Just Being Honest...Anxiety & Thanksgiving
Buckle Up. I’m going to be honest...
It’s not even Thanksgiving and I’m already stressed about Christmas.
There. I said it. --Gossip away.
I know I’m not the only one.
I said it because I know some of you are there too.
Here’s the question: Can we be thankful and anxious at the same time?
I don’t think so. (fyi - These random pictures will make more sense as you read ;)
You know what I hear from YOU wonderful reader moms a lot? That you're anxious. Every week I talk to another handful of you and anxiety is a horrifically common theme.
As if mom-life isn't hard enough, we're living in some funky times, friends. If you'd like to instantly decrease your chances of sucess and happiness, 60 seconds of watching the figh-ews. [yep, that's Liz's new word of the day. It's "Fight" and "News" all rolled into one bonus package!]
If that didn't do it for you; you could add an hour of crippling comparisons on social media which give you the illusion of real friendships but is actually clinically proven to increase depression - especially in women.
I don't think ANY mom ANYWHERE, EVER woke up and said, "You know what I need today? - Some good, robust FIGHTING about things, fake friendships, and impossible comparisons... ...that will really make me have a terrific day"
Then Thanksgiving rolls around and we're all like... "Sorry - I don't have time or brain space for that, I'm too busy jamming this thought garbage into my brain.
*Surrrrrrre* It's the most “wonderful” time of the year, but it’s also kinda like putting my head in a pressure cooker.
Whether it’s gift giving, or complex family dynamics, or crowds, or finances, or politics, or sickness, or schedules, or [pick your holiday poison].
We’ve all got a reason (or two?) to NOT be thankful right now.
So we have a choice.
We could miss Thanksgiving among the thought junkyard, OR pause for a moment and actually be thankful.
But what if we don’t FEEL thankful?
So glad you asked - let’s look at how feelings are built.
Modern brain science shows that every feeling comes from a corresponding thought. Feelings CAN’T happen on their own; they are literally constructs of your previous thoughts.
...Which is exactly why I don’t *feel* thankful.
Let me explain:
Yesterday, I asked Jonathan to help me identify why I was feeling anxious about Christmas. Specifically gift giving. Because every feeling comes from a thought, the question always should be, what am I thinking? With a little digging, I realized I’m *THINKING* that any gift I give will be inadequate, people will not feel loved, and that I don’t have enough time, money, or brilliant ideas to give what I actually want to give.
With a thought like that, what in the world are my emotions SUPPOSED to do?! Swell with Christmas Cheer?... I think not.
Positive feelings don’t come from negative thoughts. It just doesn't work that way.
This is bad news.
And this is also very good news.
If I "simply" practice different thoughts - I can experience different feelings. (Yes, it is easier said than done, but that doesn't change the fact that it works)
The truth is, every morning, we wake up with a ‘glass’. Whether it’s half full or empty, the fact is, there’s something in the glass.
It is our CHOICE to see what’s in the glass.
What’s in your glass? Have you stopped to look?
Mine 'glass' looks like the big, brown, dreamy eyes of my 2-year-old whose car nap was cut short which calls for extra mom snuggles
Mine 'glass' looks like the boyish mit of a growing hand, wrapped around my fingers with nowhere else better to be.
Mine looks like the most delicious protein shake you’ve ever tasted, made with milk that could be no fresher lest it be consumed in the barn.
Mine looks like indoor plumbing. Do you even REALIZE how amazing that is?! If not, try living a day without it in this weather.
Mine looks like endless amounts of the cleanest, filtered drinking water.
Mine looks like the blinding light of the sunrise pouring all over my 6-year-old's morning snuggle
Mine sounds like squeals and screams and bouncing kids as the Christmas tree makes its way into the house in daddy’s strong arms.
Trouble is, even though there is something *in* my glass, I can’t be thankful for it if I don't pause to look *inside* my glass.
This really shouldn’t be as difficult as it seems.
Of course, I’d rather have thankfulness come easily. I like easy.
... But sometimes thankfulness is a bit more elusive. What if thankfulness is a treasure that must be mined?
Last time I checked, mining is dirty work that requires explosives and manual labor.
But I don’t want to work for my thankfulness. Can’t I just order some on Amazon?
“‘Tis the season to be JOLLY”, not “‘Tis the season to get dirty and raw and dig for the good in our lives.”
Do we have another option though?
What are we teaching our kids?
Thankfulness only when it is easy? Yikes!
I want my kids to hunt for thankfulness like a treasure.
I want my kids to be thankful even when it isn’t easy.
Trouble is, it’s *basically* impossible to be thankful at 100 miles per hour. You can never see a blade of grass from a bird’s eye view. We have to get low.
So how do we THINK thoughts that will make us FEEL thankful?
For starters - I pray about it… every day. I’m smart enough to know that my mind is a battle ground and I need to steward my thoughts well.
Secondly, let’s start by noticing the blades of grass.
Let me explain: when Declan’s car nap was interrupted and as mentioned above, I was so antsy to get going on my evening tasks.
I was already a little annoyed and I was literally on the verge of frustration. I certainly was NOT thankful for this extended snuggle.
The next moment, I stopped dead in my tracks, challenged by what I was thinking.. Instead of thinking “I have way too much to do; I’m totally getting behind; I wish he would let me set him down” I started naming the thoughts I wanted to think; “Wow he’s growing so fast; He has nowhere else in the world he’d rather be than on my lap; His big paw of a hand feels so nice and soft in mine… ”
Suddenly things changed.
I FELT thankful
Hear me: NOTHING ABOUT THE SITUATION CHANGED other than my THINKING. Changing my THINKING, changed my whole reality.
No wonder the bestselling book of all time says that we’re “Transformed by the renewing of our mind!” (Ro 12:2) Modern science is simply confirming the truth that we need to “Take captive our thoughts” (2 Cor 10:5)
Can you IMAGINE if our brains were always filled with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ?! (Phil 4)
HUMOR ME and see how this would play out: “Hi honey! - welcome home!... Whatcha doing?” … “Oh.. just thinking true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy things about you” [Insert big eyes here]
If you’ve ever had this conversation with your spouse, you get a gold star :).
If you try this conversation with your spouse after reading this, I'll give you 5 gold stars ;)
It seems like I’m joking, but I’m really not.
What IF we took our thoughts captive?
What IF we CURATED our feelings by the things we were thinking?
Maybe it would transform your marriage?
Maybe it would release our anxiety?
Maybe we could love our homes?
Maybe we could stop wasting time hating that chore and start being thankful for it.
Maybe we could change the life of our kids?
“Blog lady…. You’ve taken it too far…. You think I can transform my feelings about my marriage, my anxiety, my home, my chores, and my kids with my THINKING?”
Yep! But - I never said it was going to be easy!
So maybe we have to become the miners.
(That’s actually one job that I’ve NEVER been interested in pursuing.).... The tight spaces, the dark holes, the dirty conditions…. Give me the creeps…
BUT, I want to mine thankfulness in my life.
I don’t want to thoughtlessly think my way into bad feelings.
That’s not what my Creator made me to do.
It’s not what your Creator made you to do either.
but HOWWW, blog lady?!”
Let’s start by going together.
I’m going to take pictures this morning of things that I’m thankful for, and maybe you can too. (I’d love to see them!)
Instead of whipping out that phone for social media, challenge yourself to take a few pictures of things that you’re thankful for. (If you want to read a whole book about this, check out 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp). She actually has some really cool monthly thankfulness “Challenges” that could help us do this together. They look like this:
If you want to check out more of her resources, you can visit her website here.
Why do any of this?
Because I want to live on purpose and I know you want too as well. So let's do it together because that will be WAY more fun ;)
Can I just say WOAH MOMMA!!?
You just read a whole blog about being purposeful and thankful which means you are AMAZING!
You're done with the first step :) What's the next step? How can I help!?
If you don't know me, I'm Liz Gerdes, and I'd like to be your cheerleader.
I'm a SE MN dairy farmer with my husband and friend to anyone who needs one.
I help moms feel awesome about what they feed their families with farm fresh milk!
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