When I was in training to be a therapist many years ago, they taught us that giving advice was not part of the job description, but I don’t always do what I’m told. Over the years, I find that there are certain little key tips that I can’t resist sharing with my clients, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share them with you.
1) Don’t believe anything you think between midnight and 6am. You know how you can wake up in the middle of the night with the firm conviction that something awful is going to happen, but in the morning, you chuckle at yourself, “What was I thinking?” Try to remember during that 3am frenzy period that your thoughts are distorted and things won’t look so bad in the light of day.
2) What’s extraordinary becomes ordinary. Even the really rough things in life that seem practically impossible to adjust to become everyday when you stop fighting them. Putting on a prosthetic limb or taking anti-rejection drugs every day can eventually become ho-hum when you accept the fact that you don’t have any choice.
3) If you can learn not to take yourself too seriously, you’ve got it made. A corollary of this is to make sure to laugh at least once a day, even if you have to fake it. Sure your life is important, but get enough perspective to recognize that it’s just one among many.
4) Just sit there till you get there. We get all stressed out about a lot of things that are really beyond our control when all we really need to do is just show up. This is a useful one, for example, if you’re scared of flying or dreading dinner with your relatives.
5) Your first impulse in making a decision is usually the right one. A lot of mistakes are made when you allow yourself to be swayed and veer off from what you intended to do. You’ll remember this from when you were a kid and went with the family to the store for a coffee ice cream cone and your sister got rum raisin, so you got rum raisin and then regretted it!
6) Isolation is the best friend of depression. You're not as helpless in the face of depression as you may think. If you’re feeling blue, one of the best things to do is to be around people, even if you’re not in the mood. Just being in company will serve to lift your spirits and you’ll find that you feel better.
7) There’s no way through life without making mistakes. We beat ourselves up when we make mistakes but cut yourself some slack. No one has ever made it from birth to death without making a mistake – that’s against human nature. Accept your missteps as part of being human.
8) The worry about a new situation is really a gift. You know that feeling when you are starting something new and you just wish it were a month later so you could be settled? Well those rare experiences in life of not-knowing what’s to come are precious few. If we can embrace them and not wish them away, we will become masters of change.
I’m a family therapist and the author of Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife's Guide to Recovery and Renewal and My Sister, My Self: The Surprising Ways that Being an Older, Middle, Younger or Twin Shaped Your Life.