Monday, February 11, 2013

4 Life Lessons from a Snowstorm

The Northeast got hit by another major storm over the weekend, particularly New England, where I live. Now, I'm no stranger to snow, having grown up in Buffalo, but it's rare to have multiple feet of snow around here, and we just aren't as prepared for it (plows, salt, etc.).

The rarity of snow is just fine with me, because I think snow is a huge pain! However, a big snowstorm does offer an opportunity to reflect on a few lessons for therapy, and life.

1) Be Prepared

The scouts' motto is good advice for snowstorms. If you're going to get snowed in, and possibly lose power, it's important to be prepared for it! You need food, flashlights, candles, blankets.... It's good advice when it comes to life, too. It's important to be prepared not only with the necessary supplies, but to be prepared mentally and emotionally, too. We tend to handle things more skillfully when we "cope ahead of time," priming ourselves with positive self-talk, rehearsing coping skills, and good self-care. We can also lessen the emotional impact of anticipated stressors through "stress inoculation," by incorporating the skills we want to use in an actual situation into role plays or visualizations of ourselves handling the stressor. Of course, we don't want to spend all our time trying to predict and plan for stressful situations, but when there are big stressors on the horizon, it pays to be prepared!

2) Take Some Downtime

If nothing else, snowstorms force us to stay put - we can't do much until the storm passes (especially when the Governor bans driving, the Mayor bans parking, and public transit shuts down). This forced downtime - what some might call "rest" - is actually something most of us would benefit from a little more of! It's good to take time to relax, unwind, destress, and catch up with ourselves. It might be just 10 or 20 minutes of a relaxation or mindfulness exercise, or it could be several hours to a day or more. We have more to give when we take time for self-care.

3) Work Together

Cleaning up from a snowstorm is a lot of work. If you have to do it yourself, it can be pretty overwhelming. But, when everyone pitches in, and neighbors help neighbors, it becomes more manageable, AND it creates an opportunity for human connection. Everyone feels more positively about their neighborhood when they feel connected to neighbors. It's a good metaphor for life: much of life can be overwhelming on your own, but becomes more manageable when people support and help each other. Plus, feeling connected to others is part of what makes life worth living.

4) Practice Radical Acceptance

There's not much any of us can do about Mother Nature, or the way a storm complicates our lives - especially when it comes to transportation. We can add to our suffering by refusing to accept reality, or we can accept that it is what it is. We don't have to like it, but we can still accept it as a fact. Instead of putting our energy into wishing things were different, we can say: "Ok, if this is how things are, what's my next step? Where can I go from here?"

We can also remember that the snow melts - "this, too, shall pass" - Spring will come (soon, if you believe the Groundhog), and the storm will be just a memory, and a story to tell when the next big storm rolls around!

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