Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Positively Peaceful


1.the state or quality of being serene, calm, or tranquil.
2. the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep.

Ok, admit it.  Just reading those words took some of the tension out of your shoulders, right?
If anyone were to ask me "describe your perfect day", surely these are words that would pop into my head.  I long for tranquility and calm.  It took me WAY too long to figure that out, but I'm glad I finally did.
I think so many of us have forgotten what it even feels like to have a peaceful state of mind, or a quiet moment in our day.
Once you take on the responsibilities of adult-hood, add a full-time job, a spouse, and some kids to the mix, forget it!  You are lucky if you can get a few hours of sleep!
We know how important it is for our kids to get enough sleep.  We plan our day around the baby's nap schedule, or the kids' bedtime, because if they don't get enough sleep, it will be torture for us.  But why don't we do the same for ourselves?
I have always been a person who needed more sleep than the average joe.  I remember one of my aunt's saying "Yep, it's the "tired Ekern blood."  So apparently it is out of my control. :)  
When you pay attention, you do finally figure out what you need to do to keep yourself running on all cylinders.  For me, anything less than 8 hours of sleep equals a rough day ahead.  Throw in my chronic headaches, and I am a complete mess.  This is why I never go anywhere on Saturday nights.  (Or at least I try really hard not to.)  I know I have to be up at 6, and I have to be on top of my game for a good 5-6 hours, so staying up past 10pm isn't an option.  I'm sure people think I have turned into a lame old lady, but I really don't have a choice.  I know what I need to do to function, and feel good.  I have no desire to be miserable if I can avoid it.

I wasn't always so in tune with myself. In fact, I used to be one big, miserable pile of stress and anxiety.  Isn't it interesting when you look back at parts of your life, and see what a pathetic mess you where?  My life is divided up into six rather tidy disasters.  
1. Childhood.
2. College.
3. House 2-Prairie du Chien
4. House 3- Bloomington
5. House 4- Onalaska (north)
6. House 5- Onalaska (south) 
(I skipped house 1...since we only lived there for 4 months.  Not enough time for too much disaster to occur!)

Around the time of House 4, I got on my "self-help" kick.  It was also when I found a kick-ass therapist...notice there was a lot of "kicking" going on during this time. 
One of the things I was really trying to find was a way to just calm down.  If you have ever had a conversation with me, you will know that I typically talk 100 miles a minute.  There are two reasons for that.  1. I usually have way too much to say.  (This should be blatantly evident, considering the length of each blog post.) and 2. I actually worry about boring the person I am speaking to, so for some reason, my brain feels the need to urge me to speak faster, so they don't have stand and listen to me for quite so long.  Yes, I should probably go back to therapy.

So, I started looking for ways to bring more peace and calm into my life.
The first thing I needed to do was to calm myself.
We have already established that I am an adrenaline junkie, so the first step was to overcome my addiction.
Whenever I get worked up, anxious, worried, upset....whatever the emotion is, I have to consciously remove myself from it.  I used to lose it.  I would sob uncontrollably, or scream, or just be manic.  Now, I let myself cry if I need to...but usually, I just breathe.  Breathe, and think it through.  Talk myself down, and remind myself that I am getting upset over nothing.  Whatever it is that is bothering me will soon dissipate, and go away.  If it is something that needs to be dealt with, I can deal with it once I have calmed down.  But, for now, I only need to breathe.
 It really is amazing how simply changing your thinking can change your life.
Five years ago, if I had received an email from someone, criticizing me for something I had done, or chastising me for my opinion on something, I would have been devastated.  I would have let my emotions take over, and probably sent an over-emotional reply back, just making the matter worse.
Not any more.  Yes, I will feel that initial "stab in the gut"....but then I let it go.  It feels SO good to be able to just stop and think before acting.  When you allow yourself to be at peace with something that at one time would have really hurt you, you are giving yourself such a gift.  At that point, I am able to reply in a completely sensible, and appropriate way, while still getting my point across.  It's beautiful!
So, how do we find that peace, or create a place of tranquillity?  How do we surround ourselves with that feeling of serenity?
It doesn't just happen.  We have to make changes within ourselves, but there are also changes we can make to our environment.

One of my favorite books, when it comes to eliminating stress from your life is called "101 Ways to Stress-Free Living"  How to Declutter Your Mind, Body and Soul, by Suzannah Oliver.
She organizes her book into four sections: 
Your Mind
Your Body
Your Home
Your Relationships
What I love about this book is that she makes is so simple.  ( I LOVE simple!)
There are great suggestions for stress-reducers, foods for calming, energy, healing, detox, tips on organizing and space clearing, ways to feed your relationship, and so much more.
(why am I not getting paid for my book promotions?) ;)
For me, there are a couple of things that really make a difference when it comes to finding peace and calm in my life.

1. Live in the moment.
I used to be terrible at this.  I lived in the past....a lot, or would constantly think about how much better things would be in the future, but I never thought about what was going on right now. I wonder how many years of life I missed out on, by not paying attention.  No more....I enjoy the happy memories of the past, but I am working to let all of the pain of the past go. It is over and done.
2. Allow yourself some indulgences.
I take a bubble bath.  Every. Single. Morning.  This is probably making some shrink in horror at the amount of water I use each day! (Don't worry....I don't fill the tub very full.)  I started doing this because there was a leak in my shower drain, and my husband told me not to use the shower.  I found I really enjoyed soaking in the tub, and never stopped (the drain is fixed now.) 
It is such a relaxing way to start my day...and it is also the only place I seem to be able to clear my mind enough to come up with topic ideas to blog about!

3. Calm your space.
Last summer I decided to calm my space.  My house is an open concept, and I had a lot of color going on.  I sold the crazy colorful flea market couch and chair, and started painting and sewing...and went black and while, with some aqua thrown in.  Just those simple changes made me love being in that area again.  I felt like I could take a deep breath and relax.  
Clearing out the clutter has that same effect.

4. Find time to be quiet.
I am lucky, because I typically work in the afternoons and evenings, so my days are free (when my family is at school.)  I have lots of quiet time...sometimes too much, perhaps.  Most people don't have this luxury.  That is why you need to SEEK OUT the quiet.  Maybe it is going to mean going for a drive by yourself, no radio...just your thoughts.  Or a walk.  Sometimes I walk late at night and go to the park that is a few blocks from our house.  I just sit on the bench there and just breathe.  Listen to the quiet.
5. Make peace within yourself.
I have been saying this a lot in the posts about personal values.
The key to happiness is loving yourself.  It is also the key to peace.  If you can simply be....whether you are surrounded by noise, or you are sitting in silence, if you are able to be content with yourself, by yourself, you will find peace.
6. Slow Down.
This is a big one.  For 20 years of my life, I only knew one speed....super crazy, out of control.  I guess that would be 6th gear?
No wonder I never felt peaceful.  No wonder I was always tired.  (Who am I kidding...I am still always tired!)
However, I can tell you that my level of contentment and serenity has increased significantly since I have decided to down shift, and live life in, oh, let's say 2nd gear.  It's a friendly enough to get somewhere, but slow enough that you can stop, but still get moving again without dying. ;)
7. Love.
Of course, you will be most at peace when you do everything with love.
Surround yourself with what you love.  With people you love.  Spend your days doing what you love....or at least incorporating things you love into whatever it is you have to do that day.  When you find yourself in a place that you no longer feel you are surrounded by love, be it a person, a job, an environment, then you know it is time to make a change.  It is time to either move on or let something go.  When you are not at peace, you know it.  Life is too short to live that way.  It is up to you to create a life that feels serene, that brings you happiness and contentment.  A life you LOVE.
8. Live Simply.
Find joy in the ordinary.  If we stop waiting for the extraordinary to happen, and start noticing the beauty in the things we take for granted everyday, our whole perspective can change.
I have always hated making dinner.  I think the part I dislike the most is trying to figure out what the heck to make.  The cooking part wasn't so bad.  Lately, I have been bringing a cookbook to bed with me, and paging through, searching for recipes that looked like something my kids would actually eat.
I would jot down the ingredients list, and actually plan meals for the week.  (This is completely unheard of in my house.  Planning meals around here means "Is there a pizza in the freezer??")
I found that once I actually had the ingredients on hand, and had an actual recipe to follow, I loved making dinner.  I felt like a GOOD mom and wife for a change!  I realized that the every day, normal act of cooking brought me joy.  It was relaxing.  I had some music playing, opened a bottle of wine, the food smelled amazing as it was baking, and I felt SO PEACEFUL and CONTENT.
Why did I fight this for so long?  Why not just enjoy these simple things that we do everyday?  Why not make them a little more fun by adding that music, and that wine, and what the heck, light some candles!  
I even enjoyed washing the dishes afterward, because I felt like I had done such a good job providing a delicious meal for my family, and now I was enjoying the warm, sudsy water as I cleaned up, and made my kitchen look clean and beautiful again.
It was so simple.  So ordinary.  And it made me feel so serene.  

So, my challenge for you is this: Stop waiting for something exciting to happen. Stop looking backwards and saying "I wish it could be like that again."
Live in the moment.
Live simply, and look for the joy in the ordinary.
Make time for being quiet...make time for you.
Calm the chaos inside of you, and around you.
Just breathe.

Wishing you a very peaceful day!!

1 comment:

  1. Oh yes, this is great advice! By the way, my posts for this 31 day challenge have been much longer than normal. At first I was worried, but it's important to write how we are led and to be used the way God wants to use us. Don't worry about people being bored or writing too many words. Follow your calling, friend. I enjoyed this post!