Here are four very effective strategies to use on days when you feel like pulling the covers over your head and not coming out:
- MAKE LAUGHING A PRIORITY. Laugh everyday, if not several times a day. “Laughter is good medicine” isn’t just a cute quip passed down from generation to generation. There is science backing up those words. Research has shown that laughter increases blood flow and oxygen, which stimulates endorphins, helping you to feel relaxed. Studies have shown that laughter can boost the immune system as well as helping to release dopamine, lessening depression. So don’t just eat an apple a day! Watch cartoons, play with children, listen to a comedian, or pick out funny cards to send to friends or loved ones. Learn to laugh at yourself and put on your “lighten up glasses” so you can find humor and levity all day long. And listen, friends, on the days that this is hardest to do, those are they days you need it the most. Joy is something you have to fight for!
- ALLOW YOURSELF TO CRY. We have all been told at some point in life that we must keep a “stiff upper lip,” but is sucking it up and putting on a brave face all of the time, really what is best for us? When a tragic, heartbreaking or frustrating event occurs and we feel like crying, it is for good reason. We were created to have an outlet for sadness and frustration through tears. Holding in those emotions elevates our stress hormones and that causes additional wear and tear on the body. The pain from a hurting heart has to come out some way, and it can either be with cleansing tears and the load made lighter, or the feelings held in and it festers into bitterness. I am not suggesting that we wallow in sadness and self-pity, but give yourself and others grace to have a period of sadness, then get up, brush yourself off, and remind yourself that the sun WILL come out tomorrow.
- HELP SOMEONE ELSE. As my family and I have puttered down the path-of-perpetually-hard, I have found this principle to be a life-saver: When the view from the bottom of the toilet bowl gets to be too much, GO HELP SOMEONE ELSE. Listen, I know functioning on this big chunk of rock called Earth can be frustrating, confusing, and exhausting, but there will always be someone with a harder lot than you. Take your focus off of your stuff and look for someone else who might be struggling. Maybe pick up the phone and call an elderly lady from church because you were thinking of her and you just wanted to check on her. Maybe you could run to the grocery for that neighbor who is ill. You could always offer to pick the kids of your single mom friend up from school so she doesn’t have to rush from work to get there on time.
- EAT THAT ELEPHANT ONE BITE AT A TIME. We know this is true, but it is so hard to do (This is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss book!). Whether it is a big project or overwhelming life circumstances, tough stuff doesn’t look so tough when it is broken into little pieces. There is wisdom in taking one day at a time, but sometimes even getting through a day feels like you have been asked to carry the world. Little bites. If it is a big project, pick a small part of that project and focus only on that. Don’t allow yourself to think of the whole thing or you will overwhelm and possibly, immobilize, yourself. When small-part #1 is done, move on to small-part #2. If it is a difficult circumstance that will be long term in your life, take an hour at a time or 5 minutes at a time, if need be. Stop yourself from spinning. Take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, there will only be a teeny, weeny elephant remaining.
Hopefully, this helps, friends. The next time you feel like it is your time to check into the funny farm, try to remember to chuckle a little, shed a few tears when you need to, climb big hills with small steps, and lastly, take a deep breath and go out and be a blessing to someone else.