Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The anti-stress strategy that actually works
I had a house-maintenance meltdown when I came home from work last night. A massive amount of fall leaves had taken over the lawn. Squirrels had nibbled on the pumpkins on our front porch, leaving chewed-up orange chunks all over the place. One of the gutters was crooked and looked like it might fall. And the lamp-post light had started going on at 6:00 in the morning instead of 6:00 p.m., and needed to be fixed. I just don't have time to deal, I thought. Also: I don't want to nag Dave about this, because there are approximately fifty billion other things he needs to do around the house.
So I tried a strategy I discovered when I wrote an article for Health magazine about feeling gratitude. Called The George Bailey Effect, it's named for the character in It's A Wonderful Life who gets to see what the world would be like had he never been born. You just picture life without whatever's getting to you—your job, your commute, your house—and you get a deeper appreciation for them. (With the exception, perhaps, of mothers-in-law.)
I focused on what life would have been like with Max if we didn't have our home. I thought back to his babyhood, and how I would have missed cuddling with him in the cushy rocking chair in his light-filled room. I pictured Max and the walker he used as a tot, and his not having the bottom floor to zoom around and around and around. I pondered how Max would still be doing therapy at the kitchen table and getting distracted if we hadn't renovated the basement to be his therapy space. I thought of Max's adaptive tricycle and where he'd ride it if he didn't have our street, a quiet one without much traffic.
And suddenly, I felt a rush of love for our home, crappy yard and spewed pumpkin be damned. We are lucky to have our house, and I just had to miss it to know it.
Then I nagged Dave to help me clean up this weekend. Whew! That felt good.