picture taken from www.mrwallpaper.com
Ah, summer. Finally. Trees are green, grass is lush, and the sun is shining. Days like today make it seem like there isn't a care in the world. The problem we can fail to see is that while we feel better in the sun, the issues we had in the fall, winter, or spring aren't actually gone. They're just masked by sunshine.
Don't get me wrong - I love summer. I smile more. It's the time of year I feel the most alive. However, when stress, anxiety, depression, or any other multitude of issues decide to park in your psyche, they don't go away just because the sun is out. It just feels that way.
See, the experiences that are imprinted on us, the things that shape the way we think, feel, and behave all come from somewhere and, sunshine or snow, they don't go away without specifically addressing them. It just feels like a bigger deal to be depressed when there's three feet of snow on the ground and no end (or sunshine) in sight.
So, how can you possibly enjoy summer knowing your problems are lurking around the corner, waiting for the first rainy day to jump on your back and return you to your own private hell? Simple: beat them to the punch. Do whatever you can to address the difficulty you're facing.
If you've ever bought a new car, I'm sure you were surprised on the drive home how many people had your same car. That's how psychological awareness works as well. Once you start to pay close attention to what is going on in your world, you start to see patterns emerge. Once you start to recognize the patterns, you can begin to predict (ahead of time!) how you are going to react to a given situation.
Once you begin to recognize the patterns and are able to accurately predict behaviours and responses, make some decisions. How long are you going to allow yourself to act a certain way? Sometimes actions and responses are biologically based and will require the services of a psychiatrist. For the behaviours that are truly under your control, start to make the call to put the negative reactions in their place.
Now that you know (or at least are pretty sure) what's going on in your head and what you want to do with it, do it. Nike got one thing right: Just do it. It is simple but certainly not easy. You can decide all sorts of things, but those decisions are meaningless until there is a follow-through. This is where people get hung up. It is the hard part. It is the part that requires that you hold yourself accountable for all the things you think you should do. This is where you feel guilty for that bag of chips late at night, or calling your mother for the third time in one night, or dumping that girl in a fit of anger.
But, don't give up. You've spent your whole life building patterns. Now, you get to expend energy adjusting those base patterns into something that reflects who you want to be. I will say it again: it is hard work. If you are unable to change things on your own, look around for someone to give you a hand. Write, talk it out, go to therapy, whatever will work for you. But whatever you do, keep at it.
See, sunshine is great. It helps your garden grow, makes your skin warm, and lets you drive with the windows down and the music up. But, it doesn't fix your problems. You do that.
Ashley Hanson is a Registered Provisional Psychologist at Base Counselling in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He believes people need to have a safe space to explore their lives and why they do what they do (think Romans 7!). He loves Jesus, his wife, and his two kids. If he had a dog, he would love that, too.
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