Even little bumps in the road of life can become daunting obstacles if we allow them. Combined with our high expectations of ourselves, trials and challenges of all sizes can leave us feeling emotionally depleted and overcome by discouragement and despair. Or, as it might be said, at our wit's end.
Where is your wit's end? Is it at your in-laws, who won't stop criticizing you? At your place of work where expectations and deadlines loom? In the frenetic pace of life? Or in your own home where contention and chaos seem to reign? Wherever, it can be challenging, painful, and at worst, emotionally incapacitating.
The opposite of your wit's end is keeping your wits about you. Your capacity to stay alert and composed in life's stormy seas is a skill worth pursuing. The world may not change, but you can. If hope and joy seem out of reach, try these 10 tips to regain your emotional equilibrium.
- Slow down, but don’t be late. Awareness of deadlines is good, but rushing at them with lack of regard for your health and well-being causes stress. Being late is a stressor, as well. Give yourself ample time for tasks at hand. Avoiding busyness is also vital. The word “busy” is defined by active and attentive engagement in work or a pastime, yet “busyness” is often characterized by meaningless activity, such as surfing the web with no clear purpose in mind. Since busyness saps our time and energy, we're often left feeling exhausted, stressed, unhappy and wondering what more we can to do feel better. Instead, consciously elect to undertake the truly necessary with calm and purposeful intent.
- Catch up on rest. You’ll function better when your mind and body are well rested. If you don’t have time for added slumber, take precious minutes to retreat to a tranquil place where you can close your eyes and still the pace of your heart and mind. A place where you can feel in control, if only for the moment, and your thoughts can flow unfettered by confusion. Honor your need for solitude. Don't feel guilty for treating yourself to the gift of time alone. Putting yourself first isn't selfish. It ensures you will have sufficient energy to devote to loved ones.
- Pray for comfort. Trust that it will come and allow yourself to find respite in the spirit’s embrace. Scottish minister Oswald Chambers said, “When a man is at his wit's end it is not a cowardly thing to pray.” Pray that, if it is God's will, the burden you're experiencing will be eased. Pray for knowledge of how to cope with your troubles, how to efficiently think through the steps you need to take. Pray to know what questions you should ask in order to find the answers you are seeking. Equally important, pray for peace of mind to accept what comes.
- Don’t deliberately start disputes. When you look for contention, you’ll find it. When you seek harmony, you’ll find that, as well. Strive to cultivate Christ-like attributes like patience, forgiveness, and gratitude. Look for the best in others — and in yourself. Recognize your unique ability to express love and touch lives for the better. You are divine by nature, and remarkable by choice.
- Keep a journal. Lengthy personal epistles aren't necessary. List your favorite joys — one-sentence slices of life that, like treasured photos, capture moments of splendor and bliss. It's as easy as asking yourself what brings you happiness, such as the smell of freshly baked bread, peach-golden rays of sunlight at dawn, or when your child smiles at you. Frequently look for and record such things and moments. Read and savor them when you’re blue.
- Don’t do things you know you’ll regret later. Enough said.
- Edit the information that comes into your life. Whether pessimistic input comes from outside sources or from within your own tendency to look for clouds, make it a habit to sift out and discard the negative. Always living with a glass half empty mentality causes despair, which in turn can cause us to question ourselves and what we believe in. When it comes to others who seek to drag us down with their negativity, it's helpful to remember that what they say about us actually says more about them. In other words, negative emotions come from inherently negative sources just as positive things flow from a source of truth and light. We only have to watch or read the news to see that the world seeks out complaining and fault-finding. Recognize that people who work hard to keep others down are fighting within themselves a bitter lonely battle.
- Be patient with yourself. Stress fluctuates from person to person. One person's stress may be another person's bliss. Stress can also be a byproduct of guilt for what we perceive are our shortcomings. No matter the cause, the physical and emotional symptoms of stress range from mild to severe. Try to shove feelings of stress aside and eventually they resurface in the form of tension, illness, difficulty concentrating, relationship woes, and decreased ability to cope. Forgive yourself for what you perceive are your deficiencies. Allow yourself time to learn, heal, grow, to know, weep and smile. Soak in life’s tender, precious moments and revel in them. Identify what brings you happiness and contentment and make seeking such things a part of each day. Give yourself permission to enjoy life. Don't underestimate the value of fun and laughter. Here are some more ideas on how to give peace a chance.
- Seek encouragement. When your heart and mind are weary, be willing to seek support from trusted family members and friends. If everyone else seems to fail you, strive more diligently to seek and know God. Nothing will bless your life more than having a personal relationship with him. Nothing will bring more abundance and immeasurable joy, more direction and sense or worth, more depth and meaning to your relationship with yourself and others.
- Expect miracles. When they come, gather their evidences like beautiful, delicate blossoms. Often circumstances beyond our control prevent what we might have dreamed would be the perfect life, yet we can experience peace, plenty, and happiness by expressing appreciation and love for the life that is ours. Giving thanks both during and after our trials enhances our ability to perceive the constant flow of blessings all around us. A grateful heart continues to seek hope. It immerses itself in calm, holding tenaciously to joys past and future, even in the face of pain- and sorrow-filled circumstances of the present. Though situations we encounter in life can threaten to overwhelm us, none are impossible to bear if the state of our heart is in harmony with God's.
Lori Nawyn is the author of the recently released inspirational book Simple Things: Daily Thoughts, Stories, and Inspiration to Live Life More Fully. To learn more about Lori, her art, and books, please visit her website www.lorinawyn.