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Being Positive is Stressing Me Out

Life has thrown us a curve ball over here at the Work Life Balance Protection Agency.  Our contributor, resident educator, and my personal-best-friend and support network has been sideswiped by another brain tumor.  Work, life, emotions, being mostly a single parent, has turned into a management project rather than a balanced lifestyle.  The stress, regardless of how well I think I’ve handled it, has started to eat away at my physical health–leaving me open to every stomach bug and ear ache that flies around town.  I can’t even crock-pot* properly anymore!

crock fail

Worst, has been the stress of remaining a positive force.  How can I honestly face you all and give positive advice when I really feel like crawling in a hole?  One more picture of a “hang in there” cat in a tree and I might hang myself!!  Is it possible that the pressure to remain constantly positive actually causes stress?!

As it turns out, yes.  Whew!  That actually makes me feel a little better.

My inbox is filled with articles about how truly successful people thrive from failure, turn every negative turn into a million dollars, and lose 60 pounds in the process.  Though I usually find these stories empowering, this week they seem like taunts.  Each story piles on pressure to change my negative feelings into positive ones, learn something, connect to a greater part of myself.  ENOUGH ALREADY!

hang_in_there

An article by Srikumar Rao, PhD,  in Psychology Today, that frankly took too much energy for me to read in its entirety, seemed to be saying this, “And if you never label something as bad, then you don’t need positive thinking and all of the stress associated with getting something bad and experiencing it as such till you figure out how to make lemonade out of it simply goes away.”  If I never see the “lemon” as a bad thing, and just see it as a…er…lemon…then I never have to deal with all the pressure trying to figure out how to turn it into something “better.”

But what if what I feel really is bad, really is negative? Dr. Rao would say this: “Lets say you break your leg. There is stuff you have to do like go to an orthopedist and get it set and go to therapy when the cast comes off. But all the rest of the stuff [you think like] ‘Why did this have to happen to me?’…is simply baggage. You don’t have to pick up this load and the only reason you do is because you were never told that you didn’t have to.”

Just. move. forward.

Don’t be “positive.”  Don’t agonize over trying to turn your negative feelings into something magical. Deal with whatever is in your lap the best you can.  If you do anything “extra,” avoid letting all the future worries and past regrets let their ugly tentacles make your current situation more burdensome.  Stay present.  Move ahead.  (And you don’t even have to smile if you don’t want to).

* I crock-pot when times are tough.  Just toss stuff in and wait till it becomes something you can put over rice.  I also use crock-pot as a verb.

4 comments

  1. lorahogan /

    You can’t convince yourself to “feel” differently than you are. In order to get to positive, you got to be in the present with all the gunk first! Like you said, crock pot it out… Marinate with it all in there. And just appreciate whatever the cooked product comes out like! Then refocus on your positivity and affirmations. :) But you got to be with the bad first…that’s why it’s there, to help us re-focus and re-appreciate the positive. :)

    • Jennette Cronk /

      So true. Being present isn’t always easy. I often want to avoid those feelings (and eat one too many cookies or pints of ice cream). I love the idea of NOT labeling emotions as positive or negative and instead just dealing with it at face value.

  2. I use crock pot as a verb too! I love it when life gets crazy… I know I can count on my crock pot to produce food good enough to eat without a lot of effort. Anyway – this is perfect. Just be real. Don’t sugar coat or try to make something positive that isn’t. I will be alright in the end, but in the moment, it’s not ok!

    • Ha!! Thank you, Jessica! It did actually turn out OK (after about 10 hours). That expectation we feel to put a sugary coating on things, to force that smile, and to respond cheerfully adds so much extra effort into every movement–that you barely have any energy left to make your next move.

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