It’s past mid-February and I haven’t posted for over a week. I have no real inspiration, nothing extraordinary to tell, and no constructive or at least not expressible thoughts.
I haven’t felt this down in years, and I’m thinking it’s probably the weather. To combat my inclination to sit around and do nothing, or rather my desire to sit around and do nothing (as a homeschooling mother of three boys whereof one is a very active toddler I hardly ever sit down – period), I did some research on my feeling down symptoms earlier this week, focusing on what I can do to feel better. I am a very practical person and as much as I would like to dive into studies discussing the reasons and elements of depression, I simply don’t have time to sit around and ponder (at least not on these types of problems for the moment). I need my energy, inspiration and zest back: projects and ideas are slipping through my fingers, articles are not being written, the house is deteriorating, and the children’s schooling is uninspiring.
Before I give you a list of advice the literature seems to agree on are helpful in situations like these, let me just say this: there are a lot of badly written articles and lists on the internet, and it seems that most websites get their information from each other [plagiarize]. There is also a lot of cheesy self-help literature published.
Below list is based on a few studies I found interesting, and some of the advice these eager self-help ‘experts’ offer: I figured that whatever I could retain in my downward state would be worth writing down.
I have started to follow some of the below advice, and although I haven’t noticed any significant difference in my mood yet, my life has certainly got a little more interesting.
1. Be curious and engage in activities outside of your comfort zone. Do things that require new skills.
As a first tiny step in this direction I started at mealtime to use recipes I would usually dismiss, and cooking new exotic or unconventional dinners. It doesn’t really take that much more time – I just need to be a little more organized when it comes to shopping.
Courtney and the boys have got engaged in a couple of projects that basically involve growing bacteria. They have large containers fermenting in the laundry room, and we have already got to taste the outcomes: soda, cider, and home-made yogurt.
2. Be thankful. Write down things you are grateful for and think of the good things in your life.
Incidentally, I just read a funny and inspirational blog post on this topic the other day. For every bad thing that happens throughout my day I try to think of a few things related that I am thankful for. It does make make me appreciate my family and the experiences we have had, along with the simply things in life, like a blue sky, comfortable sneakers, or finally finding a fabric softener I love the scent of (Aroma therapy, limited edition something).
3. Change your thought cycle by writing down the negative thoughts you often have and take them apart by analyzing the main problems and finding solutions. Write down the things that make you unhappy and plan on improving them. Then don’t ruminate or dwell, but do something constructive about your situation.
This is probably the most difficult advice to follow. Even with the problems and solutions on paper, the long-term outcome seems so far away for the moment, and the effort needed so big, that without inspiration or strength, it’s too daunting.
4. Socialize and interact with people; friends and strangers. Do a good thing and show acts of kindness and generosity.
We do this every day, and although it helps to get out of the house, it gives but a temporary boost. Really; I need to be able be alone and feel happy, and hanging out with friends or talking to people around Beirut does not exactly help this. Although it is fun.
5. Get healthy – exercise and especially outdoor activities will make you feel better, and a balanced and healthy diet along with a lot of water will make you feel more energized, stronger, and more capable.
Now this I can do: running has always inspired me, and despite my overweight, I can still enjoy an hour on the treadmill or around the track. It’s fun and makes me feel strong indeed.
6. Set a happy scene: plants in the house, flowers, pleasant music and a good smelling house will make you feel good and relaxed at home.
We had a small gift exchange for Valentine’s Day, and the boys gave me some scented candles. The only problem is that Abraham blows them out as soon as they are lit. “Happy Deeewwie a meee!” he sings - reminiscing his recent birthday no doubt - blows out the candles, and gives himself a round of applauses.
I’ve also tried to pick up some plants around town, and Courtney has downloaded some new music for us to play throughout the day. I have to agree that it does make doing stuff around the house more pleasant.
7. Schedule your time so that you maintain a balance between ordinary and fun, inspirational activities. Make time to see friends and other mothers, and definitely make time for yourself. Also, make sure you schedule happy time with your children: do something fun!
Apart from singing in a choir I have also joined a book-club, and I just finished our first book, The Bastard of Istanbul, yesterday. Not only will this be a boost in my social life, but I will also end up reading a lot of books I would not usually pick out – killing two birds [or advice – see advice number one!] with one stone!
I think I got the happy-time with your children advice from a site aimed specifically at homeschooling parents, and I find it a very good idea. While feeling uninspired, it’s easy to just do the bare minimum as far as school goes. It really doesn't have to be like that at all though. With a minimal budget we are limited to doing things that are free and within walking distance, however I’ve made a list of things we will do over the next couple of weeks, and the boys are always so happy about new adventures that I’m sure we’ll end up with plenty of exciting new experiences.
Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I will find my zest again. Although I don’t feel any great improvement yet, I must say that researching, making lists and trying new activities has kept me and everyone else busy, and our household seems a little more creative than usual.