Life happens. Things go wrong. Relationships turn bad. Depression and anxiety take you down a notch or two. BUT here’s the good news. There IS something you can take control of. And you should.
Take control of what you are going to do about whatever happens, whatever you are feeling, whatever problem or challenge you are facing. You have a choice. Being impulsive doesn’t take away that fact (yes I’m talking to myself here, too). You have a choice and you are responsible for it. Not making a decision is also a choice. Avoidance is a choice.
Getting your joy back is a choice
One of the best realisations I ever had, was that if I didn’t make an effort to put joy into my life, no one was going to do it for me. If my happiness depended on my money, my circumstances and my relationships, I would get exhausted from going up and down on an emotional rollercoaster of trying to please everyone and trying to get everything just right so that I can feel better. There’s a better way to keep sustained joy in my life than that.
Example: Depressed about work
If you are depressed about being unemployed, again, what are you going to do about it? What CAN you do about it? Take a second to step outside of the emotional whirlpool and just look at the facts without judging yourself. Options: Journal about it so you can get past the whirlpool of emotions and clear your mind to articulate what you want. (This has been proven to help you get results in terms of new employment much faster.) Talk to a career adviser to explore other options. Have your resume professionally revamped. Go to networking events and go after what it is you really want. Work for it. Ask questions. Negotiate and be confident until you get a foot in the door to where you want to be. Not so great options: Get stuck emotionally. Self-medicate. Avoidance and procrastination. Losing your purpose and vision and not reaching out to help yourself. Can you tell which option is smarter? I’ve done both, believe me, I know which one helps me stay sane and able to get through it.
Example 2: Anger and frustration with yourself and others
If you are constantly angry and frustrated with yourself and others, what are you going to do about it? Options: You can evaluate whether you are taking good care of yourself. Are you eating well and getting enough sleep? Misplaced anger is often a sign of low blood sugar. Fatigue, snappiness and caffeine isn’t helping. Why are you angry with yourself? Do you ever take the time to do something YOU want to do? To take a walk, work on a creative project without perfectionist expectations? When was the last time you listened to your favourite upbeat tunes? Sometimes a build-up of frustration and anger have to do with simply needing to talk things over with a friend or partner. A chance to share your concerns, feelings and the thoughts that keep you awake at night can make the world of a difference. A burden shared is a burden halved, as the saying goes. (Says me, who waits until I blurt everything out instead of sharing like calm, collected person…)
Give yourself something to look forward to
What are you doing to put joy in your life? Do you plan anything to look forward to? Do you say yes to good times, good friends and good fun? How about a nice dinner when you complete that course or major project you’ve been working on? How about saving up for a cruise or some exciting activity that’s been on your bucket list for as long as you can remember? If you can’t remember the last time you’ve really had fun, it might be time to make a list of the things you enjoy, both big and small things, so you can refer to it when you need a pick-me-up. It sure beats self-medicating, self-destruction, self-sabotage and the self-condemnation that comes along when you start comparing your life with that of others.
Do you read stories that inspire you? Do you look at things that make you laugh? Can you share in the joy of others? Practicing gratitude for the little things makes everything that much more enjoyable, including chores. I can complain about doing dishes or be grateful we could use them to eat the meals we are blessed to have. I can whine about the never-ending laundry or smile at the cherished thought of my family. I appreciate a starry sky, dark chocolate and a cup of coffee.
Some basic joy-starters
When I get tired, irritable and snappy, there are a few basics that never fail. A long HOT bath with Epsom salt and essential oils. Spending time in peace and quiet, alone. Reading something undemanding. Drawing, painting or crafting something with my hands. Taking a walk or stretching. Calling a friend and sharing what’s on my mind to get some fresh perspective. Doing these things reminds me that every problem or concern is not a world-ending crisis. My struggles matter, yes, but how I choose to cope so I don’t lose my joy and strength matters just as much.
I have a default tendency to be slow in processing emotions when things happen. I avoid it, I don’t go there. I go to work instead or I start cleaning if I’m really tense. At least I am aware of this tendency and eventually, things will catch up with me and I’ll start tearing up over the most unsoppy things on my Facebook feed. It becomes exhausting to maintain this routine and it sucks out all my energy. If I choose to take control of my mind, my thoughts and evaluate what is the truth versus how I feel, it becomes easier to figure out what to do next. The first step forward is always choosing to get unstuck, because I can, even if I can’t necessarily see the complete picture.
Getting joy back = self-care
I don’t drown in anxiety or depression anymore. Even if I sometimes flounder, I am equipped to get out and I prefer getting out than falling down down all the way. I’m not saying it’s always easy. But self-awareness and choosing to do what’s good for you even when you don’t feel like it, is what self-care is all about. No one will do it for you.
Joy is available, even if it starts with a cup of tea or coffee in your favorite mug. Gratitude and appreciation for small comforts works every single time. Enjoy the smiles of other children. Receive the kindness of others. Listen to voices that tell you you have something to offer that is meaningful and needed, because no one else can take your place.
Explore nature and the One who made it. Find Him, and you will find peace and rest for your soul. Sometimes joy starts with peace. You owe yourself this much.
How do you put joy in your life? Share in the comments below.