by Kassandra Lamb
Thanksgiving is always a reminder that one should be grateful for one’s blessings.
I found this harder to do this year.
The last six months have been a rough time in my household. We seem to have been slammed with one stressor after another—some of them neutral, some of them bad, none of them all that good.
With all that has been going on, I’ve been way too near the edge of stress overload, and when I’m in that spot, I get depressed. Which doesn’t help one bit.
Well-meaning folks sometimes say, “Well, look at what others are dealing with? They have it much worse.” Sure one can usually find those whose life challenges are far worse than one’s own. But comparing one’s own pain to others is not mentally healthy, believe it or not.
For one thing, if you care about those people (such as the dear friend who was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness), that’s just more depressing stuff to think about.
Also, that makes you ashamed of feeling stressed and depressed. Then you try to bury those feelings. As I’ve mentioned before, buried feelings don’t go away. They just fester under the surface and can erupt somewhere else in a less than pleasant way.
Of course, applying strategies to lessen one’s stress in other areas is always a good idea. But in my case recently, even when the stress let up, I was still depressed.
I have two strategies that I find helpful when I get stuck in a negative mental state like this. One is to stop and count my blessings. Yes, this is a cliché, and it can also lead to shame and stifling the bad feelings if not done carefully.
When I do this, I don’t just focus on the blessings (which are all too easily taken for granted). I do a kind of counterbalance in my mind.
- Yes, I have friends who are struggling with their health, and that brings home that I will be facing such major challenges in another decade or two. This means I should appreciate my own reasonably good health more and make sure I am living to the fullest during the remaining healthy years I have left.
- Yes, money is tight right now due to unexpected expenses, but we have a good income and we’ll recover in a few months. I need to appreciate that good income more.
- Yes, I lost my dog suddenly to cancer. But I now have a new four-legged buddy. He doesn’t replace the dog I lost in my heart, but he’s creating his own spot there. And again, I am grateful that I have the resources to give a shelter animal a new home.
You get the idea.
This process doesn’t eradicate the negative feelings, but it helps to put them in perspective. I don’t suddenly feel great because I have so many things to be thankful for, but I feel less depressed. And focusing on the resources I’ve been blessed with makes me more hopeful that this too shall pass. I will deal with the stressors and move on to better times.
Which brings me to my second strategy. When I am dealing with a major stressor, I ask myself at what point in the future will I have most likely already dealt with it and put it behind me. A month, six months, a year?
Then I keep telling myself this reminder: In a month (six months, a year), this will all just be a bad memory.
If need be, I remind myself of times in the past when I used this strategy, and indeed those stressors are now nothing but memories. If I can remember them at all.
When I first started teaching, I was a basketcase. I’d done public speaking before and wasn’t all that nervous, but facing students was a different matter. They don’t always give much away. They sit there and stare at you (if you’re lucky; sometimes they fall asleep). You don’t know if they are finding your words of wisdom fascinating or boring as all get out.
I gave myself two years that time. “In two years, I’ll be comfortable in front of the classroom and this will all be a bad memory.”
It didn’t take that long. By my third semester I was comfortable, and now years later, I can’t even really remember the anxiety I felt at the time. I just remember thinking, that first semester, that surely I would have an embarrassing accident in front of the classroom (involving bodily fluids) before the semester ended.
And having written this blog post, I now feel better. Not great, but better.
How about you? What strategies do you use to get unstuck from a negative mindset?
One thing I am definitely grateful for is the gift of my talent.
My Christmas novella is now available for preorder … Just $0.99
A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery Novella
A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?
When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps href=”https://misteriopress.com/books/to-kill-a-labrador-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.
But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?
Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist/college professor turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.
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K.B. OwenNovember 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm
Wow, you have had a rough year, Kass! I’m so sorry.
I employ these strategies, which I find quite helpful. I also find that, for me, getting as much information as I can about what is going on (illness, financial, one of our kid’s school grades) helps reduce the anxiety. Even if the info is not good news or is frustrating to hear (he forgot to turn in his homework AGAIN??), understanding helps me feel more in control of the situation.
Shifting gears…Congrats on your new release! It sounds like the perfect holiday mystery to curl up with! Great reward after a long day of shopping or Christmas cookie baking. *wink*
Kassandra LambNovember 28, 2017 at 1:21 pm
That’s a good strategy too. I agree that knowing as much as possible helps one feel more in control. And feeling out of control is almost always the worst part of any crisis.
May 2018 be a better year!
VinnieNovember 28, 2017 at 1:26 pm
I definitely use the count-my-blessings strategy, although the coupling of it with the problem, so as not to ignore the problem, sounds like a healthy addition for me. Nature is a balm for me, so doing something outdoors, whether working in the garden or taking a walk on the harbor lifts my mood. Exercise in general helps. Deep breathing. Yoga meditation to remind me that I am not my thoughts, or as someone once put it: Don’t believe everything you think.
Congrats on the book, Kassandra!
Kassandra LambNovember 28, 2017 at 1:37 pm
“Don’t believe everything you think.” What a great line. I used to tell clients, “Feelings are not facts.” To make the point that their moods didn’t always jive with reality.
K.B. OwenNovember 28, 2017 at 1:48 pm
Like the outdoors/exercise suggestion, Vinnie! Wish I had a year-round garden. Gardening always makes me feel better.
And I agree with “Don’t believe everything you think.” I’ve reduced it to “Feelings can tell you lies.”