Sometimes there are things in our life we would like to change, but cannot.
I guess then we have a choice: bang our head against a wall that will not move, or change how we respond to the wall.
I tried to keep this in mind recently when my son was ill for the fourth time this winter.
Despite medicine, multivitamins, good sleep and a healthy diet he has a weakened immune system and prone to respiratory infections.
I have railed, I have cried for him (and me); seeing him struggle and the consequences of numerous illnesses.
But it is our family’s reality and I don’t want it to emotionally wear us down anymore.
Giving myself more space and allowance to change my work so that I can care for him on the days he’s ill, we now try to make it a special day at home.
We enjoy snuggling on the sofa watching his favourite movie.
I get to catch up on some phone calls or housework rather than running around trying to complete all the other activities on my to do list, accepting that they will have to be done another day.
Realistically acknowledging what is possible with the time and resources we have.
All simple strategies that have meant I look at the situation in a slightly different light rather than getting frustrated, and upset, at something that is beyond our control.
Putting things into perspective
Having children can make us reassess what is important in life. This may be even more so when we have a disabled child.
I am much more aware of difference now, and the importance of inclusivity and justice.
It forces us to reconnect with our core values and meaning in life.
At times this may be at odds with society’s expectations; self-image, a wonderful career, managing everything with aplomb. We realise what is really important to us; there is no point in sweating the small stuff.
Staying in touch with our values is an ongoing process but we get a sense when we’re not travelling the right path for us.
In the field of positive psychology there is an exercise where people find three good things that happened during their day.
This can help us to reconnect with the positives particularly at a time when the negatives seem overwhelming.
Change and acceptance
For some people, trying to change the way they approach things helps (i.e. looking at a difficult situation as a challenge rather than a threat), whereas others find this hard to do consistently.
An alternative is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy which involves developing greater awareness of what we are feeling, particularly at times of pain and distress.
Rather than trying to escape from the difficult feelings, it is about opening up and allowing them to ‘flow through’.
This doesn’t mean giving up or being defeated.
It comprises a stepping back - ‘I notice that I’m having the thought that X’ - and observing negative thoughts as just thoughts rather than facts.
There are workbooks at http://thehappinesstrap.com/free-resources/ which can be helpful in realising what is important in our lives.
It is a work in progress as everyday life can be draining and the modern world can drag us down paths we don’t want to be on and pressures we don’t want to experience.
But for every new day I take a deep breath, try to see things in a new light, appreciate the little things, and feel a little bit more control enter back into my life.