Monday, January 26, 2015

Learn to Minimize: When you are Going Through Hard Things

When you are going through hard times, learn to minimize.  Lower your expectations of yourself, and just get the bare minimum done:  For me this includes buying groceries (endless with teenagers!), paying the bills/keeping up with my bank balance, cooking simple, nutritious meals (yes, with the occasional pizza night thrown into the mix), keeping the house livably clean (not perfect, but good enough to not make me feel crazy), and getting my kids and myself to where we need to be on time. Yes my kids and my husband do chores and occasionally cook, but I still need to superintend it, or it doesn't happen.

And to clarify, "livably clean" equates to maybe 15 minutes a day, picking up a few piles, wiping down or sweeping whatever is bugging me most, and making sure the kids do their chores.  Teenage boys do much of the housework and dishes around my house, and the result would not qualify for any kind of Pinterest picture.  But a long time ago I learned that there is a "good enough" that is far short of perfect.  That was a life-changing thought for me.  These days I also live by the mantra of "something is better than nothing."  In other words, doing a little that I can reasonably accomplish is better than doing nothing at all, or going all intense and completely burning myself out.  A few examples of simple, nutritious meals might be scrambled egg with some kind of meat or veg and some toast, or frozen chicken breasts and vegis in the crockpot with a sauce from Trader Joe's dumped over the top o, and then I make some rice.  Simple indeed, and they don't give you a stomach ache like fast food. 

Other than the bare necessities (can you see Baloo dancing and bopping to the Jungle Book song?), give yourself grace and space and lots of "downtime".  Time to read the novel or knit or walk the dog, which needs done anyway, so that's a two-fer.  Or just sit and drink tea for 15 minutes and watch the weather out the window.  Or work out or bang a hammer in the garage or play music if that's your thing.  

If you have to work long hours or have very young children, you might be thinking, "She has no idea.  Downtime like that is not even possible for me."  I'm not crazy, and I do get it. You may need to speak up for yourself, and enlist some help. Getting through emotionally hard stuff is work, and it takes real time and space.   To make progress, try to reduce the pressure on yourself as much as possible. Many of us fill our lives with a lot of non-necessary things--good things, but not absolutely necessary. Mothers especially can feel "guilty" taking this time.  

Traumatic stress will not just go away if we ignore it.  It may seem to go underground, but it will manifest in other ways, through physical problems like migraines, back pain or stomach upset, outbursts of rage at our loved ones, or self-destructive behavior that hurts ourselves and the ones we love.  If we take the time we need to stay emotionally stable, we don't keep perpetuating the ugly stuff.  I haven't even talked about really processing emotional pain and traumatic memories yet.  But learning to relax and stay "grounded" comes first, and it will keep you out of the crazy cycles.