Even if you don’t live in the United States, you’re probably aware that a good chunk of America is currently experiencing post election blues. Especially with the omnipresent cable news networks, TV and radio ads, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter — who hasn’t been totally absorbed in the election? After months and months of having a vested interest in a particular candidate, party, measure or proposition, to wake up and realize that it’s all over (or even worse, that your candidate/measure/propostion lost!) can be a real let down.
What in the world does this have to do with motherhood? Well, let me tell you. As I logged into Facebook the morning after the election, I was struck by the vastly different responses from people whose candidate or cause lost the battle. Almost everyone had a tinge of sadness in their posts, but that’s where the similarities stopped. Beyond sadness, there were many people responding with anger and absolute despair. (That was what I expected.) But it was those who responded with optimism that really got my attention. There seemed to be a whole segment of my Facebook friends who somehow found the ability to see the silver lining and move on after what appeared to be an end-of-days scenario to others. I was impressed. Again, what does this have to do with motherhood? I’ll try to get there a little more quickly.
As mothers, we are certainly more invested in our children’s welfare and upbringing than any political race. And when we become invested in something as meaningful as motherhood with our whole body and soul, it’s natural to get a little (or a lot) down when things don’t turn out as we had hoped and expected. But if I can use my post-election Facebook observations as an example, it seems that the difference between wanting to lay down and die and wanting to get back up in the saddle is nothing more than a conscious choice to be optimistic.
I liked the feeling I got from the optimists, so I followed their lead and encouraged some of my friends to pick up and move on after their requisite day of mourning. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was really good advice for me on a micro-scale in the non-political but equally emotional arena of motherhood. I can’t tell you how many times a bad hour has turned into a bad day, or a bad day has turned into a bad week simply because I wasn’t willing to let go of the disappointment, guilt, annoyance, anger — whatever negative emotion it was that set me off in the first place. And just as wallowing in negativity after an important political election leads to no good, we shouldn’t let the inevitable setbacks, disappointments and even “losses” of motherhood bring us down in the depths of indefinite despair either. It’s not good for our children, and it’s certainly not good for us or our “cause” to be happy and deliberate mothers.
But what if optimism and bouncing back don’t come naturally to you? What if you are, by nature, more of an Eeyore than a Tigger? (Relax. That finger is pointed at me.) Well, you might need to be a little more pro-active in your efforts to get back up in the saddle. Here are four suggestions to get you there:
- Get out. Sometimes the last thing we want to do when we’re feeling negative is to get out and be around other people. We’d rather stay home and be in our heads, which usually leads to over-analyzing and unhealthy introspection. Even if all you do is go for a short walk with a friend or take a quick trip to the grocery store, getting out and being around other people can help you to realize you aren’t alone, you aren’t crazy and the world really isn’t coming to an end.
- Get active. You’ve heard it before, and you’re about to hear it again: Exercise (especially cardiovascular exercise) releases “happy” chemicals called endorphins that improve the mood naturally while also helping you de-stress. There’s just no substitute. (Tip: Getting out and getting active are easily combined. It’s a twofer!) Even if you don’t exercise, the simple act of getting up and getting to work on something (even if it’s just de-junking the hall closet) will give you a nice shot of optimism and help your mind get off the negative hamster wheel.
- Get grateful. I know playing the Pollyanna game isn’t very appealing when in the midst of a really negative situation, but you know what? It works. That’s why having a gratitude journal or making a simple list of all the good things in your life has been shown to improve mood and help people make the shift from dwelling on the negative to focusing on the positive. Try it. You’ll like it.
- Get over it. Yelled at your children when you were actually frustrated with yourself? Figured out you’re not going to have enough money to take that family vacation after all? Wasted your baby’s precious nap time sitting in front of Facebook? (Again?) There are a million and one things that can set us back on a daily basis and make us feel like we want to “lay down and die” as I so dramatically put it above. As my husband likes to say (forgive me), “Life is a crap sandwich, and every day you have to take a bite.” Take your bite, and then be that person who decides to move on and not look back.
So whether your candidate/cause lost big in this election cycle, or your kids just ran across the newly mopped floor with muddy shoes on, it’s not the end of the world! Give yourself a do-over by pushing the re-start button. Today is not forever. That “thing” that happened does not define you or your entire life. By choosing optimism over negativity you are not just giving yourself permission to be happy, but you are getting back to the life you were meant to live.
QUESTION: How do you bounce back after a bad hour or a bad day?
CHALLENGE: When you find yourself wallowing in negativity after a set back, get out, get active, get grateful, and then get over it!