Sometimes, there are just those days. These are the mornings that the alarm doesn’t go off at the right time, when the kids aren’t cooperative in getting out the door to school, and the toast gets burned in the toaster. Maybe you leave your house later than normal and get caught behind the school bus convoys that seem to stop at every single corner. And it’s raining which often means – at least here in Charlotte – that people can seem to forget the basic tenets of driving well. They’re either going too fast or too slow for you.
Work may be a particular chore. Maybe other folks are laughing or recounting their weekend exploits loud enough that you can’t seem to concentrate. There’s an email from that coworker who always just wants to hand that task off to you when they’re perfectly capable of doing it themselves.
Then you realize you forgot your lunch!
After making it through the workday, though, you’re still not done. If you’re going to eat dinner tonight you’re going to need to stop at the grocery story. The meat is overpriced. The produce is less than fresh. And, you’re not alone; half the city seems to have had the same sort of day and now they’re all in front of you in line to pay for their food and head home after this wash of a day.
Have you been there?
Right or wrong, this scenario seems to be a part of our modern routine and there are those particular days when everything seems to go awry. Standing in line at the grocery story can feel like the last straw. It’s easy to let the frustrations pile up and overwhelm us; we can leave the grocery store with more than we bargained for. How nice would it be to be able to leave there refreshed instead of in a worse mood than we started with?
Maybe we start by shifting our perspective. Waiting in line at the grocery story can be frustrating but it might also be the first time that we have had for ourselves the entire day. Can we be grateful while we are standing in line? Recognizing good things and fostering gratitude is an important way to help build in some natural defenses against defaulting to a negative outlook on the world – and the people – around us. Can we be grateful for having a moment of stillness where all we can do is stand and wait? Nothing else is expected of us, even if just for a moment? Maybe we can be grateful that we are holding a basket of food that we get to take home and prepare for our family. Maybe we can be grateful that we are standing inside instead of being out in the rain.
Sometimes, just noticing other people can be helpful too. One of the byproducts of our culture is that we becoming disconnected from other people. We can feel alone. This is a normal feeling and, if you feel that way, you should know that many, many people feel that way too. Maybe standing in line is a great opportunity to begin to notice the people around you – to reconnect, in some small way. We don’t know their stories or what sort of day they may have had a work or what sort of pressures may be happening. Perhaps noticing those around you can help you feel more in touch with others and that standing in line with those people isn’t such a bad thing.
Maybe, though, it’s just a time for you to relax. Since there’s nothing you can do to make the line speed up, use it to help your anxieties from the day dissipate. This is a great opportunity to breath. When you breath mindfully – noticing each breath and paying attention to the rhythm and cadence of your breathing – we know that there is a calming effect on your brain too. It can help parts of your brain that are rehearsing those things you should have said when your coworkers were being loud outside your office or when you were asked to take on another project.
Standing in line can seem like one more chore. But, when we are able to shift our perspective, we can also see it as full of possibilities and opportunities to manage our emotions. It’s completely understandable that your body feels frustrated when you have those days but by putting into practice these important ideas, maybe you can help to relieve some of those experiences. You can leave the grocery store and head home prepared to greet your family with positive attitude that, hopefully, will make for a great end to a less than perfect day.
After ten years in digital media and marketing, Desmond Smith recently graduated with a Master's in Marriage & Family Therapy from Pfeiffer University. He is currently working towards becoming licensed as a therapist in North Carolina. His wife, Kristy Yetman, is the owner of Yetman Counseling Services.