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Survival of the Realist

IMG_0187The holidays are a time of happiness, joy, and family. And while I agree, I think we do ourselves a disservice by forgetting that they can also be a time of sadness, stress, and anxiety. But why limit it to holidays? Life is hard. Parenting is hard. Being a human is hard. And I find that some of us feel more pressure to hide those feelings during the holidays.

So, here’s a blog telling you that you don’t have to.

I’m no expert on stress, anxiety, and sadness, outside of the fact that I’ve dealt with my fair share. If you know me well, you might even accuse me of seeking out stress and anxiety, though I’ll cut myself a break when it comes to sadness outside of sad movies.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been dealing with my own stress, and in many cases, maybe not so well. I’ll be honest when I say to you that I am not the master of stress management. And I’ll follow it up with saying one of my dad’s favorite quotes, “We know how to manage our stress 51% of the time.”

Even the best of us fail 49% of the time.

So, here’s a blog telling you that that is okay.

I’ve got a few tips up my sleeve for managing stress, anxiety. And this is coming from one normal, anxiety driven, fearful mom, who constantly worries about everything she does.

It’s not coming from a place of expertise, but experience.

It’s not coming from a place of “let’s solve your problems”, but instead “let’s share them.”

And it’s not coming from a place that says ‘it’ll all be okay”, but instead “the next step is the most important.”

1) Stress vs. Pressure. I’ve learned recently that there’s a difference between pressure and stress. The difference, in most cases, is reality.

Think of it this way: pressure is when you’re at the free throw line, and the game is on the line. You’ve got sweat dripping down your face, you’ve run miles around the court, but you’ve got this. You’ve got this because you’re a fucking basketball player, and you’ve trained for this. And yea, sometimes you miss, but more often than not, you don’t.

Moving on to stress, well, that’s a different story. Imagine that you’re on an island, with a group of people who have washed up on shore from a traumatic airplane crash. They’ve surrounded you, and for some reason have identified you as the person. You are the person that is going to solve the problems, and they are all looking to you to fix it.

And you believe them.

Ha, you believe them because you care. Because you’re compassionate. Because, normally, on any other normal pressure driven day, you’re capable. You believe them because you’re driven to make the world a different place. Because you want to help. But the limitation is that you’re not Macgyver, and this isn’t a tv show. This is reality.

The advice I give to you, here, is to acknowledge the difference between pressure and stress. Pressure is good, pressure drives us, pressure makes us better people in the right circumstances. But stress pushes us to solve all the problems.

So, here’s a blog telling you that you don’t have to solve everything, today.

2) Activating Survival Mode. Have you ever had a day where everything falls apart? Your kids have ganged up on you, whether through fevers, potty training mishaps, waking up a million times at night, and/or pitting you and your spouse against each other. Whatever it is, the day is winning, and you are not.

There is a mode in the game called life that you can activate, and it is called it “Survival Mode.” Survival Mode is something you can activate when life has got you down when your kids are having none of it. Survival Mode is feeding your kids a cupcake at 8 am because, life. Survival Mode is when the dishes aren’t done, the laundry has been crowned Mt. Laundry, the kids won’t get baths, the Christmas Cards won’t get sent out, your hair won’t get brushed, there’s McDonald’s on the table from seven days ago, the kid most definitely is not getting potty trained, and you end up in tears on the carpet. And Survival Mode is being okay with that. It’s being okay with your faults, and what’s just not gonna happen today.

But the most important aspect of Survival Mode is that it’s temporary. It’s “dear-goodness-woman-give-yourself-a-break” Mode. It’s “you-are-not-a-failure-because-your-house-isn’t-clean” Mode. It’s “Acknowledge-you-are-human” Mode.

So, here’s a blog telling you that activating Survival Mode isn’t just okay, but necessary. Say it out loud, or even just in your head, to let yourself know that this day is not normal. Acknowledging that you’re in Survival Mode can give your overtired brain the permission it needs to give yourself some grace.

3) Acknowledge that what you are feeling is okay. And normal. If you’ve read my blogs before, you’ll notice a theme of “normalization and validation.” It’s a very fancy way of saying that what you are going through, what you are feeling, is okay. And it’s not just okay, but normal. I’ll take it a step further this time – it’s not just okay and normal, you also don’t have to stop feeling it.

A lot of the influences in our lives drive us to cope and move on. But I’m going to call bullshit, because of something I said earlier (with less profanity): life is fucking hard.

I read something the other day from a therapist online. This therapist said that we were not made to process the level of negativity that we are exposed to. Our minds were not built to process the world’s problems. And yet, here we are, exposing ourselves over, and over, and over, to the problems of the world.

So this one is tough to say, but…I think we have misaligned our expectations for life. We strive for 100% happiness, positivity, and joy. And, that, my dear struggling friend, is not realistic.

I’ll never forget when I was crying in front of my niece. And I apologized to my sister for crying. And my sister told me not to apologize. That me crying, me being honest with myself and those around me, that I was teaching her daughter an important lesson about letting myself be sad, and that life wasn’t all butterflies and unicorns.

I know this may seem like a very negative, unAmerican thing to say, this concept of “settling in aspects of sadness.”

But it means we can cry, and not force ourselves to say, “I need to stop.” It means we can just cry.

It means we can be sad, and not force a smile on our face.

It means we can accept that life isn’t fair, and it won’t ever be fair, but that we can still find happiness in it regardless.

And I’m hoping you can find some peace in that. Peace in the fact that it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to activate Survival Mode, and that it’s okay to not solve the world’s problems, today.

So, I wrote a blog about it.


About Lindsey Sanford

Lindsey Sanford
I’m an ultimate Frisbee loving, marketing exec who loves Reno a little too much. I knit, I read, I write, and I love long walks on the beach. I’m trying out this new “standing-desk” thing – and finding that it’s not quite so bad. I’m a recent mom of two, my little one was born on September 21st, and I still can’t sleep. Above all else, I believe in being honest with our struggles, to paint a more accurate picture of what motherhood means – leading to a supportive community of fellow swimmers.

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