The things that are the best for me are often the things I have to will myself to do. Exercising, eating well, spending time with God, practicing gratitude; are all things that have positive results on my life but without intentional decisions I would quit in the middle every single time.
We do not control all the parts of our life, however there are areas in which we do have control. This week my energy has felt low. The parts of life that bring me joy have felt difficult and distant. It is hard to wrap my head around why I am feeling this way. I have not received any particular bad news or hard news. Actually, there has been significant hope for the future in the news I have received this week.
So what is it?
What is keeping my mood in a lull?
The only words I can come up with for this feeling is:
I am in the middle.
This is a hard place to be because it does not have the excitement and adrenaline of the beginning. In the beginning, everything is new. Things are constantly changing. You are alive on the thrill of “what’s next.” Whether this is a new that is wanted or not.
The middle is also not the end. Where all your hard work and persistence comes to a conclusion. Hopefully, it all works out just as you hoped. But direction has been determined and there is resolution.
The middle is where endurance and discipline live. The middle is continuing day after day. There may not be any noticeable change, or possibly the only change you see are set backs. Here is where many people, myself included, often quit or move too hastily to change our course.
This morning, I found myself laying on my youngest daughter’s bed after helping her get dressed. I felt like I had given every thing I had for the day, it was only 10:30 am. Tears fell from my eyes. The phrase that was on repeat in my mind was “There is nothing to look forward to. Tomorrow is Saturday, but Saturday is just like Tuesday.” This loop would not quit. As I lay there, my attention moved to the sound of a bird chirping outside. I glanced toward the window, I could see the sun shining. With this interruption, I was able to force these words into the loop sequence, “Get outside. You know you will feel better if you just keep going. Make it outside.”
It is not that the outside was going to be a solution to all my troubles. Yes, the sun helps boost your mood. And yes, stepping outside into the fresh air always helps me take deep breaths. The other thing that going outside forced me to move from my current position. It would provide an interruption to my thoughts with a simple change in location. This helps change my perspective.
I was not able to immediately go outside once I moved from laying on my daughter’s bed but I was moving in that direction. Once I was downstairs I assisted my girls in finding their shoes. Then, it was time for my middle daughter to have a meeting with her class online. Of course the computer, website, and/or internet was not cooperating. With every frustration, I continued to look outside. Making it outside became the goal. Every decision and action I did, I kept that end goal in mind. Get outside. Smart phone to the rescue!
Getting outside became my focused goal. Rather than only focusing on the middle of the situation I am meandering around in.
Are you stuck in the middle?
The middle can differ in lengths of time. If you think about it, the middle can be any length of time: an hour, a day, a month, a entire lifetime. So what can we do to continue to make positive progress rather than just giving up?
First, know the things that you enjoy. These are the things that fill you with joy, not the things that you enjoy because they provide a way to numb your feelings. Make time for these things. For example, if you enjoy spending time with friends, schedule time to spend with your friends whether it is in person or speaking on the phone. This will give you something to look forward to as you go through your days while you are in the middle. This is an area that I need to be more intentional in. I have been missing my friends a lot!
Next, care for your physical and mental well being. This will mean exercising at least 4 times a week. I enjoy challenging exercise programs but that it not the only way to get exercise. Walking, running, hiking, dance whatever will get you moving, do that!
Eating a balanced diet that will fuel your body. Food not only fills us up but it also strengthens and supports our bodies. When we are filling it with foods that simply fill our bellies but do not provide nourishment we are not doing ourselves any good.
Pay attention to what you are thinking about it. Practicing gratitude for you what you do have. For me today, a bird chirping was the first interruption to my negative loop. It was a pleasant sound that turned my head to look out the window to see the sun shining. I am grateful for that bird and the interruption in my thoughts. Are you only focusing on the short comings of your situation? What interruption is calling your attention to something else?
Lastly, when you are feeling stuck in the middle, set a shorter goal that you can make progress on right now. For me today, it was simply going outside. This shorter goal had no obvious effect on the larger goal, but it did help me change my perspective on the situation. And accomplishing a goal will give you a boost in confidence to continue on when you feel like quitting.
We will always be in the middle of something. But we don’t have to feel stuck there. By being disciplined to continue we will make progress be able to enjoy the process as we endure.