We all have bad days, those days when you’re tired and frustrated and everything seems out to get you… the vacuum cleaner will have the audacity to just jump out right in front of you and trip you over as you walk down the hallway or the toaster will somehow turn itself to the ‘crumpet’ setting, leaving you with squares of blackened charcoal flying towards the roof as the smoke detector squeals and wakes up the baby you’ve desperately been trying to keep asleep for ‘just five more minutes’ until you’ve had a chance to feed and dress yourself. Those days can make the best of us throw our fists to the skies in exasperated frustration, but when you’re going through a divorce or adjusting to having primary care of your children, those days can literally bring you to your knees, making you feel like all you can do is hold on until bed time and hope that tomorrow will be better.
Tomorrow might be better, it might not, but no matter how tired you are, if you take a couple of minutes to go through the steps below and zone in on what you’re actually feeling and what’s going on in your head, it can help you take back control of your emotions and start to turn your day around. It might not make it into a great day, but it can most definitely stop it from spiraling into catastrophic meltdown mode.
1. Name the emotion
Naming an emotion may seem like an obvious thing to do, but emotions are so much a part of who we are, we often don’t stop to think too much about them. While we may be feeling them, sometimes very acutely, we can have a tendency to just label ourselves as feeling ‘down’ or ‘shitty’ and before we know it, that feeling has spread to everything in our day. When you first notice that feeling, stop and identify exactly what that feeling is. Is it anger, sadness, injustice, fear, overwhelm, humiliation or perhaps just pure exhaustion?
2. Investigate why you’re feeling that way
Once you’ve identified the feeling, ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. Negative feelings have ways of leaching into other areas of your life without even realising it. Suddenly you’re really angry because you can’t find the remote or that stupid car in front of you in the supermarket car park is driving at a snail’s pace. In all likelihood, those things could’ve happened on another day and not bothered you at all. Often it can be something underlying that’s causing this anger. So when you find things building up, stop and take a moment to identify if that thing really is what’s upsetting you. Is ‘Old Mr Snail Driver’ in front of you really the problem? Or have you had an interaction or problem with your ex or work or something to do with your children or your health recently that’s been weighing on your mind? The key here is to be honest with yourself, and it can be a hard thing to do, because in all likelihood, it’s probably easier to be mad at anonymous Old Mr Snail Driver than working out and resolving the real problem, especially if you’re tired.
3. Acknowledge what you’re telling yourself about the core issue
Say you’ve figured out that Old Mr Snail Driver really isn’t that bad and you were actually already on edge because you’re feeling overwhelmed about the fact that you have too much on in your day and you’ve been beating yourself up because you can never seem to get your shit together or alternatively perhaps you had too much on in your day and someone who was supposed to help you out let you down. Now you have a real problem you can work with. Now you can start to feel in control again and shift the negative feelings into something productive.
4. Identify if you can do something about it, and if you can, do it
If you can take steps to resolve the problem, do so. Just by actually looking at the problem at hand and thinking about one or two ways that you could fix it, even if you don’t have the time or energy to do it right now, can take a load off your mind and make you feel much more positive. If you’ve got too much on in your day you could look at implementing some new systems to save time, ask for some extra help or identify a few parts of your life you could simplify to make things easier. If you look at the problem and there’s nothing you can do, well there comes the tough bit…
5. If there’s nothing you can do, work on letting it go
If the thing you’re feeling negative about is out of your control, this is the time to start working on letting it go. Say you were relying on someone and they let you down or you’re worried about an overdue bill you can’t pay. I know it’s not easy to let go of worry or anger, but you will function a lot better and make better decisions without it clouding your judgement. There are many ways to forgive and let go of negative feelings. Meditating and mindfulness training helps, talking about it with a friend or professional can help, writing down the worst case scenario and how you might deal with it can help, and I recently wrote an article on using the ancient Hawaiian ritual of the Ho’oponopono as a way to forgive and let go.
I found that the more I took the time to work through these steps during my divorce and my first twelve months of learning how to be a mum, the more I’d do it without thinking, so much so that now if I even think about swearing at the toaster or giving the vacuum cleaner a kick, I automatically stop and wonder what I’ve got going on that I’ve been choosing to ignore. The great thing about this process is that it seems to be cumulative, the more you make an effort to stop negativity in its tracks, the less it seems to sneak its way into your day.
About the author
Naomi is the editor of Lift e-Magazine and single mum to 19 month old Jim. For the last 12 months she’s documented her journey of single motherhood in her award winning daily blog ‘365 Days, a Diary of a Newly Single Mum’. When she’s not experimenting with new cookie recipes or planning her next trekking, climbing or snowboarding adventure, you can find her at her desk in the picturesque city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, weaving together solo mum stories… whether it be handy tips, triumphs, tragedies, exotic tales of travel or other tidbits to publish here. And before you ask, no, she doesn’t mind the freezing cold Tasmanian winters and yes, she had her second head removed years ago in an unfortunate accident involving a curtain rod and a drunk moose (and no, she’s not interested in hearing from anyone who doesn’t believe that drunk mooses exist in Tasmania… or those who may suppose that ‘mooses’ is not really a word).