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Life, like nature, has seasons. I’m writing to you from summer, both literally and figuratively. The days are warm and sunny. We’ve been enjoying trips to the beach, visits to new places, and time with family and friends. Getting rid of our home and possessions has taken away the stress of housework and made us feel financially free. My two children are past the age where they require the labor-intensive, hands-on parenting that babies and toddlers do. I’ve just about healed from the difficult surgery I had in the spring.
I vividly remember the winters, though—the challenging transition to becoming a stay-at-home parent. The days I spent reeling after losing a job I loved. The months I spent sick at home while being treated for breast cancer. These times tested my grit and resolve. They forced me to confront completely new realities. They were painful both physically and emotionally.
When taking stock of our lives, it’s important to consider which of the seasons of life we’re in. This can help us keep our expectations in check, embrace where we are, and prepare for what’s to come.
Indeed, each of the seasons is essential for a rich, full life, and surviving (and even thriving) is possible in every season. Here are some tactics that can help you make the most of the seasons of your life, no matter which one you’re in.
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Remember that your situation is temporary
When we’re in life’s more challenging seasons, we often feel as if the difficult days will go on forever. It becomes hard to imagine life ever being carefree again. If you’re suffering through a more challenging time in your life, remind yourself that your situation is temporary. Eventually, babies will sleep through the night; wounds will heal; grief will subside.
In summer, too, we need to remember that life is constantly changing. When things are going well, it’s easy to become lazy and careless, assuming that life will continue on easy street. It’s tempting to party away our days like the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable and find later that we are completely unprepared for challenging times in the future. Enjoy and appreciate your summer. Use that time to recharge. But know that fall will come again eventually, and embrace the fact that you’re moving toward it.
Be Kind to Yourself
In the dark days of winter, give yourself a bit of grace and resist setting your expectations for yourself too high. Give yourself a break if you fall a bit short of imagined milestones or standards. Look for little ways to be kind to yourself and make yourself smile. Remember that comfort and self care doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Even when life seems horribly dark, I find that something as simple as a cookie, a warm blanket, or a chat with my best friend can make me feel a little brighter.
In warmer, happier seasons, too, remember that you are responsible for your own happiness. Be your own best friend. Don’t neglect yourself while worrying about everyone else. It’s your responsibility to treat yourself with care and kindness so that you can continue to thrive.
Reach Out to Your Community
Humans weren’t meant to be isolated. In the summer, joy and fun times are even sweeter when shared with others. In your more challenging seasons, be sure that you aren’t hiding out and trying to soldier through alone. Those that love you want to be there to help when life is difficult. Even if you are lacking a community that is close by physically, the existence of the internet means that we are all never more than a few short clicks away from someone who can empathize with our situation.
You might need to get creative and search a bit to find your people, but rest assured–they are out there. I am grateful for the multitude of communities I’m a part of–fellow world-schooling parents, singing teachers, breast cancer survivors, mompreneurs, etc. that support each other both in person and online.
Don’t be afraid, too, to seek professional help if you think you need it. This includes not only therapists and counselors, but professionals to help manage energy-sapping tasks like house cleaning, grocery shopping, and lawn care. Even in the warm, bright, happy seasons, reaching out for professional help with the mundane stuff can give us more time and energy to spend with our loved ones and to take part in the activities that feed our souls.
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The recommendation to keep a gratitude journal is tossed out all the time because it’s really good for shifting our perspectives. It helps us realize, even in the difficult seasons, that life gives us countless gifts.
After I was diagnosed with breast cancer while 34 weeks pregnant, life understandably seemed a bit dark. Yet, the moms in my community donated so much breast milk to feed my son that I didn’t need to supplement with formula for three months. My parents moved in with us to help care for our family. Far away friends and family members surprised me with meals and impromptu visits. Fixating on these spots of brightness during this winter season helped prevent me from falling into depression and spending all my days feeling sorry for myself.
Gratitude is useful in summer, too. I find that the summers of life are made even sweeter when I write down each day in black and white all the things that are making life so wonderful. My gratitude list helps me pause and savor all of life’s gifts.
No matter where you are on life’s calendar, take a few minutes every day to write a short list of 3-5 things that make you feel grateful. Some days it might just be the fact that you woke up in the morning, breathing and with a pulse, but that’s a start. There are likely reasons to smile all around you. Take note.
Work to make the situation better
It’s easy to get stuck in the seasons of our lives. In winter, it’s tempting to sit in our jammies, shrug our shoulders, and assess a challenging situation as hopeless. It’s vital, though, that we put on our boots and slog through the snow, continuing to put one foot in front of the other until spring comes.
Even if a solution to your problems seems impossibly far off, don’t allow your situation to be paralyzing. Try to take one small positive step forward each day in the direction that you want to go.
- Are you overwhelmed in a home swamped with clutter? Set the timer for 10 minutes and tackle one square foot of space every night.
- Are you feeling sad and frumpy as a stay-at-home-mom? Take a few minutes to take a quick shower and put on a moisturizing foundation, some blush/lip color, and a little mascara.
- Are you lonely and craving adult conversation now that you’re home alone all day with the kids? Join a local moms’ group and RSVP for your first event.
None of these tactics will completely solve your problem, but small actions lead to small victories and to forward motion. Successes build on themselves until a giant problem seems much less insurmountable. The winter days gradually get warmer until we can see spring on the horizon.
Self-improvement is even easier in the summer months when we can use our natural energy and enthusiasm to tackle new projects. I’m spending my summer working to build alternate income streams, strengthening my relationship with my family, and learning new skills to fortify me when fall inevitably comes. Even when life seems perfect, try to consider how you can make it even better tomorrow.
What season of life are you in? Are you completely overwhelmed or living on easy street? No matter where you are on life’s calendar, I truly believe that acknowledging your situation as temporary while practicing self care, leaning on your loved ones, consciously acknowledging life’s gifts, and making continuous efforts to improve your situation will make any season of life richer and more fruitful.