2016 has been a funky year. And I’m not talking about the kind of funk that makes you want to shake your groove thing. I’m talking about the funk that sends you wallowing and makes you wonder if life will ever get better. I know I’m not alone in this feeling. Many people I know are ready to send 2016 packing. I’ve got 2016’s suitcase packed up and ready to ship out with a big “Return to Sender” sticker on it.
This year, I’ve had insane amounts of job stress, ongoing health stress, family member health stress, plus a bunch of other things that on their own would be manageable, but when paired with job and health issues seem insurmountable.
Being a mom (well really, being a person) is unpredictable. Life is unpredictable. Things change in an instant. There are no straight, flat paths. Life’s roads are hilly and curvy and there is no map to navigate this journey. And somehow you still have to cope and take care of tiny humans. And while a good wallow can be therapeutic, you can’t stay there forever. So wallow. Give yourself a day, a week, maybe a month. Then pick yourself up and do something to feel better. And do something every single day.
At a loss for what to do? Here are some of the small, everyday things I do to remind myself that there are still good things in life, even if the big things seem to be careening out of control:
- Walk on the beach – If you’re lucky enough (as I am here in Charleston) to be able to get your toes sandy and your skin salty, go there now. Salt water therapy is my kind of therapy. If you aren’t near the beach, just go outside. Fresh air is magical.
- Work (it) out – Run, do some yoga, go to a barre class, pump some iron…whatever gets your heart rate up. Go do that. Literally sweat out your stress. Even if the exercise high is only temporary, at least it’s better for you than sinking into your couch eating ice cream by the gallon (but hey, sometimes that’s okay, too).
- Create something – Create anything! It doesn’t have to be spectacular and it doesn’t need to be worthy of display. Paint, draw, doodle, write in a journal, string some beads into a bracelet, make mudpies in the yard with your kids (or go to the beach and build sandcastles), go on a baking spree in the kitchen. But seriously, pry your fingers off your smartphone, back away from the computer, and physically make something with your hands.
- Play with a dog – There’s a reason people bring dogs into hospitals to visit patients. Because spending time with a dog helps. They’re loyal, loving, and always, always, always happy to see their people. They make no judgments or demands. Unless you forget to feed them in a timely fashion – then they’ll be in the kitchen bellowing and throwing their dishes around. But food demands are a small price to pay for their unconditional affection. We’ve got four furballs in our house and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is better when your house is covered in dog hair.
- Drink with friends – No, no, don’t get drunk. That’s a surefire way to feel worse. But do go have a coffee, visit a juice bar, or have a glass of wine. And talk it out with your people. That’s what friends are for, right? Through the good times and bad times. And for having a good time in the midst of a bad time.
- Buy fresh flowers – Admittedly, I don’t do this often enough, but probably should. Fresh flowers brighten up a room and they smell nice, too, which is a bonus if you have a houseful of dogs.
- Be glad for what you do have – I know, I know, this is a tough one. When things are dark, it’s hard to find anything to be thankful for. But most people can at least find something, one thing, that makes their heart happy. Cling to that. Remember that. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will keep you going.
- Help someone else – If you really want to stop wallowing in your own misery, do something nice for someone else. Pay for coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks, help an elderly person get their groceries to their car, or teach your child something new. Making other people feel better is one of the best ways to feel better yourself.
We all go through rough times, some harder and darker than others, and while doing these things won’t actually take away your problems, it will at least take your focus off of them for a bit. Life is tough. Get a helmet. And then get moving.