Are You Wishing Your Life Away? Six Tips for Making the Best of Your Reality

We must deal with our current reality, challenges and all—but we can make it the best reality possible with these six tips.

By Anabel Jensen – October 14th, 2020

Once upon a time, when I was a teenager, I remember saying to myself, “I wish it were next week. I would have that autobiography assigned by my humanities teacher, Mrs. Dodd, finished.  I wish it were tomorrow.  Then this piano recital I am dreading would be over. Yeah!  I wish it were next month.  I have no desire to spend the month of March researching the major philosophies of the world.”

Then one day I had an epiphany.  I was staring at the calendar and thinking about those wishes and I realized that–if by some unknown magic, my fairy godmother had granted them, I would have lost five weeks and one day of my life.

I would have missed my good friend being crowned homecoming queen.  She was so surprised and thrilled.  I would have missed the birth of the new pinto colt, which dad had promised me would be mine.  I would have missed my grandmother’s 60th birthday party.  There must have been 50 relatives in attendance and that chocolate cake was amazing.

 

The best of memories are made, even during challenging times.

 

Right now–many of us are making similar wishes:  I wish this blasted virus would go away.  I wish Covid-19 restrictions were over.  I wish everything could return to normal.  I wish I didn’t have to social distance.  I wish I didn’t have to wear a mask.  If I wash my hands one more time, they are going to dissolve.

Remember these old adages:  If wishes were horses, everyone would ride.  Perhaps your mother or grandmother might have said:  If wishes were fishes, everyone would eat.  Instead, we must deal with reality—but we can make it the best reality possible.

I am feeling some of the strongest feelings I have ever experienced.

Fear, anxiety, loneliness, disappointment, anger, and even rage. Tasks which should be easy and fun have another side—hard and scary.  For example, school should be easy and fun. Teachers have been working diligently to teach the necessary skills (i.e., social distancing, hand sanitizing, and mask wearing, etc.) currently needed to allow the return to the school building safe in a fun, game-like approach.  However, even knowing the correct science doesn’t negate our feelings—and our outside feelings of excitement and joy do not eliminate our inside feelings of fear and frustration.

So, to help handle those feelings you may have been suppressing or stuffing, here are six (for Six Seconds) activities for the entire family to make the best of your current reality:


Six Tips to Make the Best of Your Current Reality

 

1. “name it to tame it”

Use the “name it to tame it tool.”  This phrase was coined by psychiatrist Daniel Siegel (2010).  When your body (headache, neck ache, stomach twisting, knee twitching, etc.)  informs your brain you are having a strong emotional reaction to something, put it into words.  Describe the feeling with as many words as possible.  Or, create a analogy—such as I feel as if I just fell off my bike and my stomach hurts.  When you use this phrase and do this activity, research by Goleman (1995) shows that the amygdala (the storage bin in the brain for emotions) cools down and you can then function more effectively and you can think more clearly.

2. set a feelings goal

Set a goal for how you want to feel in 10-15 minutes, or in an hour, or at the end of the day.  Many of us do not recognize that we can change our emotions by setting a specific goal.  Then decide on two/three things you will do in order to create the feelings you want to generate.  For example, you might text a friend, listen to some music, or do five minutes of vigorous exercise.

3. hot cocoa breathing

Do “Hot Cocoa Breathing.”  Pretend you have a cup of hot cocoa in your hands—too hot to drink. Breathe in—1, 2, 3.  Then hold your breath for 1, 2, 3.  Then, in order to cool your cocoa, breathe out and blow–1, 2, 3.  Repeat until some of the tension in your body drains away.  For older students and adults, you can change the count to 5, or 8.

4. spaghetti poses

Practice switching from pretending to be a uncooked piece of spaghetti (tighten up like a board—be as stiff as possible) to cooked spaghetti (relax from the tip of your toes to the top of your head—remember to wriggle those eyebrows).

5. build your safe place

Use your imagination and build a safe, comfortable place in your brain to visit to smooth out the rough edges of your feelings.  Maybe you build a fort in your favorite tree in the backyard.  Maybe you remember being on the beach in Hawaii—with the warm water lapping at your toes.  What can you hear?  What can you smell?  Maybe you remember zipping down a snow-packed hill in Tahoe on your bright red skis.  What do you see? Is the sun too bright?  Do you need your goggles?  In your head, you can design, build, and visit a towering castle or view a spectacular vista—a place to catch your breath, decompress, and self-soothe.

6. “anxietrige” your emotions

Make up “new words” to describe your feelings.  Researchers from Harvard and Google estimated in 2010 that there were over one million words in the English language.  Certainly some of those are archaic, some are slang, and some are a different form of the same word.  In the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary there are at least 600,000 words identified and defined.  Most native English speaking adults have a vocabulary of 20,000 to 35,000 words.  Interesting, out of this plethora of words only about 3000 are related to emotions and feelings.  If you do not know a word for how you are feeling, make one up.  Perhaps it will be added to the dictionary someday.  You might want to draw or paint your feeling first and then label it.  For example, you admire your baby brother, but find him frustrating.  Perhaps your new word would be a combination of admiration and irritating: “admiritating.”  Perhaps your homework is intriguing and anxiety producing.  Your new word might be: “anxietriging.”

I hope you will find this short list of ideas and activities useful.   Drop me a note in the comments and share what was most helpful and what was not.

Perhaps you created an activity of your own and are willing to share with the community.

I would be happy to pass it on to others.

 

Love,

Anabel

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