I spent several days last week with my daughter Carrie and her family. With a newborn and three other active children ranging in age from 23 months to 5 years, she needed a little assistance from good old mom. It was fun…and hard too. I’d forgotten about the never ending mounds of laundry, the meal preparation and clean up, bath time, story time, prayers, squabbling between siblings, toys, noise, and so forth. I was busy from dawn to dusk, and I loved every moment of it. Toward the end of the week, I could sense a change in Carrie’s mood as she began thinking about this week and its myriad of challenges. This week she’s handling hearth and home alone. Rich is in Atlanta for a week of training, and Carrie’s calendar is full of events ranging from baseball practice and dance lessons to hair cut appointments and doctor visits.
So we had a little chat before I left, and I told her that she could do anything for a little while, anything. If a week were too big of a chunk to handle mentally or emotionally, then she was to think in terms of a day at a time. Anyone can get through 24 hours, right? If that was too much, then she was to think of a morning, an hour, a 15-minute increment. She was to “endure to the end” and to keep reminding herself that she had whatever it took to get the job done…one day at a time.
I also told her that one of the secrets to having a happy life is to learn how to savor small pockets of joy, moments of fun and “good stuff.” She and I went to Wal-Mart and Lowe’s for a couple of hours while Rich kept the children, and we thoroughly enjoyed browsing and selecting different items. A bargain shopper like her mother, Carrie found several Valentine items on sale. “Just think,” I told her. “You’ll be able to do this again…and again and again. Plus, there’ll be other fun things you’ll get to do. Just remember that whenever you feel confined and limited. In the meantime, just remember today and some of the other high moments of your life.”
This is the interesting part. Last night I was experiencing a bout of insomnia, and my thoughts raced from my eight classes and “advisement” responsibilities to income taxes and a week chocked full of activities. I lay there thinking of how sick I felt from the cold I picked up from my grandson, the letters of recommendation I promised to write, the bills I needed to pay, the dirty laundry from my trip, and the fact that I needed to get gas on the way to work the next morning. Before I knew it, my autonomic nervous system had kicked in, and my mind was in overdrive.
I found myself thinking of Carrie and the advice I’d given her about taking things one day at a time…perhaps even an hour at a time. I remembered the “endure to the end” part even if the end happened to be one morning or one doctor’s appointment. I then recalled telling her how tough she was and that I KNEW she could make it alone through the week. That’s about the time that I realized I needed to take my own advice. If my daughter can endure to the end, so can I. If she’s tough, so am I.
Then there’s the part about looking at the fun, high times. I’ve had quite a few and hope to have quite a few more. Life’s a lot more than work and stress and bills, and as I lay there thinking of some of the moments of sheer joy and pleasure last night, my mind finally relaxed enough to let me drift off back to sleep.
What about you? Have you ever found yourself stretched and stressed to the max? Do you have a particular strategy that you use? Have you tried the “this too shall pass” motto? Do you use a moment-by-moment approach when dealing with discomfort or sadness? Do you try to find joy in the little things? What’s your stress management strategy?