Welcome to day 15 of this year’s A to Z Challenge! I wrote about why I chose ‘Self Care’ as my theme for the challenge and I’m really enjoying writing about it during April. Today’s letter is ‘O’ so my self care word is ‘Optimism’.
Now, bear in mind that as I write this I am a day away from my due date, have been awake since 4:45 thanks to Toby and am completely exhausted, so a big dollop of optimism is essential for me right now! That and the odd coffee/chocolate/carb indulgence!
I am a notorious pessimist, to the extent that the phrase:
“Pessimists are never disappointed”
has left my lips on more than a few occasions. Since life started getting better for me I have had a change of mindset and although it’s not a speedy process, I do find my thinking is a lot more optimistic these days.
If I go back 5+ years, I was working in a job where I would regularly be attacked by service users who, through no fault of their own, couldn’t control their anger. I’ve had my nose broken, a bite on my leg from which there is still a scar, black eyes and more bruises, cuts, scratches and incidents of spitting than I care to remember. By the time I met Phil in August of 2011, I was in an okay place in life but the 2 or 3 years leading up to then had been tough, seeing me often working 70+ hours a week to pay the mortgage I had on my own. My family have always been there for me, but little miss independent here could do it all. Of course.
The trouble was that I couldn’t. I mean I did, but it led to a very pessimistic view on life whereby I undervalued my intelligence, my worth and my value. I assumed negative intent in every aspect of life from work to friendships and don’t even get me started on the complete wastes of valuable oxygen that I sometimes found myself going out with. Yuck.
Pessimism was the easy option because in my head, I was right and life kept proving so. Then I went on holiday with my cousin, who persuaded me to join Match.com with her, I ‘met’ Phil online, we met in real life a week later and slowly he broke down those barriers and released some inner optimism.
I truly do credit Phil with changing my life. There must have been so many times when my parents and friends despaired at the way I was leading my life and Phil gentle redirected me. I wasn’t ever on a dangerous path, but it wasn’t a healthy one and self care certainly wasn’t in my dictionary.
So, optimism. It’s one I do still struggle with at times because as soon as I’m over tired, under stress or hungry, I get majorly grumpy! In those times I know full well that it I don’t take a break, step back and write a list or eat something, then I view the world very negatively, but it’s also sometimes hard to recognise that you need to make a change and the negativity can build.
I have found that learning my triggers is a huge help. I know that if I’m grumpy come mid morning then it’s probably because I’ve not eaten and I wish I was kidding about how much of an impact food has on me, but I get pale, grumpy and weak if I skip a meal and I’ve always somehow had a low blood pressure so even just a slice of toast can make a huge difference. Stress-wise, I tend to let things build up so writing lists is great for me and ticking points off as I do them is a fantastic way to feel optimistic about how you’re getting on.
I think that having goals is brilliant for boosting optimism, but they have to be done properly so as not to become overwhelming. As someone who’s worked in the education sector for many years, I’ve had it drilled into me to set SMART goals:
- There are other variations and all of them are basically saying the same thing!
How does this result in optimism? Quite simply, if you want to set some goals then make sure that you are clear about what you’re setting yourself, that you can have a measure of your progress and success, that it’s possible for you to achieve them, they can’t be abstract and unrealistic. If you try setting a goal, say, to meet the partner of your dreams, get three promotions, have a baby and own a yacht within 2 years then the chances are you’re setting yourself up for disappointment – it’s not totally impossible but unlikely! However, set yourself a goal of signing up to a dating agency, doing a work-related study course and save ‘X’ amount of money per month based on your financial situation and those things are far more realistic and could lead to even bigger and better things! I didn’t want to sign up to Match.com but boy am I glad I did because it transformed my life and made me optimistic about love again. I took a big step to change my job and couldn’t be happier and although we’re far from owning a yacht, being financially savvy is resulting in Phil and I buying a gorgeous cottage three years ago, which we’re now about to move out of into a slightly bigger, more family-friendly cottage.
Optimism truly does breed happiness. You don’t have to be someone who’s completely blind to any negativity in the world, to be honest I find those people really bloody annoying! It’s okay to realise when you’re feeling rubbish or when things aren’t going to plan, it’s then that you need to take a breath, focus on some positives, set some goals and get that optimism flowing!
How do you stop cycles of negativity? Are you a naturally optimistic person or, like me, is it something you have to work for? Let me know in the comments below or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.