Managing Life's Irritations in 2 Simple Steps
In February, the cold bleak winter can feel never-ending, if you add to that friends or family members that irritate you this time of year can become very bleak indeed. If you have ever said,
Why do they never ever…..
Why do they always….
Have you ever stopped to count how times a day you think these types of thoughts to yourself? (Please note, if you are thinking negative thoughts about yourself on a regular basis please check out my blog on thought distortions from October 2020 here ) It can feel like ground hog day, seeing the same irritating way your partner folds the laundry, the dishes still sitting in the sink or the mess in your kid's room. If your response to those moments is always the same negative response; that negativity can build up. Picture a beaver building a dam in a river, and every stick is a negative thought. As the dam builds the chances of you responding to the individual with love and kindness gets smaller and smaller.
If these thoughts go unchallenged over time the result can be thoughts like “ I can’t take this anymore” “I am done” and we explode at others or ourselves. This can damage relationships or build false justifications to act in certain ways. Growing up my Mum would cut her hair whenever she was mad with my Dad and if that did not work she would take me shopping. So before you rack up some serious debt or snap and say something that you can not take back read on to start shifting your thoughts and energy into a much more positive one.
Changing this pattern can be done in just two really simple steps. But just like any behavior change, it will take using these steps repeatedly and over time when they do the thing that drives you nuts today; you will be able to smile and laugh at the the change you have made. You will be able to put a stop to the crazy beaver in your mind!!
Step 1 Find the Good
Understand that this person, is not you and is coming from a completely different set of experiences than you. Whether they had beautiful dreams or nightmares last night is just the beginning of how their perception of today began. So even if the is your child that shares your home, their perception of the world begins differently to yours every single day. But the benefits to you of them sharing your space, and seeing the world differently to you. So while you significant other, might not do the laundry the same way want it done; there are other ways that your life is enriched because they are in it. Things that you can be grateful for even if you do all of the laundry from now on. There is no greater way to stop the negative downward spiral of frustrating thoughts than to remember one thing that you are grateful for about this person.
Step 2 Release from Expectations
OK this sounds pretty zen and how brow stuff but would you expect a cow to crow like a rooster? Do you expect a tulip bulb to burst forth with tomatoes in the Spring? If your significant other is attempting chores around the house, they at least have the intention of supporting you even if the result is less than ideal. If your child dumps their coat and boots in a crazy pile by the door as they rush in each day, stop looking at the pile and start listening for their need to be in such a rush.
When we expect people to different than who they are, and reality presents with a very different picture this is when our feelings are hurt, we become disappointed and even angry with them. The world that we live in can be either in appreciation or disappointment. The reality is the same in both, it is entirely our expectation of the world and others, our own thoughts of what they should be is what trips us up every time. That does not mean that we throw out all expectations of personal hygiene because we are tired of fighting with our kids to brush their teeth. We can see the situation with the perspective of having an opportunity to either make it more fun or educational. Making teeth brushing fun ideas …. Or use this method to grow a bacteria sample from your kids mouth right at home. (if they are older) You may not only increase their motivation for a cleaner mouth but spark an interest in science too! When you can stop or even start to reduce the emotional energy you put into expecting them to be different from who they are you are reducing your attachment to that outcome. The second noble law in Buddhism that the root of all suffering is attachment and this exactly the principle for you to apply when life becomes frustrating.
“The root of suffering is attachment.” – Buddha
Let’s look at another example, like road rage you are on your morning commute, you are cutting it close but you should just make it there on time. You have already awoken after a series of looping bad dreams, hit the snooze button one too many times, and did not eat because you were in a rush. You are doing zipping along and someone moves into the fast lane who is going too slow, you try to move around them but find yourself boxed in and trapped. You begin to get frustrated with the situation, you start yelling at them even though you know that they can not hear you. “Jerk what are you thinking, get out of my way!! How dare you!! I oughta teach you a lesson…”
Your expectation is that slow traffic remains in the slow lane and that everyone shares your expectation of what is a reasonably safe speed to go over the speed limit at. If we simply, find the good; that you are still moving at a good rate down the highway. Then shift the expectation; to do so start by asking yourself “How can I see this situation differently?” A possible alternative is to expect that we share the road, following road rules so that we all get to where we need to be in reasonable time. By doing this your emotional energy shifts. You are no longer facing the frustration of a world that is different from your expectations of it but you are causing down the highway in a world where reality meets your expectations, cue the happy music playlist and the rest of your day is looking much brighter.
So while it might be early February, cold and facing another 6 weeks of winter, you have the opportunity today to view the annoying events or behaviors around you differently. My challenge to you is to the find the good today!
For the parents and caregivers who need to laugh at the idea of well at least my kiddo didn't do that; here is a YouTube montage of kids doing stupid things that is sure to make you laugh!
Top Finds for Surviving Another Six Weeks of Winter
I love hiking in the snow, but I am not a fan of falling on ice. If you are looking for some serious tools check out Backcountry for some serious footwear adaptations but if your budget is a little tighter these from Amazon have been good for me.
Winter is an amazing time to spend in nature; it reminds me the importance of slowing down.
These have been making me very happy both as a base layer or comfy and cozy lounging at home backcountry-matilda-baselayer-crew-womens
If staying inside is more of your style and you long for Spring weather try growing some plants that will be happy in a pot. I have some cilantro and thyme growing at the moment; but I have also planted some Nasturtium and Canterbury Bell seeds for indoor flowering around Easter. To improve my seed starting success I have had amazing success this year with a heated mat. Or if like place the seed tray on a table above a heat vent like I have done here too.
Or if want to try something different take a virtual cooking class with Zingerman's Bakehouse! Check out up coming classes here. Tour the world by baking at home French croissants, Italian breads, Danish pastries, Opera torte or something more simple like cakes and pies.
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