Saturday, February 22, 2014

Boredom is what Boredom Does

The other day I had to take my three year old with me to my doctor’s appointment. Of course, the doctor made me wait what seemed like an eternity and I was bored out of my mind. Not so for my three year old however as she was having a great time treating the waiting room like an amusement park as most kids that age tend to do. Isn’t it amazing to watch a toddler’s inborn ability to find fun in just about anything they do? Unless a little one is hurt, sick, hungry, or over-tired they are quite proficient at finding ways to stay amused with life on a pretty consistent basis. It seems to me that most very young children are born experts at relieving boredom in such a variety of ways which can be so fun to watch. Sadly however, for most of us, we get older and life can get repetitious and at times mundane depending upon our situation. For many individuals, as we get older our ability to overcome boredom may be much more of a challenge.

Unless you have the wonderful gift of “finding the fun in anything” or you somehow have a life that is filled with a constant flow of endless excitement and adventure, then otherwise a degree of boredom is to be expected. Are you one of those rare individuals who can still find joy even when waiting on long lines or sitting in traffic or who can still have a great time while at the dentist or who can hum a merry tune even when scrubbing the toilet? If that is you then the rest of us need to take a lesson from you, myself included. For the rest of us mortals who are prone to bouts of boredom from time to time what can we do?

Getting back to our toddler example, consider the fact that we teach our young ones not to alleviate boredom by being reckless, self-endangering or destructive. Parents make sure to redirect their young children from preventing boredom by scribbling on the walls with crayons, or by flushing random objects down the toilet, by climbing up the wall unit or by painting the family dog, for example. Realistically, the rules for adults should not change when it comes to alleviating or preventing boredom. Simply put, just like with toddlers, when we are bored, that does not make it OK to be reckless, impulsive or self-destructive. Taking it a step further, when dealing with the added challenge of a mental health or substance abuse issue, so often boredom can be a doorway into engaging in our negative thinking patterns and behaviors. If it isn’t allowed for our toddlers and children to be destructive when bored, then really it still is not acceptable for adults either. There is a lot a great stuff we can learn and practice in order to eventually vanquish boredom like goal setting, being creative, taking an interest in helping others, experimenting with new ideas and hobbies, etc. Realistically, however boredom still may rear its ugly head in our lives from time to time especially for individuals recovering from mental health issues or addiction. With many mental health and addictive disorders, boredom is known as a very challenging trigger. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction in the change process to remember not to "give ourselves permission” to go down a path that we know that we should not go down, simply because we may feel bored for a short while. If this rings true for you then perhaps it is good to remind yourself each day that:

Boredom is a just another fork in the road, choose wisely…

Friday, February 7, 2014

You Win Some, You Lose Some...

With the Super Bowl recently over, this well-known phrase really applies: You win some, you lose some. Sports eventually teaches this lesson to all of its loyal fans. My youngest son (who in actuality had never previously shown an interest in football) decided to root for the Broncos in the Super Bowl, simply based on a discussion they had at school earlier that week. When Sunday rolled around and we watched the game almost immediately he was met with utter disappointment and frustration. It seems he was not fully familiar with the ever-present lesson: You win some, you lose some. Even outside of sports, we are repeatedly taught this lesson in life. This is because not everything works out for the best, at times in spite of our best intentions, our strongest hopes and our most sincere efforts. Like it or not unless your superman, that’s reality.

Now, I didn’t choose this subject to be a “downer” or to get people discouraged. To the contrary, isn’t a huge part of emotional maturity developing the essential ability to tolerate and accept the fact that things don’t always work out the way we want them to, without getting discouraged or giving up? There are plenty of inspirational stories out there of people born with amazing talents and an unstoppable work ethic, who get to the top of their craft, whatever that may be. Good for those fortunate individuals and all that they have achieved! What’s much more common in life however, are the day to day struggles faced by people with a mix of strengths and weaknesses and with a diverse array of areas of talent along with coinciding shortcomings or even disabilities. I, like most people, would consider myself to be of this latter category as I have attributes I consider my strong points right along with my daily struggles and foibles that creep in sometimes more often than I would like them too.

Therefore, to accept the fact that “you win some, you lose some” is a necessary coping skill for those of us who have accepted “life on life’s terms” as the saying goes. This often applies even more so when we may be struggling to overcome a chronic issues such as a health problem, or a mental health issue or an addiction. Going back to the sports analogy, at the end of the day, more important than our “won-loss record’ is the fact that when we got knocked down to the canvas, we got back up, when we got tackled for a loss, we ran back to the huddle and ran another play, when we dropped the ball and it rolled through our legs, we turned around and ran after it – Win, lose or draw, what matters more than MVP’s, All Star teams, and Super Bowls is that no matter what happens, we dust ourselves off and stay in the game.

What coping skills and supports do you have that help you to keep on moving forward and upward in a positive direction whether you win or lose?