Coping With the Snow

snow

Where we live in New Jersey, it has been snowing. It is one of the snowiest years in a long time and everyone has been growing weary of the seemingly never-ending weather events. In fact, it is so pervasive, and affects so many lives, it is the main thing everyone is talking about. Why is this minor inconvenience a primary focus of attention?

The Two Reasons Why the Storms Create Angst

We retire after the 11 o’clock news not really knowing what the morning will bring. We have to live with the predictions alone, as the future is always uncertain.

Of course, the future is always uncertain and perhaps the storms that have relentlessly blanketed the Northeast is a reminder of that. Life is unpredictable!

Another reason why we blow the effects of the weather out of proportion is because it forces us to make decisions. What will you wear? How will you get to work safely? Should you even go to work or cancel an event?

Our Stress Comes from the Stories We Tell

We like to stay in our comfort zones, but when we are forced to make decisions, and live with the “not knowing,” we invent a new story. The new story is that the winter is stressful and if the snow would just end, we could all go about our routines without worry. But again, life never ceases to change.

The Buddhist saying “winter always turns to spring” is comforting. It metaphorically points out that the winter we dislike will end, and that there is something we can count on. Indeed, if there is anything we can count on, it’s change.

Allow and Appreciate the Winter

So let the winter come and go. Appreciate the beauty of the snow and ice, despite all the trouble it brings. Rest in the assurance that weather is only a small part of your life. And don’t forget to meditate. Going within is the best way to cope with all the inconveniences of daily life.

Not Enough Time? Maybe You Just Think You Are Too Busy!

Often, stress arises when we feel we do not have enough time to do everything we’d like. The problem is not that things do not get done. The problem is attached to the things we tell ourselves.   Such thoughts are often not very pleasant. These negative thoughts are what creates the stress, not the unfinished task.

The out of control feeling  we have when we walk through the house and realize that not everything is perfectly in place, or the disappointment we experience when we look at our lists of things undone, is tied to perception. We attach meaning to things that are neutral. So someone else might look at the stain on the rug and think “so what,” but every time you walk by, you remember that your neighbor’s kid dropped the grape popsicle and you should have bought the stain resistant carpeting and you wonder about the warranty and whether using shampoo will void it.

That’s one example of a re-run, a thought we have many times per day. Most of our thoughts are re-runs. How often do you have these types of negative thoughts? First, realize that your thinking is creating the stress and chill. Relax because now is all you have, but you needn’t give up on getting things accomplished. Oh no. Not at all! If you are procrastinating and that is causing anxiety, begin by analyzing the tasks.

There may be reasons that lurk behind the procrastination, or maybe it is mere overestimation. You may think about a project and believe that it will take too long to accomplish now, so you wait for a time when you have a gap in your schedule. Of course, such a time never arrives, so you continue to put it off.  What is the answer? You must make time to do it. Realize that we tend to overestimate how long a given task will take.

Get started. Plan to go at it for an hour and revisit the task during another scheduled time next week. If the task includes multiple components, make a list of possible steps. For example, Step 1. Call the carpet manufacturer and find out about the warranty. Step 2.  Research ways to get grape popsicle out of the rug  and so on. The next time you walk by the spot, you will know that you are taking care of business and the mind clutter is gone. Once you get started, you gain momentum and may go beyond the planned hour, or you may realize that the task was not as time-consuming as you thought. And when you accomplish one thing, it is easier to finish other things. What’s next on the list? Yes, that is what you will be thinking as opposed to feeling overwhelmed.

We like Nike’s advice: just do it. When you just start your tasks rather than either over thinking or ignoring them you get the satisfaction of achievement without the mind clutter and without the angst.

Stay Flexible During Difficult Times

There is an expression that human beings plan, and God laughs. The expression highlights the fact that we don’t know what will be tomorrow. Things happen. While it may be true that we will be surprised by something in the future, we still make commitments, we attempt to reach goals, and we do our best to stay grounded while chaos ensues.

How can we better manage surprises? Flexibility is key to managing time, adhering to schedules, getting along in relationships, and coping with loss.

Some people just go about their routines, despite disruptive events. Sometimes working with blinders on like that can be good, but sometimes, we need to step back, assess the situation, and take another course of action.

When something thwarts your plans, ask how you can alter your activities so that the outcome is still good or even better. There is another saying: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

These common expressions are aligned with the basic idea of flexibility. Planning may be good, but never expect everything to go exactly as you hoped. Be ready for anything. And when things become chaotic, think of ways that you can–to use a cliché–go with the flow. Flexibility in all areas of your life is key to coping with stress. Life is, as they say, is what you make it!