Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: How to deal with life’s lemons
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
According to Martha Stewart:
Obtain 3 cups of fresh lemon juice (from approximately 20 lemons)
Add 2 cups superfine sugar
Stir until dissolved
Add 4 cups of water; add ice; pour
Garnish with a lemon slice
What is the result? A nice, cool glass of lemonade!
Easy enough recipe for anyone to handle … right? But what if LIFE gives you lemons? Maybe you have experienced your share of lemons and perhaps even got pelted by a few of them: job loss, struggling marriage, financial woes, wayward child, sick elderly parent, scary diagnosis, house foreclosure … the list could go on and on.
People all around us are carrying enormous burdens in their lives, and it’s difficult to see any positives amid all their difficulties. I’ve heard someone say, “I just feel like I’m paddling in place … but if I stop, I’ll drown.”
When burdens and difficulties seem to pile up and even seem to pile on, how do you maintain an outlook that is positive and hopeful? We really do have a choice!
When life feels out of control, each of us must choose the one variable where there is absolute control … ME! The reality is that each of us has a “toolbox” full of tools to use when life feels unmanageable, unfair, overwhelming or terrifying.
Now, our tools may be rusty from lack of use, shiny and new from no use, or “out of warranty” because of scant attention … BUT, we do have tools to use to tackle life’s lemons. Let’s peek at a few …
Shift your thinking!
Try to see the positive in the problem. Sure, the hardship is burdensome, but committing to seeing the positive will lighten any load.
I once heard Tony Evans, Christian pastor, speaker and author, talk about how he was bemoaning the “unfairness of having to preach on Christmas Eve,” then deal with traffic as he was trying to get home to his children, whom he knew were “champing at the bit” to unwrap gifts.
Then the shift in thinking occurred. Rev. Evans said that rather than be mad at his misfortune of being stuck in traffic on a freeway in Dallas, he began to pray with a thankful heart. He realized he had healthy children who were eager to see their dad, sitting around a tree with multiple gifts under it, in a home that was full of nice furniture, and near a mom/wife who no doubt was making a delicious dinner that they were getting ready to eat.
“How dare I be mad? Instead, I should be thankful,” he said.
Each of us can learn from this. Changing thinking is possible for all of us in times that overwhelm.
Don your track shoes or your dancing shoes!
Sometimes we just need to take a timeout from life’s hardships. That doesn’t mean you are sticking your head in the sand; rather, it means you are departing from the misery long enough to get outside and walk/jog/run … or getting your life partner and choosing to dance the night away. Of course, these won’t solve the issues, but the timely departure may allow you to see the problems differently.
Get outside and get close to nature!
It’s amazing how problems begin to feel more manageable when we get some fresh air, see the beauty of the sunrise or sunset, bask in God’s creative beauty, and notice all that is profound about the world He created. Or, be more intentional … put your hands in the dirt and plant a flower garden, cultivate a vegetable garden or mow the lawn. (Is there hardly anything that smells better than a freshly cut lawn?) Becoming more intimate with nature just seems to take the wind out the sails of the mountain of problems that exist in our world.
Big problems can begin to swallow you up. Rather, sit down a make a list of all that you are grateful for! This will begin to bring the blessings into focus and will tend to push the problems into the background. And … it’s fun to let that list grow and grow. Add to it every day as you become aware of new things!
It sure beats the alternative – crying! Find something that propels you into big, whopping, full-mouth laughter. Trust me, you WILL feel better.
Yes, life can bring on the lemons… but that’s OK because we have the RECIPE for lemonade!