It’s an interesting thing – everyday life, the more mundane hardships we sometimes face, and the compounding and larger effect they can have on us. I recently struggled with this a bit (more on that in a minute), but I simply wanted to share a recent lesson I learned about the power of gratitude and pulling ourselves from the fog when things seem bleak. Because I was literally just there myself. And pulled from the fog I was.
Rewind to the beginning of February when our house started to nosedive with a bug. And when I say nosedive, I’m talking like a painful slow-motion nosedive. Like, you know it’s happening and there is nothing you can do but just watch… and wait for it.
It wasn’t a situation where everyone got sick at the same time. Tanner was the first one to go down followed by Blake. Then after 3 days of playing nurse, I started to go down. Then as Tanner and Blake were still getting through it, but not in the thick of it any longer, I then head into the thick of it. Then Owen and Brooks start to go down. And while I’m still working through it, Jarett starts to feel under the weather. Finally, Tanner is feeling mostly normal, Blake is teetering, I’m struggling, Owen is already bouncing back, Brooks is taking his time with it, and Jarett crashes hard for one night and is fine the next day. You still with me? And seriously… men, right?
Mind you it’s winter. We are going absolutely nowhere and the days are overcast and moody. No sunshine whatsoever. Brooks and I seem to rally for a day and I am feeling good enough to catch up on some laundry and answer a few messages. The next morning? We are both down again. A few more days of that and then I feel the onset of exhaustion. Everything made me tired. I would try sitting at my desk to publish a new post and after 15 minutes I was spent.
Bleak days outside. Bleak days inside. One after another. I’m trying to maintain everyone’s intake of vitamins, supplements, and elderberry syrup while Jarett is at work. And then he would get home and take over with kitchen duties and fueling everyone with the healthiest foods possible (which yes, involved cooking still so thank goodness for that man and his quick rebound along with his skill set in the kitchen!) to help get us back to 100%. It has been a very long time since I have been sick more than a head cold and an even longer time that we have had the whole house go down.
So we are now just over a week and a half of dealing with all of this and feeling completely… bleh. All we have done at this point and with our life is watch movies and sleep. I didn’t even know where my phone was because that is how much we cared about the outside world at that point. We were purely in survival mode and waiting this winter bug out when finally! It felt like we had turned the corner. Mind you, I’m still feeling the exhaustion, but at least everyone is alive and through it. And at this point, it’s been about two weeks so… a bit dramatic? Slightly. But stuck in 1500 square feet with 7 humans? There’s going to be some drama.
Then… the winter storm blew through Nashville. A winter storm, y’all. We just moved from the desert and had only seen falling snow that melted immediately upon hitting the ground for the first time just over a year ago after arriving here. And now a full-blown legitimate winter storm? I’m sure it would have been a bit more exciting had we not just gone through what we did. Anyway, it all started with straight sleet – a complete and total ice storm. Then it moved into snow for several days and there we were. Already at two weeks housebound and then pummeled with a storm that had us stuck inside several more days. We couldn’t even get our car out of the garage and around the corner because the ice was so bad. More time inside, more of doing absolutely nothing.
You fellow busybodies can probably guess where my mental state was at this point. I felt absolutely miserable. Winter blues are already something I have to work hard to combat so to have almost the entire month of February be sickness and snowstorms? It was rough. And the exhaustion following being sick made matters even worse.
Now, I am well aware that things could always be worse. I think we all know that. However, it’s also why I prefaced this entire novel of a story with “mundane hardships” because that is exactly what it was. But when you are in that kind of fog? It’s pretty easy to start feeling really low.
In the midst of this snowstorm there was one morning I woke up and felt like, OK. I am getting there. I feel like I can do something. Anything. I heard Jarett and the getting bundled up to enjoy the snow outside and I thought, I am totally up for that. So I get on all of my layers, get myself dressed, and head outside to meet them. I kid you not, the walk from our back door to the hill made me feel so weak. I looked at Jarett and he knew I was trying to keep up when I should have been laying low.
I turned around and headed right back inside, peeled off my layers, climbed into bed with a blanket, and positioned myself to face the window. I laid there for a moment thinking about how miserable I was. How the entire month was a complete waste. How three weeks of no work for me meant pushed deadlines and projects. How Jarett couldn’t go to work all week. How I absolutely hated being sick. How….
… Suddenly a voice inside my head squeaked “There is so much to be grateful for”. I laid there ashamed that I had let my mind spiral so much. How blessed we were that everyone was OK and getting back to a hundred percent. That despite being home unexpectedly for the week, we got to have extra time with him. That we had no major issues with the freeze other than the heater on the kids’ side of the house going out (we were already camping in the family room to nurse everyone back to health so we just kept with that routine to make sure everyone stayed warm). And how blessed we were that we had the food we needed in the house already.
I could go on and on, but I had a quick heart-to-heart with myself as I watched the snow fall outside my window.
To my surprise, that evening I felt like I had more energy than I had in weeks. We played some card games, watched yet another movie, and by the next morning, I was able to join Jarett and the kids outside for longer. Which I was so happy about because the joy on their faces was the best and I had to get some pictures. Don’t worry, I shared a peek into it all right here. Anyway, having some more energy that day left me thinking about the chat just the day before that I had with myself, the things I listed in my head that I had to be grateful for. Adjusting my mindset to all the good instead of focusing and festering on what was currently wrong. Could that have been the proverbial antidote? *Cliffhanger*
Have you ever heard about the true science behind gratitude? That it literally has an effect on our health and wellbeing? I have always found it fascinating. For instance, did you know that our brain releases dopamine and serotonin when we express gratitude? They are the two neurotransmitters responsible for enhancing our mood and making us feel good. Gratitude can also help us release toxic emotions that can harm our mental and physical health, reduce pain, improve our sleep, reduce stress as well as anxiety and depression. So many studies have been done on this subject like this one from Harvard Medical and this article from NHAHealth.com. Pretty cool right? Okay, let me put my pocket protector away…
From that change of mindset I had, it felt like an immediate turnaround. The fog that had culminated around situations out of my control felt suffocating and when that happens it makes it hard to keep our eye on the bigger picture. That, even as mundane as the current struggle was, it was temporary. It’s kind of like when we have a bad moment and cancel out the rest of the day because of it. The reality is that it wasn’t a bad day. It was a bad moment that I milked and whined about and wasted a day over. It wasn’t until I took a moment to focus on the things I did have and had to be grateful for that the clouds started to part and I could feel the shift I was so desperately needing. I was grateful for the reminder it was.
And to ensure there was no surprise nosedive in how I was feeling, I found myself taking extra precautions to keep in that mindset that seemed to be doing wonders for me. When I woke up? I would list five things I was grateful for. Taking a shower? Five things I was grateful for. Folding laundry? Five things I was grateful for. Rescheduling the missed deadlines in my work schedule? Five things I was grateful for.
After the last snow fell, we watched for a few days as it all melted away. What once was a white blanket over all of Nashville was suddenly gone as if it never happened. On the first day that the temperatures were up and the sun was out, we ventured to our favorite spot to soak it all in. The sun felt so good on our skin and those winter blues continued to melt away as we wandered through the woods, spotting signs of spring. The birds chirping, the buds of new growth on the branches – beautiful proof that storms can be weathered.
And as we walked and the kids spoke of all the things they want to do in the upcoming season, I took a deep breath and inhaled the fresh air. Felt the warm sun on my face.
And quietly thought about five things I was grateful for…