The other day I was reading a blog post from a mom who had just returned home from a relaxing vacation. She felt refreshed and refueled for about one week. She was telling her readers that she needed a break, but felt guilty because she just had a vacation break. In her words, this mom couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. Personally, I didn't think anything was wrong with her. It doesn't take long for life to start chipping away at our energy and joy.
It's not always the big, stressful events that knock us off guard. It is the combination of one little thing after another. When a woodworker uses a chisel to carve a piece of wood, he chisels away small pieces at a time. That's what normal life can do to us. We start our week with great intentions to be joyful and productive. Monday morning starts out okay, but by evening, for some unexplainable reason, the kids are tired and irritable, and we are challenged to remain patient. On Tuesday, we might wake up with a headache. On Wednesday, our boss throws a last minute project on our desk, with a deadline of ASAP. The next day we are frantically searching for a clean pair of underwear. By Friday, we are ready to crash.
When stress threatens to rob you of the happiness and peace you want, use these tips to protect yourself from the little things that chip and nag at you.
Be Flexible - Don't Fight with Life
In other words, learn to roll with the punches. Life is full of ups and downs. There will be good days, bad days, and everything in between. Our attitude about these events and the way in which we perceive normal life has much to do with how we experience it. If there is a traffic jam on the way to an important meeting or activity, what can you do? Some things in life are out of our control. Since ultimately, we are the only ones we have much control over, that in reality, allows us to emotionally let go of the rest. Life becomes a fight when we try to control. Relax, be flexible, and allow life to unfold the way it is supposed to.
Don't Get Too Caught Up in the Ways of the World
We are bombarded on a daily basis with messages about how to live our lives. Television commercials tell us which products to buy. The internet flashes advertising that we didn't ask for. The newspapers and news programs remind us of all the horrible events that are going on in this world, and especially of all the things we need to be afraid of. As if that is not enough, our neighbors, friends and family members don't hesitate to add their two cents. Information and advice can be good, but there is such thing as overload. You will be happier if you stay true to what's most important to you. For instance, I don't watch the news. Many people think I'm crazy because I am not up to date on everything that is going on in the world, but I don't care. The news doesn't inspire me so I choose to avoid it. Be clear about what works for you and what doesn't, and you won't get caught up in matters that take you off your path in life.
Live a Grace-filled Life
Sometimes it's too easy to focus on mistakes we and others in our life make. We see the shortcomings before we see the strengths. We judge ourselves and those around us. This is what happens when the stresses of life get the best of us. Try sprinkling your life with a little grace. Overlook your spouse's annoying habits. Give your children a hug when they are challenging you. Smile at the unfriendly store clerk. And don't be so hard on yourself. We can all use a little more kindness and love in our lives. When we give grace to others, grace is given to us. It may not be from the same person, but the gift will be returned.
Lighten Up - Life is Not Always So Serious
I can remember when I was a child and my aunt and uncle would tease me. I was a very serious child so I didn't find much humor in their jokes. Looking back, I can respect the lesson they were trying to teach. Although there are certainly matters in life that are serious and not appropriate for laughter, much of life can be approached with a little more humor. By adding a little silliness and play to your life, the stress will melt away. Sometimes it can be helpful to remind ourselves that we are not in a race to have the best or be the best. We can work hard, but we should never forget to enjoy our lives.
"What inspires you?" is a question I ask my clients often. Inspiration is what brings us joy and energy in life. It's different for everyone. My husband is refueled and energized when he hangs out with friends; his social life is a source of great inspiration. I love deep conversations with like minded individuals. It is essential for our emotional well being to connect to and engage in sources of inspiration for us on a regular basis. Without inspiration, we get tired and lose our enthusiasm for life.
A joy-filled and peaceful life is within your reach. It just takes a little practice and adjustments to our day to day life. Life will still keep going on, but we can learn to deflect the chisels.