My last 24 hours have been difficult to say the least and it has been one of those times when being a therapist is a challenge because I have the skills to keep calm and ride the wave of trouble, but I just wanted to lose it. It is right there, in that moment, that we make the choice of whether or not to let a problem rob us of our joy.
Put things in perspective. Let me define “little things” for some clarity. What happened is that at the office yesterday a hose fell off the dishwasher and caused a little flood. Then the air conditioning broke. I realise the result of these issues caused temporary shutdown of services and people who needed to be seen had to be rescheduled. In some ways, they are not little things but other than having to inform my landlord and my clients what else could I do? Stress about it? Yell and scream? Yes, those are options, but they only take away from my joy, they would not have changed the situation.
When we place things into perspective, it helps maintain a balanced thoughts and emotions. The impact in the big picture was small. The things were going to be fixed and there was nothing I could do about it as I am not a plumber or an a/c professional. Creating that balanced thought, helps regulate our emotions and biological responses. Even as I type this I can feel my breathing slow down and my muscles relax. The opposite happens if I create a negative thought. I could say to myself, I can’t believe another thing happened, what am I going to do, those clients will be upset and on and on I could go. All this does is heighten my anxiety which in turn, speeds up my breathing, tightens my chest and causes rapid thoughts. When you catch yourself cycling on these negative thoughts, stop, and realise this is now a choice. You can create a balanced thought and hold onto your joy.
Understand your limits. I have rarely met a person who does not like to be in control. We like to know what is happening around us and to some extend control how it happens. Life happens and often its is things outside of our control. If we try to grip it with both hands and hold onto it as our own, or even try to fix it, even though we really can not, in an instant, our joy is gone again. Ask yourself, is this my problem to solve or someone else’s? If we use my example, when it first happened, it was my problem, because no one else knew about it so I had to report it. That is the limit of where my responsibility and control ended. Once it was reported then there was not anything I could do about it. The professionals had to fix it. I could have stood over the water and fixated on it, worrying about the damage and shaking my head. The floor would have still been wet and the dishwasher still broken. All I would have done was cause damage to my mental health. Instead I choose to go do something else. Sometimes that is all it takes, changing the task to something that is in your control.
Putting things into perspective and understanding our limits to create a balanced thought is often a difficult task to do. It takes practice and often someone else helping us build the skill, as sometimes our negative thoughts have controlled us for so long that we can not break the cycle on our own. If you need help, we are here to help. Please make the choice to protect your own joy because you are worth it!
Trish Pauls, MA RP