This week’s tip: Stop dwelling on the wind and the waves. Start focusing on your wings.
Life got a little turbulent for me over the past couple of days. I came down with a little bug that had me flat on my back for most of yesterday. I felt exhausted. All I wanted to do was work on some writing or do something fun with Eric, but all I could manage to do was sleep, nap, and lie there.
I had considered staying home from work today, but I had a few meetings in the morning, so I figured I’d go in for my meetings, grab my computer, and then work from home in the afternoon. This morning I felt a little bit better, so heading to work didn’t actually seem so bad.
Life can be groundless, though. Little did I know that an unpredictable, urgent, last-minute change to an important book cover was going to hit my desk this morning. The next thing I knew, it was 5pm, and I’d been so wrapped up in all of my tasks that I’d forgotten to even take a mid-day walk, let alone leave the office to work from home.
I forced myself to leave the office at 5:20pm. That’s when the waves rolled in. Suddenly, I felt exhausted, frustrated, and a little bit sad. My thoughts began to spiral, anxiety resurfacing from months ago. How am I going to keep up with my work and keep taking good care of myself? I thought. Why do I feel so cheerless? Life is good, I am happy… right?
Meanwhile, I was texting Eric. “Do you still want to hang out tonight? We could do tomorrow instead if you prefer. I’m kind of in a crummy mood so would hate to rub that off on you,” I wrote, losing motivation by the second.
“Aw, I’m sorry to hear that. Anything we could do that would cheer you up? Whatever will best restore your health and mana,” he wrote back.
I giggled to myself. That last part — the reference to health and mana — is a little joke we have. It’s a video-gaming reference (Eric loves to play Dota 2). In many games, your character can regenerate their energy via health and mana (magical power). I once jokingly told Eric that spending time with him rejuvenates my health while me-time rejuvenates my mana. It’s a good balance. 😉
The text from Eric helped to pause my spiral of negative thoughts. Rather than dwelling on my anxiety and exhaustion and sadness, I refocused: What would cheer me up right now?
I noticed how nice the fresh air was feeling as I walked home from the T stop. I wish I’d taken a walk at lunch today, I thought. I continued thinking about what would make me feel better. I really want to spend time with Eric, but I also want to write and organize a bit tonight.
Bingo. “I’d love to take a walk along the Charles river with you,” I wrote. “And then maybe have a quiet night of reading and working together. What do you think?” I wrote.
Three hours later, pleasantly exhausted from a long walk and a delicious dinner date, I’m lying in my bed writing while Eric sits next to me playing Dota 2 online with his friends. My health and mana have almost fully regenerated. 🙂
I know I am incredibly lucky to have such a caring boyfriend who knows just the right thing to say to get me to reverse my negative thinking. But the technique of questioning and stopping maladaptive thoughts in its tracks is also a well-known type of psychotherapy. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and it’s a great skill that anyone can learn with practice. Although it doesn’t come naturally to me yet, occasionally I will recognize myself having negative thoughts, and sometimes I’ll remember to challenge them and redirect my thinking.
It’s easy to dwell on the wind and the waves, and it can be hard to escape it when you’re in the thick of the turbulence. But, all it takes is a tiny bit of initial effort and then you can flip your downward decline to an upward ascent.
Your wings will always be there. You just have to remember to use them! The more you do, the stronger they will get.