Why Stepping Back Will Save You Stepping Over the Edge Emotionally
It has been a full summer, one for the books as the saying goes. We’ve been caring for our 17-month-old grandson and 6-year-old granddaughter. My husband David, who is a teacher, spent the summer helping out, while recovering from knee surgery.
In between several weeks of science and art camps for our granddaughter, there have been days of lazy time playing under the sprinkler, hanging out at the pool, reading tons of books from the library and hours of Go Fish.
Sometimes my granddaughter has had bouts of boredom which have turned into the “moodies,” especially when I tell her she has to turn off the TV. When she gets frustrated, I suggest she get up and go outside to ride her bike, pick up the chalk to draw on the driveway or blow bubbles. None of these ideas appeal to her right off, so she occasionally head into a meltdown. That is when I offer the sage advice, “Just pretend to enjoy doing something else, and soon you’ll feel better!” And as I speak these words, I realize they apply to all of us no matter our age.
A BRIEF BREAK IS GOOD FOR YOU
David and I decided to take a mini-vacation from our summer routine for a short weekend in early August, visiting family in Chicago. David loves the Chicago Art Institute, and although he had to limp around, it was good for his spirit. He carefully maneuvered through the museum, visiting his favorite pieces and relishing in the current Monet exhibit. He valiantly attempted to take a hiatus from his knee pain, too.
For me, the solace came with the change of scenery and by visiting with people that we enjoy. I took in a walk along the river-walk in downtown Chicago with my sister-in-law, switching off the computer and giving my blog post and podcast commitment a week’s reprieve.
It turned out that the time away, although too short, was just what we needed to come back to our grandkids, David’s continued knee recovery, and to prepare for the commitments we have on the calendar for the fall.
I use to believe that worrying over an issue was the best way to solve it. And even more, I felt that fretting about things on-and-on was a kind of training ground that prepared me if “things” got worse. I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve wasted churning over matters in my head! Of course, what I accomplished in over-thinking everything was to heighten my stress, which put me at a disadvantage to think creatively toward controlling it better.
In an article by Rachelle Williams over at The Chopra Center, she suggests it is important to identify the crux of your stress and to note the circumstances you’re engaged in at the time of the feelings. Where are you? What activity are you doing? What thoughts are on your mind?
By stepping back and studying your behaviors, you can take note to change the actions and environment that may be contributing to the thoughts, and journaling those observations will solidify your recognition of what you’ve discovered.
REDIRECT TO THE POSSIBLE
As it turns out by suggesting that my granddaughter focus her attentions on doing something other than sitting and fuming, I was offering a useful method of redirection that can be of service to anyone. In a post by Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D. over at Learn Evolve and Thrive, she suggests that when faced with a problem for which you don’t have a solution, it is often better to redirect your mind to solving one that is within your control.
Perhaps you can’t manage the problem of X, but you can plan a short trip, for example. By applying your brain to the task of solving an attainable goal, it frees up your mind to think more broadly and perhaps come up with a better resolution to X down the road.
I’ll highlight my grandson’s weird gag trick as an example of redirection in action. He has taken to shoving his fist in his mouth and causing himself to vomit, and it became more frequent when we registered distress over the behavior.
I then read an article that said it is better NOT to pay attention to the unwanted behavior but rather direct the toddler to another activity instead. With that, I offered my grandson a sippy cup of ice and sparkling water for a diversion, and found that the gag habit subsided. Now he focuses on sipping the fizzy water and gleefully letting some of it drool down his front, much preferred to the vomiting.
STEP BACK AGAIN AND AGAIN
Unless the threat is immediate, most situations are better addressed when you give yourself space and time. Of course, knowing this makes sense, and actually doing it can be a challenge because many of us we tend to quickly veer to worry and fear. A tool such as journaling is useful for self-exploration and providing clarity.
Make a note of your habits that lead you to obsessing on thoughts that don’t serve you. Switch up where you are and what you’re doing. By redirecting your actions, you give yourself a break and a fresh perspective. We all need to take the mini-vacation, blow bubbles, draw with chalk, and drink fizzy water from the sippy cup now and then.
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