maintaining a peaceful life feels good, but it is also necessary for our health. Anxiety and worry and distress cause all sorts of difficulties in our bodies such as high blood pressure, stomach ulcers and even reduced immunity. Stress can also cause people to resort to unhealthy and addictive behaviors and this is another reason why it is good to identify our stressors and learn to manage them.

When I write down the troubling things in my life, I am giving them a name and creating a bit of distance between me and them, enough to take an objective look at them.

This is one of the ways I organize my life. When our lives feel stressed it is often because we feel out of control. Our lives become chaotic. Chaos makes us uneasy. We naturally want to be in control of our lives.

When we see our stressors in front of us in this way, life becomes more predictable. A more predictable life gives us a greater sense of control. A greater sense of control leads to greater peace of mind.

Blocking, or burying things, by refusing to think about them, means that they can pop up unexpectedly and throw our lives into disorder or chaos. That is the reason why I like to be aware of what is going on inside me, particularly the things disturbing me. I like to identify and corral the enemy in this box.

At the other end of the page that contains the box with the things in it that are stressors, I draw another box that represents the good feelings I have when I am happy with my life. It includes the things that contribute to these good feelings. In this way I can keep track of what gives me a sense of well-being.

You may need to wait and watch for your Happy Place to happen–that place where you have a general feeling of well-being. Once you recognize the exact feelings you have, you can begin to try and prolong this good feeling. Make it last an hour, a day. Try and make it happen more frequently.

I draw third box between the box of stressors on the left, and my happiness box on the right, and in it I write action steps I will take. These are the things I believe I can do to make my life better and to stay on track. Sometimes I can’t do much, but I can do a little. Doing a little, now and then, starts to add up over time.

One of the keys for me to be in my Happy Place has been to find out exactly what the “little things” are that I can do well. Not what others expect me to do. Not even my expectations of myself, because I will often put far too much on myself. But just those small things that I feel a gentle nudge to do, things that are a good fit for me in terms of my character and ability.

Years ago I read a book about the difference between faith and presumption. I realized that I had presumed a lot of things were my responsibility when they were not. Faith gives us only as much responsibility as we are meant to carry. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When we find the yoke that is tailor-made made for us then our burden becomes much lighter and easier. The truth is that as long as we are in this life we will have burdens to bear, but they don’t have to crush us.

Peace is probably the word that best describes what I feel when I am in my Happy Place. I have found that I need to pursue peace. Things will always happen to disrupt my peace and then I have to begin my journey back by recognizing the place I want to be, acknowledging the things that are hindering me, and committing to doing what I can do to make a difference.

Posted in mental health

Emotion Regulation – Coping Skills

What do you do when current world events overwhelm you?

Turn off and tune out?

Post a rant?

Get drunk?

Cancel your internet?

Become a recluse?

Build a bomb shelter?

Move to Whitehorse?

This year I have experienced a kind of rage and sorrow I have rarely ever felt before in response to what is happening in the world. I get particularly emotionally distraught when bad news involves children. I want to cover my ears and shut my eyes. I want to run away somewhere and escape. Other days I feel more militant and I won’t go into that.

But do you know that it is actually a good thing to have these feelings?

I had to tell myself that.

We want to numb ourselves, and we need to distract ourselves for a time, even protect ourselves, but what would be much worse than these feelings of outrage and distress would be to feel nothing. There’s actually a name for that and it is a mental disorder. It is called psychopathy and means lacking conscience and empathy. Much of the evil we see is perpetrated by people who suffer from this disorder.

When we were little we were taught, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This has been called The Golden Rule and it is from the Bible. The Golden Rule teaches us empathy. It teaches us how to live in this world. Since we don’t normally want to be hurt, we shouldn’t hurt others either.

We feel outrage, and hurt, and sorrow when we hear about people who violate the way we believe we are to behave in this world. These feelings show that we are caring humans, so we need to keep on having them.

However, we need to learn to manage our feelings so that we can still continue on with life.

What we need to learn is “emotion regulation” – how to manage our feelings so that we do not remain in a constant state of emotional arousal.

Much of what we hear in the news causes us to be angry on behalf of others, or fearful of how it might affect us. We begin to experience fear when it gets a little closer to home and to those we love. If there is a real threat of harm we may actually need to take protective measures. I’m not going to talk about that here. I am just going to talk about how to deal with those unpleasant feelings.

Here are some things I suggest, which I have started to do. Some will not be new to you.

GET CONTROL OF YOUR MIND

  1. Take a step back. Whatever that looks like. Take some time away from the situation that is causing agitation. Create a bit of distance. We can always come back to it later, when we feel more calm, to take another look.
  2. Admit that bad things will happen. This is not a just world. Sometimes people are evil. I found this hard to do. I did not want to say that people are evil. I wanted to continue to live in a sort of utopia, thinking the best of others. But once I faced it, I actually felt some tension dissipate.
  3. Acknowledge that some things might not turn out well (or as we had wished), even in the long run. But don’t give up hope.
  4. Realize that people will get hurt. Some people will die. Someone close to you is likely going to get hurt at some point, or die. Think about this for a moment and prepare in advance for it, so you are not taken totally by surprise. As my mom says, if we are alive we are also a “candidate for death.” Lol! (She worked in palliative home care so she treats death a bit more lightly than most of us.)
  5. It might look like the bad guys are winning, but it’s only for awhile. My husband reminds me that God will have the final say on that last day. I didn’t find this very comforting, but at least there is that.
  6. It’s OK to be upset and it’s good to be honest about just how badly upset I am. At the same time, I am the only one who can calm myself down. I have to learn to do this, because my health, my welfare, and my sanity all depend on my being able to it. For my own good, I have to learn how to regulate my emotions.

FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

There are other things we can do like meditation, exercise, engaging in uplifting activities. It’s up to us to search and find what we need. But much of the work happens in our heads–the place where we decide how to respond. Rather than a runaway train, we can be at the controls, deciding where we go and at what speed.

CONSIDER BEING AN AGENT OF CHANGE

After we take a break, create some distance for awhile, and collect ourselves, we might want to think about exactly why a certain issue is so strongly affecting our emotions. Is it possible that this may be a sign of an area where we can make some difference, great or small?

If we want to get involved there are things we can do. Sometimes I write letters, sign petitions, or talk to people. We can also join marches or demonstrations, volunteer with organizations, raise funds, donate, and vote. We owe it to ourselves and the world to regulate our emotions in order to be strong in battle.

PRAY

I want to emphasize the importance of prayer. Prayer can bring comfort to your own heart. I also find certain scriptures to be reassuring, particularly the Psalms. I have witnessed remarkable answers to prayer and I believe that prayer can move mountains.

KEEP ON LIVING

Although we may not engage directly in righting wrongs, there is always the necessity for people to affect change by setting an honorable example. Many amazing people are simply going to work every day, caring for their families, and being good citizens. They ought to make the news now and then.

Learning how to regulate our emotions will mean that we are able to function optimally and have a sense of being in control of our lives.

We want to be of “sound mind,” able to think clearly and evaluate objectively.

We want to run the control panel of our lives.

I, for one, have realized that this can take some work. But after working at this for awhile, I no longer find myself with runaway emotions. I have realized I can put the brakes on.