A Guest Post By SpouseLink.org Editor Cathleen Karlsson
Going with the Flow through Life Changes
Life is all about change — including learning how to cope with it in a healthy way — from to entering a life in the military to making your way through college, to becoming a new parent welcoming a baby son or daughter into your world, to packing up your busy family’s years’ worth of belongings and moving to a new PCS location, to dealing with the loneliness and stress of separation from the ones you love during a deployment. No matter what events life brings your way — particularly the ones you can’t plan ahead for — it’s important to stay focused on good, healthy habits to help you ensure that the changes you and your family go through will have positive outcomes.
So… how do you incorporate healthy activities into your busy days when each one brings a new challenge or presents you with a new hurdle to cross? It all starts with knowing that you deserve to feel good. If you don’t accept that from the beginning, you could find yourself in a bad place, considering the changes you’re going through to be daunting, stressful and possibly unfair. But when you fully embrace the idea of change bringing only good things your way, it will help you organize your thoughts around the activities that you must get done, give you the stamina to sort through the activities you would like to get done, and inspire you to think about fun activities that will help keep you motivated to accomplish everything you need to do.
Here are 5 ways to cope with life changes, no matter what comes your way:
1) Sleep well.
This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself on any given day… and it’s even more crucial when you are facing stressful situations. For example, romantic separations, family strife and even a different work schedule can wreak havoc on your emotions and lead to emotional and physical exhaustion. The same goes for becoming a parent and suddenly being at the beck and call of new baby.
We’ve all been there, and it’s common sense to understand that getting proper sleep is the key to maintaining a well-balanced mood, sense of humor and the ability to think clearly. If you notice yourself snapping at others who have good intentions or dozing off in strange locations, such as in front of your computer… take it as a sign that you need more sleep… and then make arrangements to get the rest your mind and body needs. Taking time for yourself is critical to being your best — particularly for a new little one in your family.
2) Eat right.
Don’t think about meals in terms of quantity, but quality. Just like a lack of good sleep, a lack of a good diet can alter your mood, your emotions, your physical ability to deal with everyday situations and the way you interact with others. If you can’t fit a regular meal schedule of breakfast, lunch and dinner into your day, then there’s something wrong with your day. You don’t have to sit at a table to eat well, you just have to make good choices for foods that actually satisfy your body’s needs, not just your taste buds’ whims.
For example, if you can’t live without chocolate on a daily basis, that’s okay. Just choose a healthy breakfast treat that has a sprinkling of chocolate chips in it so you can have the best of both worlds.
If you’re craving a full plate of pasta for lunch, downsize the portion to half a plate, and then get on with your activities. Eating a half-portion may make you realize how good you can actually feel after a meal (less lazy, more motivated), by not eating too much of it. And for dinner… don’t feel you have to eat a huge meal just because it’s that time of day. If all you want is a salad, listen to your body’s cravings, but don’t give in to all the heavy sauces and carbs that make you feel stuffed, heavy or down on yourself.
3) Think smart.
Is what you’re going through really the end of the world? Do the people around you really have misguided intentions. Are you really the only person who has ever gone through what you’re going through? Of course not. One of the best ways to keep your emotions, mind and body on the right track is to keep your thoughts positive, your goals simple and relevant, and your perspective accurate. That means looking at things from a different angle, sometimes flipping situations on their side to see them in a different way.
For example, let’s say you have to make a PCS move and you’re wondering how you’ll be able to pack all of your home’s items, while keeping an eye on young children and figuring out all the ins and outs of where you’re going so you can acclimate as quickly as possible when you get there. The trick is to slow down and think through one thing at a time. Make arrangements to face those hurdles by calling a moving crew, hiring a babysitter for the day, and doing a little research on your new duty station. In one day you can get all three things accomplished — and behind you — to free up your hours tomorrow for whatever comes next.
4) Get organized.
Sometimes, when your thoughts are scattered, it’s because your surroundings are scattered, too. It can be daunting, for instance, to look at a pile of clothes and think of washing and folding it and putting it all away as just one more thing you have to do. Or to view a pile of bills as yet something else you have to find time to deal with. Or volunteer activities, school projects, work assignments and parties and any other regular-life event as time-consuming and overwhelming.
Obviously, physical objects in your way and endless items on your to-do list are real. They must be faced, whatever they are. Step one is to picture them done already. Why? Because if you can see them done, you know it’s something you can accomplish. So take each activity one by one… easiest to hardest… hardest to easiest… most fun to most daunting… or vice versa. Just don’t let them pile up for too long. Check them off your list and move on without the weight of them on your shoulders.
5) Treat yourself.
When others are reliant on you to get things done, the first person you may forget about is yourself. So, think about it… if you’re not sleeping well or eating right, you can’t think clearly… and you can forget staying organized. What can you do about it? Don’t let your good habits slide or get shifted to the back burner.
If you exercise, keep exercising. If you enjoy crafting, fit a craft project into your day. If you love to bake, bake something fresh and delicious. Feeling achy? Get a massage. Feeling haggard? Get a facial. Feeling lonely? Meet a friend for coffee or lunch. Need a break from the kids? Plan a play date for them, drop them at daycare, ask a relative or friend or responsible teenager to look after them so you can take a walk, go see a movie or just get out of the house and shop. Whatever it is you need to do to feel like yourself and be happy, do it. A pleasant disposition goes a long way in the way you look upon obstacles and face them.
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About the Author
Cathleen Karlsson is the daughter of a retired Navy Captain. Growing up, she lived with her family in five Midwestern and East Coast states before earning her B.A. in fiction at the University of Pittsburgh. She is an experienced, award-winning marketing writer who has worked in several advertising and online media roles, including her current role as the SpouseLink.org Editor.
In her “spare time,” Cathleen volunteers with a homeless animal shelter and serves as the vice president of the board for a ballet company. She also enjoys dancing, sewing and crafting, and spending time with her young daughter.