What to do When You Don’t Know What to do

You say you’re stressed, distressed, and don’t know what to do next?  Are you filled with anxiety, grief, doubt, depression and confusion?  For your own mental health, this is the time to get out an old-fashioned pen or pencil, a pad of paper, and write, long hand, as much as you can.  Long, stream of consciousness, totally uncensored writing, raw with every misspelling, grammatical mistake, and rule ignored.

Most writers are familiar with this process, because that is how we make sense of the world.  We just write.

Don’t even read what you wrote for a while.  Just write, day after day, for days, weeks, even months.  At some point you will want to go back and read what you wrote, but not until you have enough written that you will be able to see the full arc of your thoughts and feelings.

Don’t let anyone else read your journal either, or you will find yourself writing to your audience, which means you will edit yourself.  You can always share what you wrote at some later date.

When should you write?  First thing in the morning, while you are still groggy with sleep is a good time to write, as you are then unlikely to edit yourself.  Write anything.  Write how stupid it is to write when you have nothing to say.  Write about your cat getting in your way of writing, because she wants to  be in your lap.  Write about your frustrations, fears, hopes and dreams.

Some people recommend writing with your less dominant hand, resulting in a childish scrawl, and it is said, childish feelings and memories.  Write any time you are filled with strong emotion that overcomes your inclination to hold back.

As I go along, I will put a mark next to information that I consider really important to key on later.  Right now, I am looking for problems and their solutions.  Why not just make a list?  I would if I knew what problems I had.

Things reveal themselves in a very subtle way in a journal.  You might not even know how really annoyed you are with all the clutter the family leaves around your work-space, until you see you have mentioned it here and there.  This is something fixable.  That thing waking you up every night at 3 a.m. might not be under your control to fix, but maybe you can find a way to help the situation.

You will learn how you really feel about things.  Don’t jump to the conclusion that you already know.  People are notorious for discounting or minimizing their feelings.  How can you address an issue without really admitting the depth of feeling you have.

Even if you never read over what you have written, your writing will have helped to clarify your feelings and thinking.  This is why mental health professionals recommend writing in a journal.  But rather than toss it out, give it a read.  You are bound to be surprised by something you wrote.



One foot in front of another.
Look at me!  Way up in the air.
Delicate as a dandelion seed.

Each step of a dance on a wire.
Look! I’m fine.  Swinging in the breeze.
Beautiful as a ballerina.

Life swirls around with a bump.
Look ahead!  Aiming for the goal.
Pretending, as if knowing success.

Trouble lands, shaking the footing.
Looking down, the abyss below.
Steadying, breath cleansing from tension.

One step after another.
Look at me.  Don’t see me shaking.
Confident, moving forward until,

I fall, or not.


For Those Days You’re Draggin

WARNING –  This is not a post about thinking yourself to health and wellness.  Why?  Because I have a lot of trouble with the entire concept of “being as happy as I decide to be,” of “telling the universe what I desire” and attracting it to myself.

I have coped with mood disorders, and meditation did not cure me, nor posting messages on my mirror and refrigerator to encourage positive thinking.  Telling people how much I wanted to be close to family, did not make the job opportunities appear to keep us close to home.  Planning, preparing, and doing the right things did not prevent layoffs, unwanted relocation, illness, and conflict from happening.

No, It was the support of the medical community and wise counselors that pulled me from the clutches of depression.  For months, not days, my miserable slog through life never seemed to end,  as much as I wanted an ending.

Thankfully, I did learn how to reach for happiness.  It wasn’t even a matter of deciding what I want and going for it.  It was so much simpler.  I had to quit trying to figure out what went wrong, and just accept things as they are, and just deal with it, or avoid it, which is often more appropriate with things I can’t change.  Even if I could figure out why things happened as they have, it doesn’t change the current situation.  I just stopped working the puzzles of why and how.  I needed to learn what makes me happy.

Productivity makes me happy. 

So how do I stop working on these puzzles?  First, I write it down, leaving my concerns on the page.  Then, I keep myself busy.  I have found that being productive, in any way, is preferable to ruminating on problems with no solution in sight.  So I clean, cook, organize, walk the dogs, sew, crochet, or write.  The activity doesn’t matter, as long as there is a result that I have done something productive.

Having friends makes me happy.

My social network has broadened, with friends from church, exercise, and work.  I can stave off the blues by having social interactions that I look forward to.  Rather than climbing down into a hole when bad things happen in the world, I can be with others who share my concerns.

Music makes me happy.

When I lost my voice for two months, due to a horrible cough, I realized how much I value music.  Listening to music, yes, but more particularly making music, as in singing.  I have not been in a choir for five years, but it wasn’t until I lost my voice, and thought I might never again sing, that I realized how important singing is to me.  Posted in our old choir room was a quotation, “We don’t sing because we are happy.  We are happy because we sing.”  I have never left a choir practice or performance without a smile on my face.

Moving my body makes me happy.

My exercise class makes me smile.  My water aerobics class got me moving even with bad knees.  Walking and hiking lets me get close up with the natural world around me.  Bicycle riding gives me a rush of speed and brings back the freedom and joy of childhood.  Dancing (and singing) in the shower makes me feel uninhibited and joyful.

Collecting memories makes me happy. 

I have read that travel is the key to happiness, and I believe it.  New places and new experiences offer a break from the routine, and a sense of adventure.  Collecting brochures and planning the trails I want to walk, what I want to see, and what I want to do give me joy in the planning as well as in the doing.  The memories last a lifetime.  Even when things don’t go well, there is still a story to share.

Perhaps you have other ideas to share for how to reach for happiness.  For now, being with Hubby will make me happy.

Spinning Plates

Just when you think you have everything in life going smoothly, everything goes sideways.  Things still look normal to anyone outside, but the internal turmoil obliterates peace and focus.  You keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You do all the normal things, not as well, but you struggle to keep going forward.  Everything becomes hard.

Without focus, intention becomes mist and goals become far away dreams.  Operating in the dreamy mist things are dropped, misplaced, forgotten, broken, and daily life becomes a nightmarish prison.   You may call it the blues, being out of sorts, anxiety, or  depression.  Others may call it being negative, or wrong thinking, while you call it being realistic, and seeing things as they are.

How it starts can be mysterious.   One day you feel okay, and you are keeping all of your plates spinning.  Then an unkind word, a thoughtless gesture, a demand that requires immediate attention and external pressures cause distractions, and the plates start to wobble.   For awhile it looks like you will get all your plates spinning again, but there is always another plate to get started, and always another plate starts to wobble.  Until finally, you either stop the plates one by one, or the plates come crashing down.

Fortunately, all things come to an end, and rest goes a long way to setting things right again.  Yes it is cliché, because it is so true, but what you need to do is relax, let go, stop trying to control everything, and give it time.   You may need a little separation from those emotional issues, so take some time, let go and regroup.  Some things must run their course, and all your effort to force an earlier resolution will only add to your troubles.  Some plates need to be allowed to drop.  Some things are beyond your control, no matter how much effort you expend.

Once you are rested life won’t be such a nightmare.  You will be able to see things in a more realistic and focused  way.  Your anxiety and frustration won’t dominate every situation.  You will stop reacting to every wobble as if it is a terrible disaster.  You will have perspective, and renewed energy.

And I will be able to read this very good advice over and over again the next time I feel things are spinning out of control.


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