If 2013 Kicked Your Butt

We’ve all had tough years, days or months. In my son’s preschool class, they’re teaching the difference between big problems and small problems.  But what if your problems this year were all big ones? I still remember the year I was sick, needed surgery, and was laid off. And the year my father died.

2013 meltingSo how do you avoid a downward spiral from your all-too-real problems? I don’t have easy answers, but life has taught me to push towards the positive. For me, the first cry feels cathartic, but the hundredth feels just plain depressing. So while it’s easy to say, for me, thinking positive is the only alternative.

  • When missing a loved one, think about positive moments you had together. A fun day, trip or moment, things you loved to do together, moments when you were happy.  Do something you used to do together. I think of my dad when I fix or assemble something myself. I hear him telling me to put all the little pieces in my pocket, and when I lose one, “How many times have I told you . . . .” It makes me smile. My mom donated a bench at his favorite waterfront spot, which also makes us happy.

  • When dealing with a career disappointment, try to look at the opportunity to make a change. Each time I was laid off, in retrospect, I was ready for a career change. I would never have chosen that way to make the change, but the result was still good for me and resulted in a more satisfying job. I try to dive in with new zest to the search, set up networking meetings, get my resume in order and stay busy with the search. A career coach can be extremely helpful if you’d like to redirect your focus but don’t know where to start.

  • Friends can be amazing but can also disappoint. I try to remember that not everyone is meant to be my rock. I ask myself, was this person letting me down, or did I expect too much? I look at my set of friends for who IS that rock, who can I count on, and think about cultivating those friendships instead. Furthermore, sometimes we are just in different life phases. When having a baby, all of a sudden, your life is turned upside down. Before kids, I used to go for all day bicycle rides, yoga five times a week, long dinners with friends, ballet and symphony performances, and dinner parties. Now, I spend weekends at playgrounds, try to cook ahead for the week, catch up with work, and heck if I know what it feels like to sleep past 6:30 or 7am. Like dating, friendships are finding the right match, not just personality but in terms of your life stage. The person who I used to ride with all day, who’s still riding all day, won’t find hanging out with little kids so fun. Not that I have time to focus on more than a couple sentences at a time when two children are running in opposite directions.

  • Be kind to yourself. Balance time for reflection with keeping busy. Do you recharge by being alone, or does too much alone time bring you down?  Try to schedule some childcare to get out without your children. Maybe you have a partner who can watch the kids after they go to sleep.  Maybe you have a friend who can swap babysitting with you. Maybe you can join a gym with childcare. Or maybe you can splurge on some babysitting time so that you can get out with your partner or friends.

  • Consider volunteering or helping others out in a small way. In The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama says that doing good makes you feel good.  One particularly tough day, when I was trying to conceive my second, I gave the homeless guy on our block $5 to try out the theory. His reaction put me in a great mood the rest of the day. Currently, I volunteer with our local mom’s group, co-chairing a committee that supports our 4,000+ members when they have a tough period. Friends often ask how I find the time, yet helping out always makes me happy and makes me realize that you can always find someone having it better or worse than you.

  • Above all, hope that 2014 will be better. What’s a fresher start than a new year?  Set some simple resolutions for the new year. One year, I vowed to floss every day.  Another, to drink more water. This year, it will be to prioritize a weekly yoga class to help me recharge before the weekend, which as a single mom of two with no weekend childcare, is particular challenging.

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