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You CAN be sad or struggling & still grateful?

We all know that gratitude is extremely important.  We hear these suggestions all the time; make a gratitude list, appreciate the small thing, and live in grateful heart.  I absolutely and whole heartedly agree with this and work to practice and maintain this lifestyle.

That being said, being grateful all the time can get tricky.  Sometimes the ‘pressure’ to be grateful and appreciative can be overwhelming, especially when we are struggling to ‘get there’ during a difficult or ‘negative’ life event.

I certainly have felt overwhelmed and even guilty for not always being grateful for my amazing life when I am struggling with personal, work, or physical obstacles.  Recently, struggling with a personal and emotional issue, I felt my anxiety spiraling and was quite frankly feeling awful. 

I did have the foresight to call a friend and was relieved when he answered the phone.  Although my friend is a psychotherapist and an addiction recovery expert, my call to him was as a friend, not for professional therapy.  He is hilarious, spontaneous, and he always makes me laugh.  I can always count on him to brighten my day.

As I sat on the balcony on my home, overlooking the marina, I shared with him what I was feeling, the pain, anger, and disappointment.  I even shared in the moment that I feel that I ‘should’ be more grateful for all the gifts and accomplishments I have in my life.

He offered an incredibly profound idea when he said, “You know it’s O.K. to feel both sad and grateful at the same time.  It doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate what you have, it just means you are processing what’s going on in the moment for your heart and your life.” 

His comment made me pause, all I could say in response was “wow and thank you.”

It got me thinking about how I’ve always felt like I couldn’t be honest about my feelings because I didn’t want to seem like I was ’negative’ or complaining?  As a result, I keep stuff my feelings and keep them to myself.  I judge and criticize myself for being human, for having feelings, for getting rattled or upset. 

However, this revelation does NOT allow me to get stuck in the junk or succumb to a complaining or victim mindset. 

It does give me permission to feel what I need to feel, process what needs processing and feel all the feels. I was also encouraged to set a timer and allow myself to be sad and cry it out, within the allotted time span.  If I am feeling really angry and rageful then I throw and punch pillows to work out the feelings.  When the timer goes off, I move onto a new positive and productive activity.  This provides a structure, allowing you to feel and be whatever is necessary without getting consumed.

Having these tools in place helps me get through challenging emotions. As someone who is mildly OCD, I tend to get caught up on something and hold on tight.  Intellectually I know this behavior is not healthy but emotionally I cannot let go.  Call it fear, frustration or just a bad habit.

These are the three things I do for myself to help me move into a better head space when the feelings are hard-

  • Stay off social media.  Nothing makes me feel crazier or feeds the vicious cycle of ‘compare and despair’ than scrolling.  It is also a complete waste of time.
  • Call a friend.  Yes call, not text.  This is effective on many levels.  Calling to check in on someone else is a great way to get out of our own crap.  Especially in this Covid culture, when we are isolated, it is easy to get stuck in our own realities.  Actually, speaking to another human on the phone can dramatically lighten the mood and be beneficial for both people.
  • Get busy. Take a walk, dance around the house, clean, do dishes, and laundry.  Do whatever it takes to physically get yourself out of your head.

The point is to allow the feeling and move on.

My life reflects me.  Every person and situation are a mirror of what I need to see about my life.  Reflecting in this way prevents the victim of circumstance or blame mentality.

It is important not to judge yourself for feeling sad, lonely, hurt, or frustrated. It is perfectly O.K. and even normal to have these feelings.  It does not mean you aren’t grateful it just means you are processing stuff that needs to be processed.  They are only feelings and they will pass.

Gratitude is the key to a happy and fulfilled life.  Moving through difficult circumstances and emotions in a way that creates value from the obstacle is also important.  In this way gratitude and challenges are mutually inclusive. 

Take it easy on yourself and in the end remember you are WINNING!

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