One Day At A Time

How do you handle stressful situations?

This year has been off to a somewhat stressful start for our family. My job has evolved and I’ve taken on more responsibility. My oldest picked up new classes and is feeling the stress of higher demands on his abilities and performance. And we got a cat (but you already know that).

Early in January, I was having moments where the new responsibilities were too many and coming at me too fast. In those moments I’d feel overwhelmed, and experience a wide range of emotion from fear–can I handle everything that is being given to me? to anger–why is this happening me? to hope — okay, I think I can do this; only to find myself repeating this loop over and over. It was exhausting.

My oldest was going through the same. Taking on assignments that were pushing his comfort level. Due dates that seemed aggressive. Grades hanging in the balance. He too was dealing with a range of emotion from fear — how am I doing to do this? to anger — why are they asking me/making me do this? to hope — okay, maybe I can figure this out. The same loop repeating over and over, and just like his mom, he was finding it exhausting.

In moments of stress, we seek out coping mechanisms. All my former coping mechanisms were not having the intended affect. Food — no thanks, no appetite — I’m too stressed. Meditation — okay I’m meditating, but I’m only slightly less tense after doing so. Giving myself a break — too tense and overwhelmed to even consider it. I had a moment of clarity when I was discussing my situation with a peer. “I’ve got to just take it one day at a time,” I said. I don’t know where it came from, but it was like a light turned on. Part of my struggle was that I kept jumbling everything I had to do today, tomorrow, next week, next month, etc. into the ‘have-to-do’ compartment of my brain which was setting off my ‘help-I’m-overwhelmed’ alarm bells. When I said it outloud, I could almost immediately feel the stress diminishing. One day at a time. I can handle this. Just focus on today. Not tomorrow or the day after that. Just today.

After having this ephiphany I shared it with my son. When he next shared how stressed he was, I asked him what he had to get done that day — not the next or the following, just that day. When he replied with items he had to do he had a similar reaction. He even smiled and said, “I can do that, mom.”

His relief matched mine. I’ve heard the phrase “one day at a time” a million times, but never really took it to heart, until now…when I had to.

How do you cope with stressful situations? How do you help your child cope when they are stressed?

The Great Outdoors

What is your favorite part of being in the great outdoors?

Growing up I loved swimming in the pool, riding bikes and swinging on our swing set. The times that stay with me about being outdoors are the times when I did something different: having a water balloon fight; or playing baseball on a diamond that sat upon freshly mowed grass; or running through a rain storm to get back to our house after school–it was a bit of miserable (from getting wet) and exhilarating (can we get home before the real downpour hits?).

In honor of Earth Day, we took our boys to help do some weeding and planting in a community garden. It was the first time, in a long time, I had done ‘real’ gardening, outside of clipping back some branches and doing light weeding at home. It was fun to do it with our boys. They, along with the other kids who participated, loved finding earth worms, centipedes, and daddy long-leg spiders all around. Our youngest, who along with another boy, even found a forgotten potato patch in the overgrown garden. They were thrilled every time they found something new: potato, bug, broken piece of pottery or piece of wood. The particular patch of Earth we worked on was ideal — the soil was mainly soft and we someone were lucky enough to be in the shade. It made for hard, yet very comfortable and satisfying work.

What surprised me most while gardening was how far the weeds went down. Several times, I would find a little sprout of the green invasive species that had taken over our patch, and give it a light tug, thinking the roots could only go so deep. But they almost always went deeper, and deeper and deeper. An inch of green above ground could turn into several feet of root underneath. It was amazing. I was also struck with how good the weeds were at hiding. If a wooden board was in place to help separate the sections of the garden, the weeds were almost always thicker, deeper and stronger near that piece of wood. It reminded me of how many of us have our own personal weeds, and how we only like to show so much of ourselves ‘above ground’ (to most), and do whatever we can to protect the weeds or hide we really are beneath the surface. This realization helped me appreciate another benefit of the great outdoors — there are analogies all around in nature for how we live our lives, and how we can (I like the idea of my life being weeded out or weed-free).

We might think we were giving back to the Earth that Saturday, but the Earth was giving my family and I more in return.

What has the great outdoors given to you?