This is a tricksy problem to solve, and unfortunately, sometimes unsolvable. But we still need to do whatever we can to cope during these times. Of course, there is a whole lot to be said for prevention or minimization of these times in our life….but that’s not what I would like to address. Let’s pretend that we know all that stuff and do it all for the moment, and yet here we are, still in a low ebb.
It happens anyway, so I would like to address what to do when in the middle of it.
LOW is likely going to look different on the different temperaments. For me, it is how LOW sounds that concerns me way more than how it looks. It sounds really loud. It sounds impatient. Mostly, low comes out my mouth. It FEELS like yelling is going to solve a lot of problems. But guess what? It actually adds to the problems.
Perhaps low is going to feel like depressed. Overwhelmed. Hanging by a thread. Worst mother on the face of the earth. Like if one more person calls your name you will collapse. Like the sight of the laundry pile will cause you to dissolve into tears. Like you marriage is a dead end street. Usually, low looks and feels a lot worse than it IS.
Really that is what LOW is. A frame of mind that colours our life with a darkness.
So I have some thoughts on this. And, you won’t believe this.
We need to be aware that we have low times, and that it is actually okay. Most of us, by the time we’re mothers have figured out that there are particular, almost ritualistic times of day that we are “at our best” or “at our worst.” We recognize these phases, and try to structure some coping mechanisms into the day. Perhaps we try to make sure at that tough time in the afternoon we get out for some fresh air, or take a tea break and put our feet up. Or maybe if mornings are difficult, we keep expectations low for what we are actually capable of accomplishing for the first couple of hours.
I’m not suggesting that we just give up, but that we try to be realistic about our natural tendencies through the day, the week, month and even the larger cycles of life. Learn to work with them and not against them.
Much of the answer to coping with the difficulty of low times comes with preparation, recognition and support. Preparation is something we actively do to set ourselves up to better deal with lows.
No. We don’t want to wallow in our lows. But at the same time, recognizing that we have them and that we can help ourselves through it to some degree is not wallowing, it is prudent. It starts with just a basic aspect of our prayer lives. Lord, help me know each moment You have given me is there to respond to Your grace. In obedience and love. We must pray for fortitude when we don’t need it. We must build it into our daily walk. There is no point in praying Not To Have Trials.
Part of preparation is the building of a community. Of people that you can talk to, and rely on, spiritually and temporally when you are low. I won’t belabour the nature of community here, there is a whole rant on that if you scroll down the left hand sidebar.
Preparation means being able to guard against people and situations that drag you down further. It is okay to say no to extra commitments. To say no to being around people who will not support you. Sometimes it is even a relative that can make your life more difficult by telling you how if you just put the kids in school, or let them cry it out or get a part time job or any other fill in the blank you will make your life easier. That may undermine the decisions that you’ve made. And your confidence.
Setting boundaries is a vital part of preparing for difficult times. It is hard enough to stand walk our path sometimes, without having to explain, debate, defend to people why we we’ve made the choices we’ve made. Especially when we are low. We can say, I respect the decisions you have made. Our decisions our different, and I would like you to respect them. Setting boundaries when we are low can help us cope.
We can limit our interaction with people and activities that drain us. It is alright to say that it doesn’t work for you right now, that your family and household commitments are what you are able to deal with at the moment, that you need to step back.
It is okay to say NO. It is okay.
When you aren’t low is the time to think about this. Part of preparation is developing patterns and habits of prayer and responses and work when we are at our best that will be there for us as our natural and habitual response when we are low.
Simplifying our routine is prudent. Simplifying our stuff is prudent. As in less of it. And then having a game plan for simplifying even further when things get difficult. In the middle of a low, sometimes we need to drastically lower our expectations of ourselves. If the housework is too demanding to keep up with, try to just keep one area tidy. Maybe the kitchen and eating area.
Consider getting in some help. We have, many times, hired a young woman for a few hours each week. To help with children or laundry or cleaning. If this isn’t affordable, consider trading with someone for something that you can offer. For example, you do a craft or knitting or biology class for a family or families who may be able to exchange for some household help. Find another mother who would like to get together once a week and help each other clean while the children play. And you could talk, uphold each other and drink tea together.
When experiencing low times, we need to reevaluate where and how we can get help. Both spiritual and temporal.
I think this is enough for one post. I’ll be back on this.