I love being a mom. It is, without a doubt, one of the most unique, exciting and joyful experiences of my life. At times, though, it’s also the most terrifying and stressful experiences as well. Even small things can be triggers for anxiety. It’s almost too easy to let all that stress overwhelm me, leaving me hiding in a darkened closet clutching a secret bag of candy bars I keep hidden in the back of the freezer. While I might not have been literally hiding in a closet, I might retreat into my room after the kid has gone to bed and — without reservation and like clockwork — fall apart. I let the stress overwhelm me, and it was affecting me as a mom, a wife and a writer. It was on one of those nights, sniffling into a tissue and browsing Pinterest for yet another project to fail, that I came across this fantastic idea. Why not try counting my blessings instead of stressing out over the things I have no control over it? The idea kind of blew my mind. How could being thankful for things help me when I was totally overwhelmed by stress? Science has already found that stress is bad for you, both physically and mentally — stress increases your chance of everything from depression to heart disease. I figured I’d give it a try. Why not? I didn’t have anything left to lose, and I was already losing my mind, so it couldn’t hurt to try, right? I started to look into ways to be more grateful and to count my blessings. This is what I found.
It’s Easier Than It Sounds
Counting your blessings doesn’t take any extra time or effort. I was a little worried this would be another thing on the to-do list: buy a new notebook, learn how to bullet journal or some other madness that I didn’t have the time or energy for. All it really takes is using a few spare minutes to think about what you’re grateful for. Try it now. Put down the phone, look away from the computer screen and think about the things you’re grateful for today. It could be something simple, like you’re grateful the sun came up this morning and that you have coffee in the kitchen to help you wake up. It could be something specific, like you’re thankful for the continued health of a sick loved one or grateful that you’ve had a good day at work. It’s not too hard to think of a few things that you’re thankful for, is it? The first thing I did to put this practice to use taking time to be grateful every single day.
Gratitude Journals Are Useful
I know I was griping about buying a journal, but it can be a useful tool. It doesn’t have to be an expensive journal — go pick up a cheap notebook from your local dollar store. Spend as much or as little as you like. I prefer Rhodia brand notebooks — you can find them on Amazon — because they’re small enough to stick in a pocket or purse, but they have extremely high-quality paper. They’re also only $5-6 dollars! I’m a writer, I reserve the right to be a paper snob, but I digress. The idea behind a gratitude journal is to write down a few things every day that you’re grateful for. It’s the same concept as thinking about your gratitude, but it has one fantastic benefit — it provides you with a physical record of your gratitude. On the bad days when you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, you can look back on previous entries to remind you of the truth.
It’s Not a Perfect Solution
I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to be grateful and count your blessings when you feel totally overwhelmed by all the craziness that life throws at you. You may go days where you can’t find any blessings to count, and you’re two steps away from pulling your hair out from all the stress. On days when one kid has a fever, the other forgot her homework, deadlines are looming and bills need to be paid, all I want to do is plan a vacation to Mexico with a nanny at my side. Screaming outside at the top of my lungs might help, but I live in a suburb, and all that would do is make my nosy neighbors call the cops on me. Take each day a step at a time, and count your blessings. Bing Crosby had a hit song he sang in the movie “White Christmas” that said the same thing — count your blessings instead of sheep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, or you’re staring at the ceiling watching every minute on the clock until your morning alarm goes off, try counting your blessings instead of focusing on stressors. It’s never going to be easy. It wouldn’t be life if it was, especially when you’ve got kids to consider. What it is, is the most challenging, mind-boggling and rewarding experience of your life. My kids make me a better person, even on the days they’re driving me up the wall. It’s taken some time, but when I’m stressed about a bill that’s coming due or my next deadline, I’ve learned to take a breath and start counting my blessings. Give it a try. When you’re having a bad day or you feel overwhelmed, try to look at all the good things that you have right in front of you. You might be surprised how easy it is to find the good when you learn how to look past the bad.