Lately I find myself vacillating between extremes of emotion – either blissfully happy or sobbing without reason. Infinitely patient or agitated beyond control. Supremely confident or a bundle of nerves. They’re not so much mood swings as what I call “outlook swings.”
Two weeks ago, I was on top of the world, and not because of any tangible thing. I was filled with a sense of gratitude for every aspect of my life – giddy, almost. It was like I was high on gratitude, just for living. It was nice, but it was also unnatural. It was an extreme positive outlook – so extreme that it had to swing back the other way. My sadness last week came on me like a truck. Granted, I had a lot on my plate with being nervous about Nigel going back to regular school and Aidan’s mystery ailment. But I allowed that anxiety to infect other areas of my life that I needn’t have, like my self-esteem. I suddenly found myself way more negative than I am ever comfortable being. It was the other extreme. Fortunately it subsided with a phone call to a friend.
So how else do we deal with the unavoidable weepy bug? How can we regain our positive outlook when we feel like we have to take on the world (or that the world is taking us on)? My outlook swings have finally normalized (for the time being), and I think it’s because I did all of these things:
- I realized that the kids are all right. Yes, one is adjusting to an environment that used to be very difficult for him, but at this moment he is happily watching Winnie the Pooh in his room. And yes, the other one has some unknown health issues that I’m very worried about, but at this moment he is not in pain and he is listening to Bob Marley in his room. These boys are my world. And as long as they’re okay, I can handle whatever is thrown at me.
- I’ve got a job and a home and good health. Yes, this smacks of being told to be thankful for your dinner because there are kids starving in other parts of the world, but sometimes I have to remind myself that my life could be worse.
- I let myself be sad for awhile. There IS a reason for it, even if I can’t see it. And even though my life “could be worse,” sometimes it’s tough enough to warrant a few frustrated tears. And everyone always has a right to feel the way they do. So if you’re sad, own it. You do have a reason, and it is valid.
- I called a friend. Let me say that again, because it’s not something I normally do. I called a friend. Usually I’m a go-it-alone person. I often have to force myself to ask for help. I don’t know why; it’s just the way I am. Maybe because I’ve been on my own for so long, I’ve had to be that way, even when the chips were down. But not this time. I felt the need to talk it out, and it helped immensely.
- I recited affirmations. Nigel is calm and comfortable at school. Aidan’s body is healing. I am working toward my goals. My life is right on schedule. I enjoy life. I am where I am supposed to be.* I recite these in my mind throughout my day, and before I go to sleep. It’s also helpful to write them on Post-It notes and stick them around the house where you will see them periodically (bathroom mirror, refrigerator, wine rack).
*Note: Affirmations are generally not as effective when you’re in the middle of a crying jag.