by Elizabeth Handley
We all have good days and bad days, but some days are simply worse than others. Just when it seems as if nothing further could possibly go wrong, it does. That is life. It is beyond our control.
Or is it?
We’ve all read self-help books and magazine articles, heard programmes on television and radio, and been to talks about making the most of it and seeking out that silver that allegedly lines every cloud. Sometimes this just isn’t possible.
But there are some techniques we can summon, and tools we can use, that can make it a little easier.
In this article I share with you some of the best “tools” that I have discovered, over many years of reading and personal experience, and hope that you will find them useful too.
RESCUE TOOLBOX FOR A BAD DAY
- Call a friend: talk about it over a comforting hot drink – preferably chamomile tea.
- Write it down: get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, in your laptop, or in a journal.
- Take a shower, with a good body scrub, or a long, candle-lit bath, with calming aromatherapy oils such a lavender.
- Go for a walk: physical exercise is essential for relieving stress; as you leave behind your media and devices, and re-connect with nature, you will clear your head and begin to see things more clearly. You will also oxygenate your system, and thereby your brain.
- Meditate: Candle Meditation: sit comfortably, place a lit candle at eye-level, and focus on it. Have this quiet time to be still; watch its changing colours, take in its scent, and feel its warmth.
- Do something CREATIVE: drawing or painting, cooking or baking, knitting, scrap-booking or making lace: relieve your mind of complications, and give yourself time to focus on a creative activity. You will also then acquire that wonderfully satisfactory feeling of achievement.
- Talk to Grandma: tap into your ancestors; they are still there somewhere to watch over you and to listen to you.
- Commune with nature: hug a tree, weed the communal garden, pick some flowers, or watch a sunset, and you will feel more grounded.
- Thank your body: be grateful for good health, and strength
- Visit a good book shop, and browse. Have a coffee, enjoying its rich aroma, and the sweet scent of new books; feel its weight in your hands, and buy one.
- Do something for someone else: bake a cake and take it to them, or take some flowers. Make a phone call, and show that you care. Care for a sick person, or animals or children in need. Observing the suffering of others distracts us from our own woes.
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE
For every negative thought, there is an unwelcome but inevitable chain reaction:
- The negative THOUGHT or upset ->
- negative EMOTION(S) ->
- harmful CHEMICALS are produced in the body ->
- PHYSICAL manifestations and problems (illness) ->
- changes in your BEHAVIOUR (stress, depression, anxiety, and, if left for too long, breakdown.)
Here is a technique to counter this chain-reaction:
Five simple steps:
- Recognise what upsets you
- Change the things you can
- Change your ATTITUDE to the things you can’t (or switch off, or walk away)
- DO the things you ENJOY
Controlling what you cannot change:
- Thought-stopping or switching: replace the negative thought with a happy thought or memory.
- Confide your troubles: speak to a therapist, relation, or friend.
- POSITIVE thinking: actively search for the good things that happen; redirect your thoughts. Keep a “GRATITUDE” notebook or diary; physically count your BLESSINGS.
Don’t dwell on the past – you can’t change what’s already happened.
Don’t fret about the future – because it may never happen anyway.
- Take yourself to the third floor balcony: observe the scene below (you); distance yourself from the upset for a few seconds, and observe the situation with an impartial eye. Take a deep breath; become calm.
- Bring yourself into the NOW: use all your SENSES and enjoy the PRESENT MOMENT.
I once had a friend who was going through a turbulent divorce. Her psychologist helped her by suggesting that she only take each day at a time, and that she try to incorporate some of the following tasks into each day, focusing only on each task at a time:
THE 7-POINT PLAN:
- Do something for yourself
- Do something for someone else
- Have some social contact
- Take some exercise
- Do something creative
- Do something intellectually stimulating
- Have some spiritual time
To this I would add:
- Eat healthily, and lean
- Get enough sleep
- Count your blessings
* LET GO AND LET GOD
* “May he/she be well, may he/she be happy”
* St. Julian of Norwich: “All shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well”
*I am LOVED, I am FORGIVEN, I am SAFE, I am FREE
TOO SOON OLD, TOO LATE SMART
One winter day I found myself waiting at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport for my connecting flight to Amsterdam and then Johannesburg. My flight was grounded for eighteen hours due to a ferocious blizzard. This was when I discovered Sky City, the airport’s mini mall housing a hotel, shops, restaurants, spa and bar. Whilst browsing through the POCKET book shop I found Dr. Gordon Livingston’s marvelous little book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. This New York psychiatrist has been listening to people’s problems for many years. He concludes that the three components of happiness are simply these:
Something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.
If we have useful work, sustaining relationships, and the promise of pleasure, it is hard to be unhappy.
By “work” he means any activity that is paid or unpaid which gives one a sense of significance or usefulness. Simply put: that which gives our lives meaning.
Dr. Livingston points out that it is all very well for the DSM to list all the various mental disorders known to mankind, but that listing qualities in ourselves that would be good to nurture would be just as useful.
“At the top of the list would be kindness, a willingness to give of oneself to another. This most desirable of virtues governs all the others, including the capacity for empathy and love. Like other forms of art, we may find it hard to define, but when we are in its presence, we feel it.” (P5)
BIBLIOGRAPHY of RECOMMENDED BOOKS:
- Daily OM – INSPIRATIONAL THOUGHTS FOR A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND FULFILLING DAY, HAY HOUSE INC., ISBN 978-1-4019-2050-0
- Take Control of Your Life by Dr Gail Radliffe, Exisle Publishing, ISBN 0-908988-30-3
- Living in the NOW – LESS STRESS, MORE HAPPINESS by Jill Jacques, OSHUN BOOKS, ISBN 978 1 77020 030 2
- The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak, Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0-141-04718-8
- Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Dr Gordon Livingston, MODDER MOBIUS, ISBN 978-0-340-83936-2